UP Catholic 05 26 2017 E Edition Page 14

14 May 26, 2017 THE U.P. CATHOLIC TWILIGHT www.upcatholic.org Ontonagon man sees face of Jesus, feels call to share experience with others BY MARGARET STRIPE THE U.P. CATHOLIC All Christians are called to evan- gelize those around them, to share one's faith with others. However, such a calling made itself manifest in the life of an Ontonagon man two years ago in a very unusual way. Tom Strong had been admitted to Aspirus/Wausau's ICU with a strep infection in his lower spine. While he was there he was visited by Fa- ther Joseph Diermeier, pastor of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish in Marathon, Wis. The pastor and patient prayed together. As Strong held the out- stretched hands of Father Diermeier and looked into the priest's eyes, he saw Jesus' face and a vision of the heavenly kingdom - a kingdom of indescribable colors never seen on earth. Starting just past Jesus' eyes and stretching forever, the colors were a vision of a wonderful, peace- ful place. Lucid and not under any heavy medication during the experience, Strong said he was very aware of what was happening and that this was real. Afterwards, he felt he needed to share his experience by telling others about heaven and why we should all make it our final goal. For many months Strong could not tell what had happened without shedding tears, but he felt that this was what he was being asked to do. Strong, a parishioner of Holy Fam- ily in Ontonagon, said he has always relied on daily prayer in his life and sensed that he was to serve and help people without expecting personal gain. In his career as a CEO of a bank in Ontonagon he was able to help others with advice in family matters and finances. Now that he is retired he still looks for ways to help those around him. But he still struggled with the question "Why me, Lord? What do You want me to do?" Strong told Father Diermeier what he was struggling with. "What hap- pened to you is a manifestation of God's love for you," Father Diermei- er answered. "Perhaps the answer to that question is in what you are do- ing. You are bringing a message of hope and consolation to others and how beautiful that is - that you can tell others with confidence about the gift of God's love and the promise of eternal life," he said. "It's one thing to read it in the Bible or hear about from the pulpit but when someone like yourself describes what you experienced, it adds to the promise that the words of the Bible contain." Isn't this what evangelization is; sharing "God moments" with oth- ers? Many are afraid of what others may think, concerned about giving the impression of being delusional or on drugs. "Telling my experi- ences to others," said Strong, "has produced some profound respons- es. Some people cry and some are visibly shaken in other ways. If one person's faith becomes stronger or if one comes to believe, then I have done what was expected of me by our Lord." COURTESY PHOTO Tom Strong experienced a taste of heaven while very ill. He has now felt called to share his experience with others. Remember to pray for our clergy and religious Lord God, you are attentive to the voice of our pleading. Let us find in your Son comfort in our sadness, certainty in our doubt, and courage to live through this hour. Make our faith strong through Christ our Lord, Amen. Courtesy of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Prayer for Mourners

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