Go Joe! A Catholic Youth Ministry Hero

by gary-foote on June 7, 2010

This past week I was a witness to an amazing miracle. Two of the teens involved in the youth ministry program I oversee, Anthony and Andrew, went to the beach for a fun day of swimming and relaxing. Anthony’s older sister Katherine went along with them and so did his older brother Joseph (who volunteers on my adult youth ministry team). Going to the beach on a hot summer day was a very normal activity for these four. Unfortunately, this particular day at the beach would not be normal, but life changing for them all.

Everyone decided to go for a swim together. They were all having fun when all of a sudden a very strong current began as the tide went out. The four were separated and left to fend for themselves as they battled the strength of the sea. Katherine and Andrew made it to a sandbar and took refuge there. Joseph and Anthony swam towards the shore. Anthony ended up getting trapped by the current and yelled for help. Joseph swam towards Anthony with all of his strength and reached him. He tried to hold Anthony and swim him back to shore, but the current was too strong for him alone and Anthony was taken under water. Joseph’s body was completely exhausted from fighting the ocean and he yelled for help. Four people on the beach saw what was taking place and joined together as a team to help Anthony. One of the people from the beach dove into the water where he had last seen Anthony and was able to find him and bring him up to the surface. The four people from the beach were able to get Anthony beach, but he was not breathing and did not have a pulse. While Anthony’s rescue was taking place, Joseph was able to struggle through the ocean back to the beach. Completely exhausted, he saw his brother lifeless on the beach and without any hesitation began CPR. By God’s grace, Joseph was able to get Anthony’s heart to beat again and was able to get him breathing as well. Someone called 911 and an emergency crew arrived. The emergency responders took Anthony to a children’s intensive care unit where he remained unconscious that night. Joseph, Andrew, and Katherine also went to the hospital.

When Anthony was stabilized, Joseph called me and I went immediately to the hospital with one of our parish priests who offered the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. By this time, Anthony’s parents were already at the hospital patiently waiting. Their youngest son laid in an intensive care unit and no one knew what would happen. The doctors and nurses were preparing us all of the worse that Anthony may have some brain damage and may never be the same again. Anthony’s father looked at me and asked, “Will you pray for us?” Of course I would pray and continue to pray for the family.

A miracle happened the next evening. Anthony woke up and was able to talk some. The morning after he woke up I was speaking to one of the nurses and she told me that Anthony had a very long journey ahead. Anthony is a very faithful and determined teen, so I knew if anyone had a fighting chance, it would be him. The net morning Anthony woke up again. But this time, he could move his entire body and began to talk. By the end of the day he was changing the channel on the t.v. in his room and asking if he could have chocolate ice cream cake with snickers in it. The doctors were amazed by the recovery that had taken place. By a miracle, the next afternoon Anthony was well enough to go home.

I am completely amazed and in awe over what God has done in Anthony’s life. Not only am I amazed at Anthony’s miraculous recovery, but at the complete sacrifice that Joseph made for his brother. Time and time again as Catholics we talk about John 15:13 which says, “Greater love hath no man than this, than a man lay down his life for his friends.” Joseph was ready and willingly to lay down his life for his brother. He didn’t think twice about whether or not he too would be taken by the ocean. He gave all that he had, and God provided for His insufficiencies by bringing the four people off of the beach to help bring Anthony back to the shore. Joseph’s sacrifice was not over yet though. He gave of himself immediately once more by giving his beloved brother CPR and by the grace of God brought him back to state of breathing and heart pumping.

The sacrifices Joseph made speak volumes to me. God knows that we are so weak, yet He still loves us. When we offer to God all that we have in complete and unreserved sacrifice, He can and will work miracles just like He did in allowing Anthony to live. How different would our lives be if we all surrendered to God and allowed Him to work powerfully in our weakness like Joseph did? What miracles what He bring about through our willingness to give all that we have and allow Him to do the rest? My prayer and hope is that I have the strength to be more like Joseph and give my all out of love for others and allow God to make up for all that I lack. Thank you Joseph for your witness. Thank you God for your mercy and the gift of Anthony’s life

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