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The Miracle of a Million Pennies

One penny alone isn’t much, but when millions of pennies are gathered together, the miraculous happens. That’s the “penny-nomenal” tale of Dr. Kate Newcomb and the World’s Biggest Penny in Woodruff, Wisconsin.

Dr. Kate and the World’s Largest Penny

The story begins in 1931 when Dr. Kate began practicing medicine in Wisconsin’s north woods. Her “clinic” spanned 300 square miles; house calls took her down dirt roads and across lakes in a canoe. When her car got stuck in the deep snow, she trekked by snowshoe to remote cabins to deliver one of more than 3,000 babies by the light of a kerosene lamp. Nothing could stop the “Angel on Snowshoes,” as she fondly came to be known.

In 1941 Dr. Kate opened her own clinic in Woodruff. Her hair graying and her step slowing, the 56-year-old country doctor also began dreaming of her own hospital. It was becoming increasingly more difficult for her to treat patients in hospitals hundreds of miles away. But where would the money come from? It was a hardscrabble life in these north woods.

The Good Lord had a plan — and what a plan it was!

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A Gift of Peace

(Photo by Marion Amberg)

It’s a traditional Nativity scene. Christ Child. Angels. Wise men. Shepherds and sheep. What isn’t so traditional is who made it: German POWs incarcerated at Algona, Iowa.

The story begins in 1944 when Sergeant Eduard Kaib was captured in France and shipped to Camp Algona, a base camp in north-central Iowa that housed 3,200 German POWs and oversaw 34 branch camps in Minnesota, Iowa, and the Dakotas.

Suffering from war injuries, Kaib was also mired in depression. He missed deeply his homeland, family, and German Catholic religious traditions. One day, the radio operator had a divine idea.

“Sir, I’d like to build a Nativity,” Kaib petitioned Camp Commander Arthur T. Lobdell.

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One Mother, One Baby, One Family at a Time

by Marion Amberg

As published in the Fall issue of Celebrate Life Magazine (https://clmagazine.org/). All photos courtesy of Saint Gianna’s Maternity Home.

Mary Pat Jahner with her adopted daughter, Aubrey Rose Joy

On March 18, 2020, Fr. Joseph Christensen, three pregnant residents, and the staff of Saint Gianna’s Maternity Home in Warsaw, North Dakota, walked the grounds in Eucharistic Procession and prayed for protection from the rapidly spreading novel coronavirus. They then entered the old convent school and locked the door. Their sheltering in place had begun. 

Heaven shielded not only them but St. Gianna’s own daughter, Gianna Emanuela Molla. An Italian, Gianna Emanuela, who was traveling in the US when the pandemic broke out, took refuge in the maternity home she had previously visited several times until she could safely return home to Milan in August.

This isn’t the first time St. Gianna Beretta Molla (1922–1962) protected her daughter. Saving children—her own and others—is part of St. Gianna’s astounding legacy. When the Italian Catholic pediatrician was pregnant with Gianna Emanuela, doctors discovered she had a uterine tumor. “If you must decide between me and the child, do not hesitate . . . save the baby,” Gianna heroically told them.1 She believed “the right of the child is equal to the right of the mother’s life.”

Her baby, Gianna Emanuela, was born on April 21, 1962. St. Gianna died eight days later.

A speck on the map

Like St. Gianna, Mary Pat Jahner, the director of Saint Gianna’s Maternity Home, cherishes and wants to save babies. A North Dakota schoolteacher,

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A Virtuous Walk

Searching for Truth and Wisdom? Take a stroll in Shullsburg, Wisconsin!

During the mid-1800s, Venerable Samuel Mazzuchelli, OP, not only erected St. Matthew’s Catholic Church in this quaint, old lead-mining town, he also named the streets for godly virtues. For nearly 175 years, folks here have been walking down Faith, Peace, Pious, Justice, Goodness, and Friendship, not to mention Happy, Charity, and Mercy.

(Photo courtesy of http://www.experienceshullsburg.com)

Ironically (or maybe not), St. Matthew’s Catholic Church sits on Judgement Street (yes, “Judgement”)!

Shullsburg is one of more than 500 intriguing faith sites featured in Monuments, Marvels, and Miracles: A Traveler’s Guide to Catholic America, available from Our Sunday Visitor (https://www.orderosv.com/product/monuments-marvels-and-miracles-a-traveler-s-guide-to-catholic-america) and Amazon (https://www.amazon.com/Monuments-Marvels-Miracles-Travelers-Catholic/dp/1681923394/ref=pd_ybh_a_3?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=BPNV7A4EQ124SFEEY96S).

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Copyright 2020 by Marion Amberg

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A ‘Cent-sational’ Find

I’m an eagle eye for shiny pennies: I can spot them half a block away. I find so many pennies that I wrote a book about it (Penny Prayers: True Stories of Change — click the book tab above for details). But nothing tops my “penny-nomenal” find of a few weeks ago.

I was leaving a shopping center when I spied two pennies on the road in front of me. I looked in the rearview mirror: No cars behind me. I stopped my car, got out, and snatched up the pennies. Then I spotted some folded paper that cars had driven over. What’s this? Paper money! I swooped that up too. I turned around and saw another penny. Finders keepers.

When I got back to my car, I counted my loot: $63.03! “Cent-sational” — my biggest money find ever!

Found money isn’t mine, however. I donate my found money — coins and paper bills — to Pennies From Heaven (http://www.penniesfromheavenus.com), a ministry that feeds the world’s hungry with pennies and spare change. A few pennies for me is nothing, but in Africa they can buy 54 bananas. Imagine the mouths we could feed if we pooled together our pennies and loose change?

Now I’m dreaming of finding a $100 bill or two. Miracles happen! I’ll let you know when it does.

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Copyright 2020 by Marion Amberg