Miraculous Medal mission drives Orchard Park parishioner
Louise Cymerman is a modern-day St. Catherine Labouré. Like the 19th-century French nun, Cymerman shares the Miraculous Medal with people from, literally, all over the world.
A constant barrage of news stories about war, disease and shootings caused great concern for the Nativity of Our Lord parishioner.
“Just watching the news and being aware of what’s going on in the world, I’m quite troubled,” she said. “You don’t know what to do. It feels like your hands are tied. There was nothing I could think to do to make an impact except to pray. So, I began praying a lot.”
She developed a special devotion to St. Maximilian Kolbe while visiting the adoration chapel every day before work. The 20th-century saint was known for emphasizing Christ’s redemptive love.
“I feel out of many of the saints, he understands what’s going on in these troubling times,” Cymerman explained.
Through prayer she had the idea of buying Miraculous Medals and distributing them. She also saw a YouTube video called “Gabi After Hours” that showed the power of the medals.
The Miraculous Medal was designed by St. Catherine Labouré following her apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Paris.
In 1830, St. Catherine Labouré claimed to hear the voice of the Virgin Mary say to her, “God wishes to change you with a mission. You will be contradicted, but do not fear. You will have the grace to do what is necessary. Tell your spiritual director all that passes within you. Times are evil in France and in the world.”
St. Catherine had a vision of Mary telling her, “Have a medal struck upon this model. Those who wear it will receive great graces, especially if they wear it around the neck.” Catherine explained the entire series of apparitions to her confessor, and she worked through him to carry out Mary’s instructions.
With approval of the Church, the first medals were made in 1832 and were distributed in Paris. Almost immediately the blessings that Mary had promised began to shower down on those who wore her medal. The devotion spread like wildfire. Marvels of grace and health, peace and prosperity, followed in its wake. Before long people were calling it the “Miraculous Medal.” In 1836, a canonical inquiry undertaken at Paris declared the apparitions to be genuine.
Cymerman began her mission by purchasing a couple hundred medals. She had them blessed and began handing them out at Nativity’s adoration chapel. “They went very quickly,” she said.
After some friends donated $25,000, Cymerman put together a team to package the medals and distribute them locally. About 4,000 packets went to OLV National Shrine and Basilica for its recent Divine Mercy conference. Medals have been sent out nationally and internationally, some to Uvalde and Midland, Texas; Tucson and Sierra Vista, Arizona; as well as Hawaii, Poland, Ukraine and Mongolia.
Father Jacek Mazur, pastor of St. Mary of the Cataract and Divine Mercy Parishes in Niagara Falls, hands them out to international families he meets touring the Falls.
“They’re going worldwide, which is my goal,” Cymerman said. “I want to get these around as many necks as possible around the world as quickly as possible, so Mary can help us and intercede for us and get us out of this mess we’re in.”
She has ordered 10,000 medals inscribed in Spanish and 10,000 in French. She guesses about 15,000 have already been given away. Her goal is 1 million.
“It sounds like a lot, but there are millions of people on the face of the earth,” she said.
As Mary said to St. Catherine, “Now is must be given to every person and the whole world.”
Cymerman received her first Miraculous Medal as a sponsor of Catholic radio a couple of years. She has worn it every day.
“Did it make a difference right away? No, but I knew that Mary was starting to work in me,” she said. “Just listening to Catholic radio has made a huge difference in my life. I am really inspired and have fallen deeply in love with the faith,” she explained. “I feel it makes a difference. A lot of people in my parish are wearing them. We’re opening up to each other. We’re building bridges. We’re communicating.”
Anyone interested in helping fund the project can make a tax deductible donation through St. Mary of the Cataract, 237 Fourth St., Niagara Falls, NY 14303. Donors should write “Miraculous Medals” in the memo line if paying by check.