Persons, places and things: Special deliveries from God


The card arrived three weeks ago in the mail but serves as a source of deeply appreciated encouragement today. Signatures of men confined to Iowa State Penitentiary in Fort Madison filled the greeting card, along with those of two deacons, a priest and a lay volunteer who minster at the prison.


We met at the prison Dec. 20, when I accompanied Bishop Tom Zinkula for a pre-Christmas Mass and late luncheon. I reported on the celebration for The Catholic Messenger as a way to convey the bishop’s efforts to minister to people on the peripheries, to bring the light of Christ to others.

My battle with cancer didn’t come up then, but the men and their ministers have been praying for me since learning about it. Like them, I am on the periphery, “the edge of what we consider to be whole and healthy …” as the bishop defines periphery.

“Thank you for everything — from the 13 Amigos;” “God Bless and wish you the best!”; “God is good and is great. We all continue to pray for you!!!!”; “My thoughts and prayers are with you!” These were among the sentiments penned in the card that Jean Gunn, a volunteer from Holy Family Parish in Fort Madison, sent to me. “All these fellows remember you. God Bless you and your family,” Jean wrote. Thoughts and prayers are with you, Friends at I.S.P.”


Their compassion inspires and moves me. They understand that all of us are broken, wounded in some way. They know we all depend on a loving God to forgive us, to heal us and encourage us to reach out to one another on the journey to the fullness of our salvation.

This greeting card from the Catholic community at Iowa State Penitentiary joins my collection of “special deliveries” from God, reminders of God’s constant presence in my life. Another card arrived recently with a medal of St. Rita, and a prayer card that read in part: “I said a prayer for you today and know God must have heard. I felt the answer in my heart although he spoke no word! … I asked for happiness for you in all things great and small. But it was for his loving care I prayed for most of all!”

Last week, I completed my final round of chemotherapy for follicular lymphoma, graduating early because of my body’s response to treatment. A nurse in the chemo suite gave me a graduation pin that I will cherish always. The words inscribed around the green gem read “Celebrate Life.” You bet I will!

Fingering my new graduation pin, I asked my husband Steve, “What happens if the cancer relapses?” “Then you’ll get another pin after the next treatment,” he responded. An image of a lapel dotted with graduation pins entered my mind, and made me laugh.
Cancer hasn’t let me out of its clutches yet. A suspicious tumor on my thyroid proved to be cancerous and will require surgery. With God’s grace, and a healthy sense of humor, I will defeat this dragon, too. Now I’m sifting through my basket of cards, savoring every one as a special delivery from God.

-By Barb Arland Fye, Editor
(Editor Barb Arland-Fye can be reached at

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