Pamela Avellanosa, who made a personal appearance in a Baton Rouge church Saturday, is officially declared by the Roman Catholic Church to be a miracle.
When she was 14 years old, she suffered a head injury in a bicycle accident on Jan. 2, 1995, and slipped into a coma.
Physicians told her family that even if she survived emergency surgery, she’d spend the rest of her life in a vegetative state.
But her grandmother and her aunt and the “Pink Sisters” of Baguio City, Philippines, never stopped praying for a miraculous recovery. First, she survived the surgery. After two weeks, she regained consciousness and eventually fully recovered.
“I am a miracle,” Avellanosa, now 31, declared to about 200 people gathered in the sanctuary of St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church after Saturday morning’s Mass. “If you do not believe in God, then you should not believe I am standing here in front of you.”
“God is good...” she asserted to members of the congregation, who enthusiastically responded, “... all the time!”
“I was riding my bicycle down a steep hill going very fast, and I did a somersault over the handlebars and hit my head,” she said.
Avellanosa related how, after one trip to a hospital where doctors told her aunt she’d be fine, she became violently ill upon returning home and was taken to another hospital where she lapsed into a coma.
“I was brain-dead for two to three hours,” Avellanosa said. “I saw a bright light and looked down to see myself lying on the bed. I went toward the light but an angel told me to go back. I slept for two weeks, a deep, restful sleep.”
The surgeons removed a “blood clot about 3 inches thick,” she said, holding up her hand to show the size. “They told my relatives not to have any false hope, and I would be in a vegetative state and would never walk or talk.”
The Pink Sisters, so named because they wear pink habits, daily prayed a novena, also called an intercession, to their founder, St. Arnold Janssen (1873-1909), asking God to heal her.
Avellanosa awoke from her coma on Jan. 15, the Feast Day of St. Arnold. Her recovery sparked an effort by the Pink Sisters and other Philippine Catholic Church officials to have Avellanosa’s case declared a miracle.
The full name of the Pink Sisters’ order is the Sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit of Perpetual Adoration. Members of the order take turns praying 24 hours a day, seven days a week, said St. Paul’s pastor, the Rev. Vincent Alexius.
The Catholic Church, after a long and thorough investigation that began in the Philippines in 1999 and finished in 2002 at the Vatican, officially declared Avellanosa’s recovery “a genuine miracle obtained from God through the intercession of Blessed Arnold Janssen,” according to a statement from the Pink Sisters and distributed by Rev. Alexius.
A “Google” internet search of Janssen’s name or Avellanosa’s name will link to a YouTube video, “The Miracle of St. Arnold.”
Alexius is a member of another Janssen-founded group, the Society of the Divine Word, which is how, he said, he knows Avellanosa and her story.
Janssen, a German missionary priest who served in China, beatified by Pope Paul VI in 1975, also founded a third order of nuns, the Holy Spirit Missionary Sisters.
Following Avellanosa’s presentation, the audience asked her many questions and posed with her for photographs.
“She has seen death and came back to life,” said Larry James, 14, a student at University High. “That tells us God is real and even though we have to go through struggles, we can have faith in God.”
Hildred Lomax grew up in Baton Rouge but moved away 50 years ago, she said, and just happened to attend Saturday services at St. Paul because she was in the city visiting a sister who is being treated in a hospital for West Nile Virus.
“She inspired me so much,” Lomax said of Avellanosa. “She made me believe in miracles and gave me hope for my sister.”
Juanita Flores said Avellanosa’s story was “very inspiring. I believe her story, and I have been blessed by my own healing. You have to have faith.”
The Rev. Alexius added, “Her story tells us our faith in God is not in vain. When we live in faith, miracles happen. This is not about her. It is about God. God is doing things in us through her. She is a reminder to us of what an awesome God we serve.”
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