Priest who offered up cancer for clerical abuse victims says he was healed at Lourdes

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Father John Hollowell, pictured in a file photo celebrating Mass at Annunciation Church in Brazil, Indiana, was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2020. He decided to offer his sufferings on behalf of clerical abuse victims, and received hundreds of letters of support. Now, following a June 2022 visit to Lourdes, Father Hollowell has learned from his doctors that the brain tumor has disappeared. OSV News photo/CNS file, Sean Gallagher, The Criterion

A priest who offered up his suffering from cancer for the sake of clerical abuse victims said he has experienced a miraculous healing following a June 2022 pilgrimage to the Marian shrine at Lourdes, France.

Father John Hollowell, a priest of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, told OSV News that doctors have said his brain tumor, diagnosed in 2019, has disappeared.

“I had an MRI two weeks after I got back from Lourdes” at the end of June 2022, said Father Hollowell, who first announced the news in a Jan. 30 video message on his YouTube channel. “All that remained was scar tissue from the surgeries.”

In 2020, Father Hollowell learned that a series of fainting spells and dizziness were the result of an oligodendroglioma – a brain tumor usually occurring in white and non-Hispanic males between the ages of 35 and 44. About 1,200 individuals in the U.S. are diagnosed with the tumor each year.

But the rare form of cancer was not entirely a surprise to the priest.

“In 2018, I made a prayer that I would be willing to suffer for the victims of the Catholic clergy’s sexual abuse,” he told OSV News. “And then a month later, I had what I know now was the first seizure from the brain tumor.”

The diagnosis was not confirmed until Feb. 11, 2020, the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, by doctors at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.

“I knew it was the answer to the prayer I had made two years earlier,” said Father Hollowell.

The surgery at Mayo revealed that “some fingers from the tumor had gone deeper into my brain than the neurosurgeon expected,” he said.

The surgery also coincided with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S., and Father Hollowell remained at Mayo, having developed infections from the surgery, which was followed by two more operations as well as radiation and nine months of chemotherapy.

By January 2022, scans showed the tumor was starting to regrow, joined by a second tumor on his pituitary gland.

“I was totally fine with dying,” Father Hollowell told OSV News. “It’s actually a prayer I had started to make: ‘If I am able to offer up my life in reparation for the crimes of priests, I would do that willingly.’”

At the same time, he booked a June 2022 trip to Lourdes – site of 18 Marian apparitions experienced by St. Bernadette Soubirous in 1858 – to see if he might be one of the thousands who claim to receive healing from visiting the shrine.

At times, he found himself “at the point of tears,” he said.

Yet, Father Hollowell said, “the greater experience” was seeing “thousands of my prayers, not related to my health,” answered.

Two weeks after his return – with parishioners already telling him he “looked a lot healthier” – an MRI showed Father Hollowell’s oligodendroglioma was gone. Issues from the growth on his pituitary gland “stopped when I got back from Lourdes,” he said.

But he’s not planning to submit his case to Lourdes’ medical officers for consideration. “I don’t really need doctors to tell me I have a miracle, even though I do,” he said.

“If (the cancer) comes back, that’s God’s will, and I’m totally at peace with whatever that is,” said Father Hollowell. “I’m not afraid, and that can only come from the Holy Spirit. Jesus says to just worry about one day at a time.”

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