By Judith Costello
For The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — “When we give him our time, he gives us eternity,” said Kitty Cleveland, during a two-day mission at Holy Family and St. Alphonsus parishes on Dec. 2-3. Cleveland, a lawyer and “music missionary” from Covington, Louisiana, shared stories from her insights gained during hours of adoration, which helped her trust in divine providence as the plight of her father, Carl Cleveland, unfolded.
“My father was a lawyer and a deacon. He loved to preach and to root for the underdog. And then one day the FBI came.”
Her father had been accused of mail fraud, even though his family and lawyer had clear evidence to counter these charges, she said. A judge ruled against him and Carl Cleveland faced 10 years in a federal penitentiary and a fine of millions of dollars. Awaiting a second judge’s ruling, Kitty Cleveland recalls, “My mom believed she would have a nervous break down if the appeal did not reverse the earlier ruling. I clearly heard in my mind the words ‘anticipatory grieving.’ And I realized that God can turn worriers into warriors.” Even though the appeal was denied, her mom did not break down because they were praying. The family prepared for the years ahead of imprisonment, the loss of possessions and the shame of conviction. “But I learned not to fight the cross. I was spending an hour a day in adoration.”
After Carl Cleveland spent two years and three months in prison, the U.S. Supreme Court took up his case and reversed the earlier rulings. According to the Supreme Court ruling, “Carl W. Cleveland and others were prosecuted … for making false statements in applying to the Louisiana State Police for permission to operate video poker machines.” The Court rejected the mail fraud statue under which Carl Cleveland had been prosecuted and overturned his conviction. Kitty Cleveland pointed to the cross. “God loves to show off and reward those who trust in him.”
However, her father was not reinstated to the diaconate after his release because two charges remained on his record. Three years later, he was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. Through it all, “My dad inspired others. He wrote letters that were funny and touching.” On his deathbed, the bishop reinstated Carl Cleveland as a deacon. His daughter is writing a book about her family’s experiences.
Cleveland shared with her audience a verse for this Advent that she felt was meaningful, “My grace is sufficient for you. My power is made perfect in weakness” — 2 Cor. 12:9.
She also shared stories and music at St. Alphonsus, stemming from her personal relationship with the Blessed Mother. She called on all to “go to our Mother” to reach the ear of Jesus.