At face value, the return of 46-year-old kicker John Carney to the New Orleans Saints on Sept. 28 was just another of a seemingly endless stream of NFL transactions.
That day, team officials released wide receiver Adrian Arrington to make room for Carney on their 53-man roster.
Period, end of story, right?
Last Monday night, at a gala benefit for the Blessed Francis X. Seelos canonization cause at the Audubon Tea Room, Holly Carney provided a riveting testimony of miraculous proportion and a compelling explanation of her husband’s unexpected return to New Orleans.
‘IT WAS A MIRACLE’
The abridged story begins on April 20th (John’s 46th birthday) when Holly Carney went in for exploratory surgery at a San Diego hospital. A battery of tests conducted over an 18-month period apparently had not been able to determine the extent of her "female issues,'' according to John Carney.
“Ninety minutes after the surgery, I woke up out of the anesthesia when they were wheeling me out of the operating room,’’ Holly Carney said when contacted by NewOrleans.Com on Wednesday night at the family home in San Diego. “The doctors and nurses were shocked because I wasn’t due to wake up for 2 ½ to 3 more hours.
“But I woke up.’’
Mrs. Carney said she told a surgeon and attending nurse that a priest had been with her throughout the entire 3-hour procedure, seated in a metal chair inside the operating room.
Mrs. Carney later identified the “visitor’’ as Father Francis X. Seelos, a Redemptorist priest who chose to serve at St. Mary’s Church in New Orleans during the mid-1800s when a yellow fever epidemic was present.
He labored cheerfully and tirelessly in St. Mary’s Church, performing all the priestly duties required in a very active parish, in addition to visiting the sick and infirmed outside the parish, bringing them comfort and consolation, and some believe, obtaining for them God’s healing with his powerful prayers.
“Holly felt and swore that Blessed Seelos was in the room with her the entire surgery, speaking with her and comforting her, and that’s what he did when he was alive,’’ John Carney said. “There are numerous accounts of him appearing to sick and infirmed people, people during surgeries. He’s credited with many healing miracles.’’
“I remember everything,’’ Mrs. Carney said. “I remember Blessed Seelos sitting in a metal chair in his priest’s outfit. My soul remembers. Your soul is made up of memory, intellect and will, so my soul saw it all.
“I don’t remember a thing what Blessed Seelos said but that was my experience. I was in great awe that the Lord allowed Blessed Seelos to be there and pray for me and guide the two doctors who were doing the surgery. They were astounded what they found in me.’’
Among the things that doctors removed was a benign tumor above Mrs. Carney’s left ovary and a massive band of muscle that had grown together in that area of her body causing her constant pain and discomfort.
“I absolutely am 100 percent confident it was a miracle, because I was under anesthesia and you can’t make things up, nor do you typically remember things under anesthesia,’’ Mrs. Carney said. “And I remember everything, and my doctors and nurse confirmed that.
“It was a huge miracle in that the Lord allowed this (Blessed Seelos), because he’s so fervent in praying for everyone, to be with me during this surgery. And the reason it registered with so many people is because I was under anesthesia.’’
‘I WAS THINKING DALLAS’
As spring turned to summer and training camps opened up around the NFL, John Carney remained unemployed. He continued to work out at his home in San Diego in the hope of getting a call from a team in need of a veteran kicker.
None called, but the desire to resume his stellar 22-year NFL career never waned.
Around this time, an invitation arrived in the mail for the Carneys to attend a gala benefit Oct. 4 for the Blessed Seelos canonization cause at the Audubon Tea Room in New Orleans.
On Sept. 24, 10 days before the event, Mrs. Carney telephoned her regrets.
“My heart told me I had to go,’’ Mrs. Carney said. “I needed to be at the gala because the Lord wanted me to be there and tell what happened. But, I was resigned to the fact that I wouldn’t be able to go because John was out of work and I thought it would be inappropriate to leave my family at that time.
“So I called my friend, Joyce, at the Blessed Seelos Center.’’
Mrs. Carney explained her situation and the two of them prayed to Blessed Seelos over the phone.
“Together, we prayed for John to get work where he would be happy,’’ Mrs. Carney said. “I was thinking Dallas (the site of Super Bowl XLV).’’
She almost seemed embarrassed by the sound of it. "Dallas.'' And she laughed.
PRAYERS ARE ANSWERED
Forty-eight hours after praying to Blessed Seelos, a Saints’ area scout called Carney and asked if he’d be interested in rejoining the Black and Gold. Earlier in the day on Sept. 26th, kicker Garrett Hartley had missed a potential game-winning 29-yard field goal in overtime against the Atlanta Falcons at the Superdome.
The Falcons eventually prevailed 27-24, putting Hartley’s job in jeopardy and prompting a job inquiry from the Saints.
Carney arrived in New Orleans the night of Sept. 27th, and the next day won a kickoff against veteran kicker Kris Brown. On Sept. 29th, Carney signed on for a third stint with the Black and Gold (2001-06, 2009) as both a kicker on the 53-man roster and a mentor for Hartley.
Last Sunday, in his first game back with the Black and Gold, Carney converted field goal attempts of 32-, 32- and 25-yards, the latter coming with 3:55 remaining to provide the winning points in a 16-14 victory against the Carolina Panthers at the Superdome.
On Monday night, Holly Carney provided her testimony at the Audubon Tea Room on behalf of Blessed Seelos, the late priest whose cause is being considered before the Congregation of the Causes of the Saints in Rome.
“I wanted to share with everyone that God allowed this intercessor, this powerful prayer warrior, to be with me,’’ Mrs. Carney said. “And then the door opened for us to be there at the benefit.
“I think the Lord just wanted me to share my testimony because prayer is powerful and the spiritual realm is real and everything that has happened to my husband in the NFL is from God moving things around for him.’’
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