Chicagoans take part in beatification of Don Alvaro

By Michelle Martin | Staff Writer
Sunday, October 5, 2014

When thousands of people gathered in Madrid for the beatification of Don Alvaro del Portillo on Sept. 27, perhaps few had as much reason to be grateful as Eileen Quinn of Chicago.

Quinn, 60, suffered with a melanoma for five years. The cancer started in her leg; by the time doctors told her that she was going to die, she had hundreds of tumors in her lungs, liver and lymph nodes.

Quinn said she, her family and friends prayed constantly. She would meditate on the crucifix that hung in her room, and she would hold onto a holy card with a relic of Don Alvaro, who followed St. Josemaria Escriva as head of Opus Dei and became its first prelate when Pope John Paul II designated Opus Dei as a personal prelature in 1982. St. John Paul ordained him a bishop in 1991. He died in Rome in 1994.

“He just sort of spoke to me,” said Quinn. “I would focus on the cross and hold onto the holy card.”

Quinn experienced what she and her doctors believe was a miracle when, in 2006, two months after doctors tried their last treatments, all of the tumors disappeared.

Father Peter Armenio, vicar for Opus Dei in the Midwest, sent about 100 pages of documentation of Quinn’s case to the cause for Don Alvaro’s beatification, but another miracle — the return to life of an infant boy after cardiac arrest lasting more than a half hour — was chosen as the miracle needed for Don Alvaro’s beatification.

Beatification, the last step before sainthood in the church’s canonization process, comes only after an exhaustive study of the person’s life, writings and activities, and the confirmation of one miracle that can be attributed to their intercession. Sainthood requires the confirmation of another miracle, one that takes place after beatification.

It was Armenio who had given Quinn the prayer card, and affixed a relic to it. The relic is a small piece of a pair of shoes that Don Alvaro left behind when he visited Chicago in 1988. Even then, Armenio said, he thought they might have value one day as the relics of a holy man.

Now 60 years old and free of cancer for eight years, Quinn said the experience gave her great sympathy with the aging and others approaching the end of their lives.

“My life was ripped away from me for five years,” she said. When she was diagnosed, she was an active wife and mother of four teenage sons and a 10-year-old daughter. “But when I was sick, I felt so very old.”

It took about a month after the healing before she really felt well, Quinn said.

Quinn is one of nearly 200 people from the Chicago area who were expected to travel to Madrid for the beatification, said Armenio, who planned to help distribute Communion at the beatification Mass.

Another local Catholic who had personal contact with Don Alvaro is Cris Bofill, who took 12 teenage girls who know Opus Dei either through their families or schools to the beatification.

“He was an awesome priest who made a big impact on my life from the first time I got to meet him,” said Bofill, who was born and raised in Spain. “I am so excited he is going to be beatified.”

Bofill first encountered Don Alvaro on a similar youth pilgrimage to Rome when she was a teenager, traveling with other young people who knew Opus Dei.

“He was a great example of holiness,” Bofill said. “I knew he was a saint. You could feel it when you were in his presence. He emanated joy and peace in living in the presence of the Lord.”

Bofill said she has often asked for Don Alvaro’s intercession on personal and family matters, and she feels he has always responded, sometimes in unexpected ways.

Armenio said that people are excited about Don Alvaro’s beatification because they can relate to him. Having died only 20 years ago, many people remember him, Armenio said, and “he was a regular guy. He started life as an engineer. He’s not a saint of 500 years ago.”

Matt Anthony, who led a group of 21 boys and their adult chaperones to the beatification, said that some of his group were better acquainted with the life of Don Alvaro than others, but he expected that the pilgrimage would help them all try to follow Don Alvaro’s example of holiness.

The boys planned to attend the beatification Mass on Sept. 27 and Opus Dei’s Mass of Thanksgiving on Sept. 28, as well as do some sight-seeing in Madrid. Each day’s itinerary included Mass and time for prayer and reflection.

“We really want them to take what they learn and reflect on it and incorporate it into their lives when they come home,” Anthony said. “That’s what Opus Dei is about: sanctifying their ordinary, daily life.”


  • beatification
  • don alvaro del portillo

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