Monday, April 28, 2008

“We need to know”

There was a press conference immediately following their meeting with Pope Benedict at the Wednesday General Audience. It was then that I had my first contact with Kate and Gerry McCann, although Kate and I attended the same school (some years apart) and her parents live close to my own family.

When I saw Kate and Gerry, I was utterly convinced of their innocence, and remain so after one year of frequent conversations with Kate’s parents. I have been deeply humbled by their faith and courage, the persistence of their prayers even when the days have been dark and pain-filled.

Knowing the widespread concern for Madeleine and her family, I thought that I would reproduce the article from tonight’s Liverpool Echo as my own way of marking Madeleine’s anniversary, as my own little offering of support to a suffering family who also represent the anguish of similar families across the world.

May God bless, support and comfort the McCann family and all families in their situation. May missing children come home, safe and sound and may all the wounds be healed.

God bless,
Sr. Janet

Madeleine McCann - if she's dead, we need to know
Apr 28 2008 by Paddy Shennan, Liverpool Echo
IN the first of a two-part series, to mark the first anniversary of the abduction of Madeleine McCann, chief feature writer Paddy Shennan talks to her Liverpool-based grandparents, Brian and Susan Healy

IT’S A tough question to ask and an almost impossible one to answer.
As they approach the anniversary of the disappearance of their first grandchild, Madeleine McCann’s grandparents bravely face up to the horrendous possibility of their worst nightmare coming heartbreakingly true.
For Brian and Susan Healy, who have spent the past 12 months doing all they can for Madeleine and all they can for her mother, their only child, Kate, the agony and the anguish can only intensify on the anniversary no one wants to see come round.
We are sitting in their suburban home in a quiet, tree-lined street off busy Allerton Road, a house where the gates remain bedecked with yellow and green ribbons. A house where the first and last thing you see, as you enter and leave, is a framed photograph of their smiling granddaughter, Madeleine, in her Everton top.
An ordinary family photograph which is now, for all the wrong reasons, familiar to millions of people around the world.
It is here, then, in this seemingly unremarkable, ordinary and everyday world, that these devoted parents and grandparents fight a daily battle against thinking the unthinkable and saying the unsayable.
So do they now, after all this time, believe little Madeleine is dead and, if she is, would they rather face this devastating fact – or continue living in ignorance, with only their daily turmoil and torment for company?
Susan, 62, takes a deep breath, and says: “I think Kate feels she needs to know what’s happened to Madeleine, because her imagination . . .”
Her voice trails away as the enormity of what she is saying hits home, before she adds, softly and sadly: “Kate said ‘If Madeleine is dead I need to know’. That goes for us as well.”
But explaining the trap they fear falling into, Brian, 68, says: “If you say ‘We want a resolution’ you are tempting fate . . . If I was talking about any other child, I would probably think ‘She’s gone’. But it’s Madeleine, and so we have hope.”
Susan, as if grasping hold of that most powerful of four-letter words, stresses: “We still have a lot of hope, because we have no reason not to have.
“Sometimes when I’m having a bad time – which has been most of the time recently – I would be quite fearful of the chances of Madeleine being found alive. Then I’ll read something or speak to someone who will say ‘You WILL get her back, you know’. That makes me feel a bit ashamed, so I pull myself together.”
And Kate? Is she, as some newspapers have suggested, on the verge of falling apart?
Susan says: “I can’t believe how strong Kate is. I just don’t know where she gets this strength from. Prayer does give you strength. If nothing else it’s something that has kept us going . . . prayer and the support of other people.
“I do fear for the future, of course I do. But as for her appearance now, Kate’s always been thin and I don’t think she’s any thinner than before. I’ve looked at pictures in the early days when people said how cool she looks and, to me, she looks in anguish.
“I think, if people can’t see the anguish in her face, they are blind, they really are.
“No one takes less time on themselves than Kate. She’s not into make-up. She comes across in pictures quite well. She looks very attractive, though she wouldn’t think that.
“But some people want to write anything at all to make her appear less caring about her children and more caring for herself.
“I am absolutely amazed at the strength she has shown. I know she feels she let Madeleine down. The only way she can cope is by trying 100% to get Madeleine back. She can’t possibly give up because the twins deserve everything they had before.”
This mention of three-year-olds Sean and Amelie, as with so many things the grandparents say during the course of our conversation – a conversation punctuated by the tears which occasionally fall down Susan’s face and the unutterable sadness in Brian’s eyes – prompts memories of happier times.
“When you see the two of them laughing together now,” says Brian, the proudest of grandads, “it’s always in your mind that there should be three of them laughing.”
So much has happened in this past year from hell – and yet, so little has happened. Nothing, essentially, has changed since Thursday, May 3, 2007 – Madeleine went missing that night in the Portuguese resort of Praia da Luz, and she is still missing.
It’s impossible to imagine what Madeleine’s family have gone through and continue to go through – and it’s hard enough for them to comprehend what has happened and is happening to them.
Susan says: “It’s quite frightening to think that 12 months has almost gone by – 12 months since we were sitting in this room and just expecting the ‘phone to go, and hearing they had found Madeleine.
“Maybe the way I’m feeling at the moment – and I’m feeling probably the worst I’ve felt for the whole year – I suppose I am a bit frightened and panicking that we still haven’t got Madeleine back.
“I’ve found myself thinking a lot about Madeleine now; what she’s doing, who she’s with and is she OK. There’s almost a feeling of panic and of needing to know the answers overtaking me. I am struggling more than I have before.
“When the six months was marked I felt . . . I was quite happy with the buzz going out and busy organising things. But I feel a bit flat now and I don’t want this stage to be reached.
“And if anything needs organising I want it done without me taking part. I don’t feel I have the strength. I feel quite squashed and depressed.”
Fighting back the tears again, she adds: “In the earlier days it was new and we were coping with our emotions because we were kept busy organising things.
“I think, now, we have done all that and, somehow, there’s nothing to protect you and you are thinking constantly about Madeleine and her situation. And there’s a fear, I suppose, that people will accept that Madeleine has gone.”