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He listens to his own words and knows that he has said them many times: “We’re not in control.”
Gordon Mann, an ordained priest was in the middle of merging two Southern Indiana Catholic parishes when he was diagnosed with leukemia.
“It just came out of the blue and my plans changed to no plans,” said Mann, a graduate of the University of Evansville. “When I counsel parishioners I tell them ‘God isn’t a bad guy. He doesn’t cause these things to happen. They are part of living in an imperfect world.’”
And now he speaks those same words to self-console.
Mann was transported by ambulance to IU Health University Hospital in February where he is in the care of oncologist Dr. Larry Cripe.
“If you are going to go through something like this, this is the place to be. They are the best,” said Mann, the fourth of six children. He grew up in the Catholic Church, attended Christ the King Elementary, served as an altar boy in the church and later as a Eucharistic minister. Six years after college graduation, he enrolled in Mundelein Seminary at Saint Mary of the Lake in Chicago, Ill.
“I’ve always believed everything happens for a reason. We just don’t always know why,” said Mann. “I haven’t done the ‘why me’ thing but I have been angry because it’s like a car crash. It’s knocked me off the road and I’m realizing I can’t get back on the road in my timing.
While he waits and spends time away from his Southern Indiana parish, Mann takes part in various Complete Life Programs including yoga, massage & art therapies.
When he’s working in small groups, he finds the opportunity to minister to others.
“I can get people to open up. I listen to them and tell them my story. They often ask me about my faith. They might say, ‘now that you’re on this side, what do you think of God?’” said Mann. “My answer is consistent. I tell them God is good. I think at the moment, he’s using me to teach people how to totally surrender to God and realize we’re not in control of our lives. The only thing we can control is our actions.”
In his hospital room hang colorful paper fish he made in one of the art therapy sessions. Nearby on a table rests a rosary, some holy cards and a prayer book.
“When you are going through this, it takes lots of things to help you get in touch with your inner feelings and your fears. There is a lot of time to think.”
And one of the things he thinks about is returning home and preparing to deliver the homily at weekly mass.
“I’d tell them I have personal experience with what it is like to face death with the Lord at your side. I would tell them they are never alone.”
-- By T.J. Banes, Associate Senior Journalist at IU Health.
Reach Banes via email at T.J. Banes or on Twitter @tjbanes.