Father Mike Mireau has suffered a relapse in his cancer and says prayer is the only thing that can help him get better. And that's exactly what the beloved priest is getting from Edmonton Catholic Schools and the Edmonton Archdiocese.
Edmonton Catholic Schools has printed 11,200 prayer cards asking Venerable Anthony Kowalczyk to intercede on behalf of Mireau.
Seven thousand cards were distributed in parishes across the Edmonton Archdiocese and 4,200 went to staff of the school district.
Mireau, who is the district chaplain, is still on the job but his health is deteriorating rapidly.
"There is some (cancer) in my abdomen and some in my bones and treatment is looking like it's not going to be very effective at this stage," Mireau said May 16.
"There isn't a lot of positive stuff going on right now as far as my condition is concerned. I'm starting to experience some effects as well in my digestive system particularly and some pain in my bones."
Emotionally, Mireau feels fine. "I have good support from family and friends and I'm suffering and at times it wears me down but I have people who help me and God is helping me through them."
Mireau says he will stay at work as long as he can. "There really isn't anything I can do to take care of myself right now and what makes me feel the best is to be active and to be working."
The priest was happy to hear about the prayer cards. "I'm very pleased that Brother Anthony is getting some well-deserved attention and if it's God's will, then am quite happy to accept his healing. But we are going to leave that up to God."
In part, the prayer card says: "Heavenly Father, in the name of your beloved Jesus, and in the power of the Holy Spirit, with the help of Mary, our heavenly Mother, and the intercession of the Venerable Anthony Kowalczyk, we pray for the complete healing of Father Michael Mireau.
"May your life-giving powers continue to flow into every cell of his body and into the depths of his soul, restoring him to wholeness and strength . . .".
Kowalczyk, an Oblate brother, served primarily at Faculté St-Jean in Edmonton until his death in 1947. Pope Francis declared him venerable in 2013.
The next step in his journey to sainthood is to be declared blessed, which will happen when a miracle is attributed to him.
Mireau was diagnosed with cancer in February 2013, after doctors found a hard mass in his abdomen that was later determined to be a large, fast-growing cancerous tumour.
The tumour was removed in September, and Mireau was back at work in December. He is based at St. Francis Xavier High School but visits schools across the district.
Lori Nagy, spokesperson for Edmonton Catholic, said the district printed the intercessory prayer cards because it believes in the power of prayer. It was the prayers said by students and staff that got Mireau back on his feet the first time, she said.
"Seeing the difference that those special prayers made, we thought a prayer card would even increase the number of prayers that are being said for him." Every school district staffperson will get a prayer card.
Nagy said the way Mireau has dealt with his disease has inspired many. "As a district chaplain he's brought such a joy to our staff and to so many students and in his time of need everyone is rallying and hoping that we can make him well again."
Mona Nolan of the archdiocesan Office of Divine Worship said the 7,000 prayer cards printed for the archdiocese were distributed to organizations, individuals, religious orders and parishes that requested them.