Gail WhittenbergerLaurence Tiblis
Every morning, no matter what else is happening in Gail Whittenberger’s busy life, she still finds the time to go for a walk and to recite The Prayer of St. Catherine.
Every morning, no matter what else is happening in Gail Whittenberger’s busy life, she still finds the time to go for a walk and to recite The Prayer of St. Catherine, reflecting deeply on the passage, “Lord I am here. Tell me what You would have me do.”
For Gail–a devoted wife, mother, grandmother, business owner, and longtime schoolteacher from Bucks County, Pennsylvania–the prayer is a vehicle for communicating with the Lord through the Blessed Mother and her witness, St. Catherine Labouré. Gail also views the prayer as a guiding light for all aspects of her life.
Nowhere is this more evident than in her commitment to The Miraculous Medal Shrine. Since first learning about the Miraculous Medal during a 2015 sermon at her home parish, Gail has channeled her devotion to the Blessed Mother though good works that support the Shrine and grow the reach of the Miraculous Medal Family.
Several years ago, following the blessed birth of one of her grandchildren, Gail sponsored the creation of a shrine to Our Lady of La Leche at The Miraculous Medal Shrine. Today, her support is helping to build the St. Vincent’s Rosary Walk and Our Lady of Knock Shrine, which will be a spiritual beacon and a sanctuary of prayer and devotion on the grounds of The Miraculous Medal Shrine.
“From the time I was a child, I’ve always gravitated toward the Blessed Mother and prayer,” Gail says. “I consider myself one of the weak things of the world and that (Mary) has chosen me to accomplish good works.”
In a similar way, the Blessed Mother, as promised, has bestowed many graces upon Gail and her family, blessings that she describes as truly miraculous. Shortly after visiting the Shrine several years ago, she received an unexpected telephone call from her son, Wade, who delivered some troubling news.
“(He and his wife, Mary,) had been keeping this from me for a while. He told me that they had been struggling for four years to have a child,” Gail recalls. “So, I began praying. And the first time I went to Mass after they told me this, one of the readings was from the Book of Genesis … and it just spoke to me.”
The lector recited Genesis 18:10, when the Lord said to Abraham, speaking of his childless and aging wife, “I will surely return to you at this time next year, and your wife, Sarah, will have a son!”
“Two months after that, my son and his wife announced that she was pregnant,” Gail says. “And now that little boy is two. I really do consider this a miracle because of everything they went through (to conceive a child), and they had just about given up hope.”
At about the same time, Gail’s niece and her husband were trying to become parents through adoption. Despite the many great challenges associated with that process, the couple was able to adopt a newborn healthy baby boy.
“These are things that just don’t happen easily, so I truly feel that my prayers really contributed to these two beautiful miracles,” Gail says.
In thanksgiving for those blessings and so that Mary might intercede on behalf of other faithful couples, Gail proposed the creation of the Our Lady of La Leche Shrine located in the lower level of the Chapel of Immaculate Conception that houses The Miraculous Medal Shrine. La Leche is the Spanish term for “the milk.” Through this title, Mary is the patron of nursing mothers, parents hoping to conceive, and those who pray for healthy babies.
“I just wanted to do something to show my appreciation, but more importantly to help others to have hope and to be able to pray,” Gail says.
Gail’s daughter-in-law, Mary, painted the image of Mary and infant Jesus that is the focal point of the shrine. To this day, Gail keeps the shrine stocked with holy cards venerating Our Lady of La Leche. Through her ongoing participation in services at The Miraculous Medal Shrine, Gail learned of the Rosary Walk and Our Lady of Knock project.
“I loved the idea because I’m a gardener and I love outdoor things,” she says. “And in (the city), there’s not a lot of open space. I said I’d like to help in some way and was told about the children’s garden (portion). It was just a perfect fit for me.”
Having spent the early portion of her professional life as a teacher in public and parochial grade schools in suburban Philadelphia also contributed to her interest. The Marian Garden for Children will feature dozens of flower species associated with the Blessed Mother. Once complete, the garden will support youth education components of the Shrine’s Beyond Sunday program.
“I’m very, very excited to be helping with that,” Gail says. “Gardening is my passion. And, you know, children are my passion. …Teaching was a big part of my life that I miss. So, this kind of brings that back to me.”
That, she says, is yet another blessing given to her by the Blessed Mother.
“Mary is the one who I’ve always felt close to, even as a child,” she says. “Maybe because she’s female. I just feel like she’s the one that I love to pray to. …She’s the person I would love to be—her kindness, her mothering, her acceptance of challenges, her sorrows. I just admire her so much and I do feel that I have a relationship with her.”
Visit https://miraculousmedal.org/news-events/st-vincents-rosary-walk/to learn more about St. Vincent’s Rosary Walk and Our Lady of Knock Shrine. Contact Megan Brogan at firstname.lastname@example.org to support this cause.