Brother Michael’s Life and Suffering
Michael Allen Gaworski, born in Tulsa, Oklahoma on July 31, 1958, was the first son of Richard and Wynona Gaworski. The Gaworski family moved to Saint Paul, Minnesota when Michael was four months old. He was raised in a strong Catholic family and later in life was joined by three brothers and one sister.
Michael suffered with childhood asthma, and this made him very vulnerable to lung infections. Years later, as a young adult, an event would occur related to this which changed his life and the life of our brotherhood forever.
Michael was afforded a good education and upbringing, and attended Saint Thomas Academy, which is an all–boys military high school located in suburban Saint Paul. During his teen-age years, he became deeply involved in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal movement and through it, experienced a closer relationship with the Lord. This had a great impact on his desire to follow the Lord in pursuing a vocation to the religious life in the Catholic Church.
As a young man Michael experienced a “Franciscan conversion” as he called it, after reading the “Little Flowers of Saint Francis of Assisi,” also known as the “Fioretti.” This little book changed Michael’s life; he fell in love with the Saint from Assisi and Franciscan spirituality. After graduating from high school in 1977, Michael visited several religious communities in an effort to discern his vocation.
It was immediately after this time that the Lord led Brother Michael through a series of events that led to the founding of the Franciscan Brothers of Peace, which are described in the previous section.
Brother Michael had suffered all his adult life with chemical dependency. This was an enormous cross for him. As the Brotherhood was growing and progressing, Brother Michael and the Brothers eventually found it necessary for him to seek help, to honestly do what was necessary to obtain treatment and allow God to work in his life. As 1990 was drawing to a close, Br. Michael was “working his program” in honesty and accountability. And despite his weakened immune system and asthma, things were finally looking up for our dear Brother.
Brother Michael Suffers Brain Injury
On March 20, 1991, Brother Michael, at the age of 32, suffered cardiac and respiratory arrest from a sepsis condition caused by a bacterial pneumonia which he apparently had contracted less than 24 hours earlier. After spending four weeks in cardiac intensive care at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis where the Brothers “camped out” to remain with him 24–hours per day, we moved Brother Michael to Bethesda Care Center in Saint Paul where he would spend nearly seven months receiving therapy and care. The Brothers learned all of his cares there, actually becoming his primary caregivers. After nearly eight months of hospitalization, the Brothers brought their dear Brother Michael home, where we cared for him for twelve years.
Brother Michael’s brain injury caused him severe disability, leaving him quadriplegic and in need of 24–hour per day care. He could not be left alone for more than a few minutes at a time. Some would say, “what an incredible burden! Who would want to take that on?” Our answer was simply, “If you really love someone, there is no burden at all.” Those who have cared for a profoundly disabled loved one know exactly what we mean. Yes, it can be hard work, but it’s always the right thing to do.
Brother Michael became the loving heart of our home and of our Brotherhood. In the mystery of God’s plan for Brother Michael and for us, the Lord Jesus Christ manifested Himself in Michael and through his brokenness, and brought about a spiritual formation that we could not possibly have experienced in any other way.
Brother Michael Falls Asleep in the Lord
In August, 2003, Brother Michael developed a cellulitis infection which required hospitalization. After a few days the infection had cleared up, and we were preparing to bring him home when, in the course of one day and in the relatively unhealthy environment of the hospital, he contracted another pneumonia which again caused sepsis. Despite all of our efforts he was not able to recover from this poisoning of his bloodstream, and so our beloved Michael went home to his Lord Jesus on the Feast of St. Augustine, August 28, 2003.
Our broken hearts were consoled by the fact that his purgation most certainly was already completed. We feel the strong presence of our Michael’s intercession for us, and we are committed to boldly proclaim the sacred humanity of the severely disabled to all the world.
In the Divine Economy, it made sense to us that within about a year after Brother Michael’s death, our Brotherhood was led to be on the forefront of the battle to save the life of our sister, Terri Schindler–Schiavo. May Brother Michael and Holy Terri pray for us!