Touched by an Angel

This weekend, I pay tribute to Sister Alice Edward Strogen, SSJ, longtime chaplain on the oncology ward of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. She died over a year and a half ago and though we never met, I can never forget her. And I promised I would bring the show to the aid and comfort of the patient families she so dearly loved. On March 9, 10 and 11, I will be performing “The God Box, A Daughter’s Story” in Philadelphia theaters in her honor. We will dedicate all ticket proceeds to a Tribute Fund in her name to support Spiritual Care services at CHOP. I have only one regret: that she will not be there to see it. But then again…surely she will. It’s a chance to give back a little to a woman who gave her life to love.

Here are details of the shows:  www.giftofchildhood.org/godbox  Tickets available at the door while supplies last.

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Thinking of Mom, Godspeed Institute Radio Interview

Better late than never! NOW….

If you are thinking of your Mom today, whether she is with you or is in your heart, hope you enjoy this interview airing this afternoon on The Godspeed Institute for spiritual learning radio program on PRN-FM. Host Caer Hallundbaek was a terrific and insightful host!

Listen HERE!

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Watch my 700 Club Interactive

Wanted to share my interview with Terry Meeuwsen on the 700 Club interactive show. Note to self: back away from the Skype camera! Watch it HERE, The God Box appears a little after the 9 minute mark.

 

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A Little ‘Miracle’


My mother in law Ginny Quinlan has been very ill in St. Mary’s Hospital in Newtown for the past week. She hasn’t been eating at all for weeks and we’ve been so worried. Today, my husband Joe walked into her room and she was eating a full breakfast. Amazed to see her enjoying food for the first time in months, he asked, “Where did you get it?” “I just ordered it up on the phone,” she answered. Joe looked at the phone, six feet away from her ‘guardrail bed’ and scratched his head. Later, he saw a woman cleaning the corridor. He had met her on Mom’s first day there and given her a copy of “The God Box.” Joe asked her, “Do you have any idea how my Mom got breakfast?” “Oh yes, I happened to be in her room when the phone rang so I answered and gave it to her and she asked for food.” To us, a little miracle. To my Mom-in-law, lifesaving.

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Letting Go of an Angel

I don’t know what the hardest job in the world might be but it’s fair to say that serving as chaplain in the oncology ward of a children’s hospital is right up there.  I can only imagine the strength it takes to comfort parents facing their child’s fight with cancer. Yet an angel did that job every day for 20 years—with joy. Her name was Sister Alice Edward Strogen (r), SSJ, Oncology Chaplain of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, known locally as CHOP. “Jolly” was how her office mate Helen Stermel described her. I’d suggest “Saint.”

If you don’t know much about nuns, here’s a thumbnail. They work tirelessly in schools, in hospitals, in some of the most desperate circumstances—not for money or praise, but for others. Many work well into their 80s and 90s, devoted to God. I was taught by the Sisters of St. Joseph. I know these women. They are invincible.

I never met Sister Alice but she ‘met’ me when she attended my performance of “The God Box” on November 16, held to raise dollars for the retired sisters in the St. Joseph Villa in Flourtown, PA.  That night as I looked out from the stage, the audience was so darkly lit, I couldn’t see a single face. But that weekend, I received an enthusiastic letter from Sister Alice.

“Your dear mother, Mary, continues to have an impact on so many people!” she wrote. “I think that your mother’s legacy…her faith…her hope and her love… have so much to offer each one of us. Her most profound gift to us is the art of learning how to let go. I have said for years that I believe that this is what life is all about…learning how to let go!”

Sister and I wrote back and forth for a week, both of us so excited about bringing the show to Children’s Hospital. I couldn’t wait to meet her. But last Wednesday, Cindy Schmus, a nurse practitioner at CHOP, wrote to tell me that her dear friend Sister Alice, only 65 years old, had suddenly died of a massive heart attack. Cindy wrote that Sister spent her last hour, talking about sharing The God Box with patients and parents to help them cope.

I keep re-reading Sister Alice’s letters to me:

“I, too, believe that God brings people together and makes things happen…that’s why we have to learn to let go and open ourselves to God’s ideas for our lives…just like your mother did!”

Her funeral service is being held today at the Villa at 12:30PM. I know that the chapel will be packed with heartbroken souls trying to hold on to her. I won’t let go of my commitment to Sister Alice. I will figure out how to bring “The God Box” to the families and staff of CHOP. Rest in eternal peace, sweet angel. It’s only fair after doing the hardest job on earth.

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Letters to The God Box: A Message of Love from a Philly Friend

Anyone who lives in our area  knows that Sea Isle City, NJ was hard hit during Hurricane Sandy. Yet, look at the letter of love and hope I received from a friend who reached out. An inspiration for Christmas as well as for life!

 

Mary Lou,

Greetings from Sea Isle City, NJ! I wanted to share with you the undertaking I started today. After hearing about your book; I was intrigued to learn more about the story. After reading reviews and then finding your web site I embarked on a Christmas project. As the only boy and the youngest of 5 in a typical Philadelphia Irish Catholic family; I decided that I was going to make the God Box a  Christmas venture this year for my wife of 27 years and my 4 sisters. I must tell you that my sisters are graduates of Cardinal Dougherty so this is near and dear to my heart. They graduated in 64, 68, 70 and 73. My beautiful wife is a graduate of Saint Basil Academy and a Philly girl as well. What I did today was I took the dress my Mother wore to our wedding and I am having a dress maker here in Sea Isle make it into 5 individual God Boxes! I have purchased all the copies of the book and looking forward to a wonderful Christmas celebration embracing your work. My Mother died this past January at the age of 90 and was a very young 90 who made many novena’s and prayer request for all of us-life was good when Mom was around!

 

Best Regards,

Jim Curtin

LaSalle College High School 1975

LaSalle College 1979

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Letters to The God Box: Rediscovering the comfort of letting go

Here is another letter I received about how Mom’s story inspired someone to start her God Box again. Sometimes it’s hard to accept what life brings us and easier to abandon hope, but there is a comfort that comes from having help along the way to get us through. I find that the more I ask, the more often I feel that I can power through anything with courage.

 

“Dear Mary Lou Quinlan,

I’m not sure how I discovered your book but it seemed it was from another
email I had subscribed to and was curious as to what your book was about.

You see days earlier I had been so hurt by some life events that I refused
to believe there was such a thing as God and also got rid of my God Box
as a result and threw it in the trash. I didn’t see the purpose anymore and
also with dealing with ongoing health challenges.

When I clicked on your link and read the first chapter…it was as though
something was whispering me to believe again…I was very inspired by
your mother’s love for so many and her faith for simple requests to larger ones
and what a gift she left behind. I believe with you sharing her story you are
not only keeping her love alive but you are also helping to rebuild other’s lives,
faith, and love in their own lives.

I made one God Box, have another, am going work on one later in the week
and follow by your mom’s example. I hope to get the book soon.

I am also grateful that you have a blog where you are sharing how so many
people are being inspired by The God Box and the depth of richness it has
brought to them.

Thank you so much!

Sincerely,
Lisa”

 

I would love to hear your story too, please write to hello@thegodboxproject.com or comment here! 

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Letters to the God Box: The gift of giving and letting go

This letter from Janice meant so much to me. I’m so grateful when Mom’s story touches others..

 

“Hello!

My mother died one week ago and my coping mechanism has always been reading.  Since  she was 85 years old with some young grandchildren whose parents were concerned about how much to allow them to be involved, I went to the bookstore. In addition to buying many children’s books, I found The God Box.  I read it overnight and finished it in church the next day.  What a treasure!   I have since purchased 6 copies as gifts to siblings and many friends.  Wish I had known of this book years ago.

There are only 2 entries in my God Box since this week, but I have to say, I do feel some relief.  There is incredible sadness over my mother’s very peaceful, quick death, but I just think that the lessons will help in all aspects of my life. Your book was a gift to me and I thank you for that.

Most sincerely,
Janice Malavarca”

 

If you have a story to share please write to me at hello@theGodBoxproject.com or please post comments here! 

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Letters to the God Box: Coping with a mother’s death

Sometimes I receive letters from other daughters who tell me stories of the “Mary” in their life, often strikingly similar to my Mom. This story is one of those. Grab a tissue.

I am hoping to meet up with Jennifer when I present the play in the Ft. Myers area next spring on behalf of the Shellpoint hospice where Mom died.

“Dear Mary Lou,

I just read The God Box.  Thank you.  I’m amazed at the similarities in our lives and would like to share them with you.

My mother’s name was Josephine Maye. She was a devout Catholic and was a Franciscan nun for 6 years before she met my Dad.  Some of her friends called her Mary Jo.  Shortly before she passed away in May, 2010, she told me that she named me Mary after Mother Mary, since she was named after Joseph.  My name is Mary Jennifer Kirchman but I always went by my middle name.

My Mom and I were best friends.   I’m an only child and have no children and my Mom and I were all we had.  I always strived to be a perfect daughter, and as my Mom lay dying, she told me I had been a perfect daughter.  My Mom and I loved watching movies together and eating out, especially Mexican food and margaritas.  I don’t think it’s a coincidence that she died on May 5, Cinco de Mayo (month of May, her middle name being Maye).  She also loved the song “Spanish Eyes”.

Your Mom’s first letter was dated August 7, my birthday.  My Mom’s God Box was that she kept all the letters and postcards I ever sent her.  Some are over 30 years old.  She also saved my most precious baby clothes.  I found these in a box after she passed, all starched and in perfect condition.  My Mom and I also had a “more”.  I would say “I love you much” and she’d say “I love you more”.  Her last words to me were “Me more” after I told her “I love you much”.

I attended Catholic grade school and high school.  My Mom and I always went to Mass together.  And I too wore the veil.  I also drifted away from the Church after my Dad died.  I was angry at God and had had enough of his promises.  However, God used my second husband to bring me back to my faith, and I know my Mom was very happy about this.  My marriage didn’t last, but my faith is stronger than ever.  I go to Mass at least once a week and went to Confession for the first time in 30 years.  I even make rosaries.

My Mom also didn’t care for cooking.  I grew up on grilled cheese sandwiches and microwaved dinners.  Your Mom’s autobiography had a picture of my favorite flower on it, a daisy.  But one thing in your book that made me gasp was that they lived at Shell Point in Fort Myers.  My Mom and I also live in Fort Myers.  My family moved here in 1978.  My Dad and Grandmother are buried here.  My Mom is at home with me, (cremated) in a house we used to share.  I have no living relatives, am single with no kids.  But my Mom’s love and spirit is always with me.  And I’m most proud in this life that I had her for my Mom and that I was her love and joy.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.  I’ve never written to anyone like this before but your book touched my soul.  I think my Mom would be happy I read it and wrote you.

Love and prayers,
Jennifer”

 

I would love to hear your stories, please write to me at hello@theGodBoxproject.com or post comments here!

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Letters to the God Box: How The God Box Helped Through Trials

I love receiving letters like these, it makes me so grateful when Mom’s story touches others..

 

“Dear Mary Lou,

I picked up the God Box book as a gift for my son’s phenomenal third grade teacher,  Joan, who has been teaching for over 30 years.  Her mom is 91 and she has been very ill this past year.  Her mom – Anne, says a rosary each day and has been doing so since the age of 20.  I have a special fondness for the Blessed Mother and was so touched to hear this.  I believe Anne is still alive.  I thought your book may help Joan through her mom’s transition to heaven, whenever that may be.  It may be a while as I recall a day toward the end of the school year when I asked Joan about her mom just after they shared a discussion about possibly moving her mom to a facility where she could receive constant care.  Anne’s response to her daughter was along the lines of although she seemed to be ready for heaven, God still had special plans for her.  I am hopeful that Joan has read your book over the summer and that it brings her some comfort.

I have since bought several more copies to share with friends who are going through difficult times now.

It has also brought incredible comfort to me.  After I finished your book, our family was struck with many challenging situations.  I truly believe that it was God’s plan that I read your book as a way to let me know that although there would be some dark days ahead, God had better plans for me than I could imagine.

My mom was recently hospitalized for three weeks due to OCD, anxiety and depression.  Although a woman of great faith she has struggled for years.  She has tremendous difficulty letting go and letting God truly guide her.  She was just released a week ago and has still had some challenges.  I am encouraged that she will slowly recover and be able to be more faith filled.  I think your book will be a blessing for her.  After reading your book, I sometimes wished that I had a mom as strong as your mom to guide me as many times I have felt like a mother to my mom.  But I now understand that God has different plans for us and we need to let go and follow them.  Thank you for helping me to better understand this.

Two weeks ago today, my husband was laid off.  He did not see this coming as he had just booked a trip to Disney World for our family around Christmas.  He was shattered.  I however had great peace.  I knew the stress of his job was killing him physically and emotionally.  I even asked during the weeks prior what I should do about his mom should he die.  I wasn’t sure I could handle the grief of losing him while raising our two sons without him and take care of his ailing mother.  I truly believe that your book somehow inspired me to look at things differently.  I did not fall apart when he told me he lost his job, I actually felt blessed.  So many miracles have happened since then, that I am certain that this is God’s plan.

I see that you will be at St. Joseph’s University in the coming weeks.  I hope to meet you then if possible to thank you personally for touching me in such a special way.

Thank you so much for reading my story and I hope to meet you in person.

Gratefully,

Bernadette”

If you have a story to share please write to me at hello@theGodBoxproject.com or please post comments here! 

 

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sample chapter
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press & praise
View All
  • "A beautiful story of love, faith and family. It reads like an intimate, familiar prayer."
    – ELIZABETH GILBERT, AUTHOR OF "EAT, PRAY, LOVE"
  • "A wonderful legacy…Keeping a God Box is an incredibly moving and hopeful ritual that we should all consider adding into our daily lives."
    – REBA, MUSICIAN, AUTHOR, ACTRESS
  • "Mary Lou Quinlan has told the story of her mother in a way that entertains, moves and inspires. The thoughts about life and values will stick with you forever."
    – JIM LEHRER, EXECUTIVE EDITOR OF PBS NEWSHOUR
  • "Mary Lou Quinlan shares her mother’s handmade and heartfelt gift of how to persist, believe and move forward with joy."
    – LEE WOODRUFF, AUTHOR OF "IN AN INSTANT"
  • "What a beautiful and profoundly human book....I will keep The God Box in my heart for a long, long time."
    – LAURA SCHROFF, AUTHOR OF "THE INVISIBLE THREAD"
  • "The courage and wisdom from the messages left in her mother’s God Box will inspire you to create a God Box of your own."
    – GAIL SHEEHY, AUTHOR OF "PASSAGES IN CAREGIVING"
  • "In the slips of paper that carry this sweet story forward, we can see the love in our own families and the great possibilities of simple faith."
    – JEFFREY ZASLOW, COAUTHOR OF "THE LAST LECTURE"

The God Box App is shiny new and ready to welcome your cares

December 15, 2017
by Mary Lou Quinlan

Since The God Box book was published in the spring of 2012, so many readers have told me that they started their own God Boxes. I love hearing stories of children creating God Boxes and married couples joining their prayer and cares in a family box. (And my mother would be thrilled!)  A 'real' God box is a constant reminder that we are not in control and that letting go is the first step to finding comfort, hope and relief for life's worries. But did you know that many thousands have gone virtual with their God boxes? To help the many busy ...

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