By Christie L. Chicoine
CS&T Staff Writer
GLEN MILLS – It could be a miracle that 29-year-old William H Glisson Jr. of St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Glen Mills, Delaware County, is alive today.
Eight years ago, on March 15, Glisson was rollerblading backward without a helmet on an elevated sidewalk along Baltimore Pike in Springfield when he struck a crack in the cement at the bottom of the hill. He was thrown six to seven feet in the air before he smashed the back of his head on a curb.
Glisson was in a coma for five weeks and survived five surgeries – four on his brain and one to replace his restructured skull. He was, for a time, on a ventilator and had to use both a breathing tube and feeding tube and temporarily lost feeling in his right foot, left hand and the right side of his neck.
Doctors informed Glisson’s family that he was not expected to survive.
On March 19, the feast of St. Joseph, a friend of the family lent the Glissons two relics of Blessed Luigi Guanella, an Italian priest of the 19th and early 20th centuries who was the founder of the Servants of Charity, who have an order in Springfield. One was placed on Glisson’s medical band; his mother, a registered nurse, kept the other in her pocket.
In late April of 2002, Glisson was released from the hospital and went to a physical rehabilitation center. After a 10-day stay there, he received outpatient physical rehabilitation.
Since his skull had been removed to alleviate the swelling on his brain, he wore a protective helmet. Six months later, in September 2002, the restructured skull was surgically replaced.
Glisson had made an apparently miraculous recovery.
In November 2009, a medical commission of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints declared there were no scientific, natural or medical reasons for Glisson’s cure. In January the Pontifical International Theological Commission approved that Glisson’s healing was obtained through the intercession of Blessed Luigi Guanella.
The approval represents a major step forward in the cause for Blessed Luigi’s possible path toward sainthood.
The cause now must be presented to Pope Benedict XVI, who will determine whether a decree of canonization will be made.
Glisson, a graduate of Monsignor Bonner High School for Boys in Drexel Hill and Drexel Hill School of the Holy Child, who’s been married to Kaye (Conner) since 2008, said he appreciates life more than ever.
“To be pretty much gone and then to come back changes the way I look at absolutely everything,” he said. “Before, I thought I was basically invincible. (The accident) really made me realize that I’m not. I can get hurt just like everybody else and I have to be careful.”
Today, he feels as good as he did the day before the accident, Glisson said. But whenever he sees youngsters biking or skating without a helmet, he shares his story to try to persuade them to wear one.
Then as now, he works at his family’s roofing, siding and window-manufacturing business, M & J Supplies in Folcroft.
And he carries in his heart a devotion to Blessed Guanella. “It built upon the faith that I have,” Glisson said. “I feel I have a responsibility to pass on to other people the lessons that I have learned,” he said of the accident and his renewed belief that there is a God “holding our hand, helping us along. I want other people to see it and believe it basically through me.”
Servant of Charity Father Dennis Weber, local superior of the Servants of Charity in Springfield, said the order is hopeful that their founder will be canonized. “We recognize it as a great blessing for us, the Servants of Charity and for the Church of Philadelphia.”
The timing, he said, would be providential. “This year, we’re celebrating the 50th anniversary of the opening of our ministry here in Philadelphia,” the Don Guanella School in Springfield.
According to Father Weber, the Servants of Charity administered the school through 2004. Since then, the school has been administered by Catholic Social Services of the Philadelphia Archdiocese.
Father Weber described Glisson as “a fine young man.”
Servant of Charity Father Peter DiTullio, pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in East Providence, R.I., Diocese of Providence, serves as vice postulator of the cause.
For more information, visit the web site www.guanelliani.org.
CS&T Staff Writer Christie L. Chicoine may be reached at 215-587-2468 or firstname.lastname@example.org.