NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — A half-century ago, a young boy's eye disease mysteriously vanished and on Saturday, the New Jersey nun credited with curing the boy will be beatified.
Sister Miriam Teresa Demjanovich, who died in 1927 at age 26, is scheduled to be beatified in a ceremony led by Cardinal Angelo Amato at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark. The ceremony is the third in the four-step process to sainthood.
Sister Miriam Teresa is credited with curing a boy's macular degeneration in the 1960s, according to the Archdiocese of Newark. The boy, Michael Mencer, was given a lock of the sister's hair and prayed to her. The effects of the eye disease soon began to fade, church officials say.
"Within a period of six weeks, it was totally reversed," said Sister Mary Canavan, of the Sisters of Charity.
Mencer told NBC News that his teacher gave him the lock of hair in a plastic container along with a prayer card. On a walk home later that day, he recalled noticing changes in his sight.
"I was about two blocks from the house when I think it happened," he told NBC. "I looked up at what I thought was the sun, and it didn't hurt my eyes, but I could see an orb, a bright light. And when I looked back down I could see the hair in the memento."
Mencer did not return calls for comment from the Associated Press.
The beatification comes less than a year after the event was certified as a miracle by Pope Francis, though church officials started the process in 1945 when the bishop of Paterson began studying Sister Miriam Teresa's life and virtues, according to the Sisters of Charity.
Sister Miriam Teresa, who was born in Bayonne, was a nun for two years before succumbing to complications of appendicitis. During her short time in the Sisters of Charity, she was best known for her good virtue and her writing, which Sister Diane Collesano said was well beyond her years. At the time, students noted that whatever was said in confidence to Sister Miriam Teresa was not spoken to anyone else, Collesano said.
"The sisters saw in her that a person who had insights far beyond the average 20-some-year-old person," Collesano said.
The archdiocese expects more than 1,500 people, including members of the sister's family and Mencer, to be on hand for the beatification Mass.
Attendees also will include a "whole slew of nuns," priests and more than 20 bishops, including one from Poland, said Jim Goodness, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Newark. During the ceremony, a procession will be held carrying a relic from Sister Miriam Teresa and a portrait of her, Goodness said.
Beatification requires evidence of one miracle that happened after the candidate has died and as a result of a specific plea to the candidate. Sainthood requires a second miracle, though candidates deemed martyrs need only one for canonization.