Sunday, those medically unexplained healings 20 years apart are forever connected.
Sunday, Mother Katharine Drexel, a Roman Catholic nun who was born in Philadelphia in 1858, will be named a saint because of those two events. The church considers them to be miracles.
Miracle: "An extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs."
In the cold of February 1974, Robert J. Gutherman, 14, was frightened. The pain in his right ear persisted. Antibiotics had not helped his inner ear infection.
He and his nine brothers had been altar boys or worked after school in Bensalem, Pa., in Bucks County, at the chapel of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, the order that Mother Katharine founded in 1891. When one of the nuns called, his mother mentioned Robert's debilitating pain.
"She sent a prayer card to our house," recalls Gutherman, who is now 40, lives in Croydon and is the father of two. "She said she hoped that the prayers would make the pain go away or at least that I could tolerate it."
Every night after dinner the Guthermans said the Rosary. Following the nun's suggestion, they added a prayer to Mother Katharine Drexel.
In March Gutherman had exploratory surgery at St. Christopher's Hospital for Children in Philadelphia.
"The doctor told my mother that the infection had eaten away two of the three bones in my right ear and that I would be deaf in that ear for the rest of my life."
That night, Gutherman says, he was awakened in the hospital by someone calling "Bobby."
"Who's calling me?" he asked.
His mother, sitting beside his bed, said it must have been a voice from the hallway. Go back to sleep, she said.
The next morning, when Mrs. Gutherman told the doctor that her son had heard a voice, "he said it must have been through my left ear."
But mother and son were not convinced. Robert was given a hearing test and could hear in his right ear.
He went back to the doctor for an examination. This is the conversation that Gutherman remembers:
Doctor: "I don't believe what I'm seeing. His body is reconstructing anatomy."
Mrs. Gutherman: "What does that mean?"
"His body is healing itself."
Then she told him about the prayers to Mother Drexel. Gutherman remembers the doctor's response:
"He said he had no explanation."
Diagnosed with moderate to severe deafness, Amy Wall would smile and dance when she put her hands on a radio and felt the throbbing music. It was 1993 and doctors said the 1-year-old's condition was incurable.
That year her mother saw a television show about Mother Katharine Drexel and the Gutherman healing. So, said Constance Wall, "we prayed" that Amy would learn sign language. "If she could sign for her bottle, we thought we would have everything."
But Jack, Amy's 7-year-old brother, had learned about miracles at parochial school in Bensalem and urged his family to pray instead for a cure.
His mother obtained a small square of cloth from a habit worn by Mother Katharine, pressed it to Amy's ears, and the family prayed anew. Four months later, in March 1994, Amy began to hear.
This year, Amy, who hears and speaks perfectly, was asked why she had been chosen for a miracle.
"Because God loves me," she said, "and I love God."
Gutherman was asked the same question:
"I've wrestled with it for quite a while. And I've finally decided, 'Well, why not me?'
"Miracles happen every day. The key to receiving a miracle is having the faith to recognize it. You know, I may have missed it as a 14-year-old, but my parents' faith was so strong that they recognized it."