Tracy and Tami Hauser prayed for a miracle – and it has come true.
About five years ago, the Omaha couple reached out to their community asking for prayers for their seventh child, John Paul, who was three-months-old at the time. He was born Oct. 9, 2008, with a rare chromosomal disorder called Trisomy 13, which doctors consider incompatible with life.
Despite the bleak diagnosis, the Hausers, prayed for their son’s healing through the intercession of the late Pope John Paul II, their son’s namesake.
I met the Hausers when they reached out to the Catholic Voice, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Omaha, at which I was a writer at the time. They wanted to spread devotion to the late pope’s beatification and canonization prayer in hopes that he would intercede for them and grant them one of the three miracles needed for his canonization. They hoped 1,000 people would pray the beautification prayer daily with them. They distributed holy cards to their parish community at St. Margaret Mary, as well as neighbors, family and friends. They even dropped some off at the chancery.
In return, they received cards, letters and phone calls from people – some strangers – all over the country telling of prayers for their son, including one from Archbishop Emeritus Elden Francis Curtiss. They received a papal blessing from Pope Benedict XVI and a letter written on his behalf telling them of his prayers for their son.
Now five, John Paul is doing well, goes to preschool and is thriving, and although he hasn’t been healed of his disorder, the Hausers said they believe soon-to-be St. John Paul has interceded.
“We have prayed the canonization prayer for the past five and a half years as one of our prayers before bed every night,” Tami said. “We may have to change our prayers slightly, but our commitment and attachment to our family patron in heaven will not waiver. We are grateful for John Paul ll's intercession and we think of him as an extended family member now.”
Most children born with Trisomy 13 die before birth and a few that survive usually don’t come home from the hospital, Tami said. Those who do come home have a 50 percent chance of dying within the first six months of life and 91 percent chance of dying within the first year, she said.
In his first few months of life, John Paul overcame two episodes where he stopped breathing and recovered on his own, and he has no external or internal malformations, she said. Many babies born with Trisomy 13, which occurs when extra DNA from chromosome 13 appears in some or all of the body’s cells, have multiple abnormalities.
His breathing improved and strengthened over time and he hit most developmental goals.
The couple found out about John Paul’s illness six months into the pregnancy. That’s when they chose to name him after the late pope.
“I really didn’t think we were going to bring him home so I thought, ‘Wouldn’t that be a good person to look out for him in heaven?’” Tami said.
Tami said John Paul’s life has strengthened her family’s faith and has brought great blessings.
There have been hard things, but those times have shaped the Hauser family and strengthened their faith, she said.
“The prayers and outpouring of love have allowed us to see the body of Christ in action, his hands and his feet at work in our lives,” she said. “We recognize as a family that our hearts have grown, and we ourselves have a greater capacity to love because of this experience.”
This experience, Tami said, has taught the Hausers to wake up every morning and be thankful for what God has given them, to trust in his divine mercy, and to pay forward what has been shown to us, by trying to love their neighbor as greatly as they have been loved.
John Paul today
John Paul attends morning preschool five days a week. Next year he will be in kindergarten in an Adaptive Curriculum Placement room, and will try a full-day schedule similar to the rest of his classmates, Tami said.
This summer he will go to summer school for four weeks, and for the first time will attend Munroe Meyer's special needs day camp, at which four of his siblings volunteer.
John Paul wears glasses, but it’s a blessing, Tami said, because most babies with Trisomy 13 are born blind.
In December, he had cataracts removed from his right eye and an eye implant put in, which significantly improved the vision in that eye, she said. John Paul now notices and reaches for things that didn't hold his interest before, she said. He also has a better reference to where the ground is, and his balance has improved, which is critical for standing and walking, Tami said.
He continues to make strides with the walker he uses for balance, and likes to run around in gym and on the playground with the other children, she said.
And John Paul wears hearing aids and has trouble talking, so he uses language cards and hand gestures to communicate.
“He also shakes his head "no", oftentimes when we are trying to feed him green vegetables,” Tami said.
Currently, the family is implementing a talking board as an assistive communication device for John Paul. It has four sections for pictures to select from. The ideal goal is that John Paul will be able to decipher from four different pictures to be used in school for reading, math and science, and also for communicating wants and needs, Tami said.
Celebrating the canonization
The Hausers plan to attend a pre-canonization party at the Pro Sanctity Center near Elkhorn the night before the canonization, and then a Divine Mercy service at St. Vincent de Paul Church in Omaha the day of the canonization. They’ll also eat Papal Cream Cake, which Tami said is rumored to have been John Paul ll's favorite dessert, and renew their consecration to Mary through prayer.
Looking back over the past events, Tami said her family alone couldn't possibly have pulled this all together. They prayed the Divine Mercy Chaplet throughout Tami’s pregnancy with John Paul, at the time asking God to be merciful and to help them through what they were being called to face, she said.
“We had prayed the chaplet before, but didn't actually know that John Paul ll had a large role in instituting that and the celebration of Divine Mercy Sunday,” Tami said. “We named our child John Paul before he was born, and at the time didn't know about the beatification and canonization prayer. It seemed so fragmented at the time, but as later events unraveled, it is far too complicated to be situational. It has the fingerprint of God all over it.”
The Hauser family have been committed to studying the life of John Paul ll, and have learned that many church leaders believe that the reason he was such an effective pope that impacted the church and the world so profoundly was because he was a radically converted man who had an enormous capacity to love – and God could did great things with that love, she said.
“Words cannot adequately express what our hearts feel, but we have been touched by the outpouring of love that people have shown our family,” Tami said. “Many of these people are total strangers, that loved so greatly that they prayed and are still praying for our son, a child they have never met. We have seen firsthand what God can do when people love greatly.”
Tami said her family wants people to know they are truly grateful for the prayers, and believe they have all played a part in the hastening of John Paul ll's canonization, and also for his intercession on John Paul’s behalf.
“Our John Paul is a happy boy who laughs often and brings joy to our entire family,” she said. “We want all of those people to know that we feel connected to them and we pray for them, too. We ask God to be with them, to bless them, and to help them with whatever their struggles are.”