Local author shares stories of divine intervention and miracles
EDITOR'S NOTE: An uncorrected version of this story erroneously appeared previously.
Author and former Norwich resident Therese Dunn believes miracles and divine intervention still occur today. She said they have happened to her and others and documents many of her experiences in her 8-by-10-inch book, "Believe."
Beginning in 2009, the Montville resident suffered for three years with Cavernous Sinus Dural Fistula, a rare eye condition that mainly affects women over 60. "The blood from the brain was pushing the (left) eye out," said Therese, 94, adding that it felt like her eye could fall out. Because she was in her 80s at the time, Neuro-Ophthalmologist Mark Kupersmith of New York City wanted to monitor her condition and not operate.
In October 2012, Therese's daughter, Carol Dunn, invited her on a 21-day vacation to wherever she wanted to go. Therese chose the Vatican in Italy, Lourdes Grotto in France and Fatima, Portugal (where the Blessed Mother reportedly appeared to three children). Every time Carol saw a priest, she would ask him to pray over her mother. After viewing and touching Saint Padre Pio's crypt in San Giovanni Rotundo in southern Italy, another priest prayed over Therese.
"And here I am standing up and he's putting his hands over me. He prayed for at least 10 minutes. I got so hot, I was boiling inside. I didn't know what to do. I thought I was going to jump out of my skin, and after he finished, he took my hands in his hands," Therese said. "He said, 'How do you feel?' and I told him I feel so hot I can't stand it. He said, 'Your eye is going to be fine.' All these other priests prayed for me. They never told me my eye was going to be fine. He's the only one," and he was right. She added that she wished she knew the priest's name and is very grateful to him. Therese believes it was Saint Padre Pio working through him that cured her – something her general practitioner, ophthalmologists, medicine and eye exercises could not do. Immediately, her eye felt less uncomfortable.
Therese's last Magnetic Resonance Imaging in December 2012 no longer showed a "little strip of blood that was coming from the brain into the back of the eye," she said, and her eye looked normal again days later at Christmastime.
Recently, Therese was told by a relative that she knew her left eye had been healed, because there was an aura around it. "I got chills," she said. Therese emphasizes that she does not want to be viewed as "a saint. I'm a sinner like everybody else."
Another time in 1984, she said even though she hates bridges, she told her husband, Joe, she had heard about the 24-mile-long Lake Ponchartrain Causeway Bridge, (which links New Orleans and Mandeville, La.) and insisted they go over the bridge. The next day when they returned home, they read in the daily newspaper that a barge hit the bridge on the very same side they had traveled. "That's a miracle. We could have been there when the barge hit, you know?"
While traveling in 1992, Therese and Joe also came upon Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Texas, which was "packed with people." Therese said the Blessed Mother statue had been crying there for four days and four nights, according to the priest.
A very traumatic event occurred when their son, Leon, contracted encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) and had a 105-degree fever and seizures on Dec. 30, 1968, just 26 days before his fourth birthday. He was also hemorrhaging internally, lost half his blood, was given several units of blood, and slept for four days and nights. Leon spent 19 days at William W. Backus Hospital in a ward with 12 other 4- and 5-year-old children who had the same illness; some did not survive. He was paralyzed on the right side and couldn't talk or walk. It was also hard for him to eat.
"In those days they didn't call it a stroke for children, but now they do," Therese said.
She writes in her book that doctors said Leon "would never be able to put a ball in a basket, ride a bicycle, or drive a car if he survived." He would go on to do all those things and surprise his doctors. Today, Leon works as a security guard at a local casino and has trained new guards.
During the encephalitis epidemic, there was also a flu outbreak and many doctors and nurses were out because they were sick, Therese said. "So they taught us how to take care of him at the hospital. They even showed us how to suction him."
Before bringing Leon home, his father made a thick pad that covered their entire family room next to the kitchen, and they stripped the room of furniture.
"He was my child and if anybody could do anything for him it was going to be me," Therese said.
Whenever she "had a minute" between making meals and other work, she said she would roll him on the pad and help guide him through fine and gross (which involve large muscle groups) motor exercises. "It took a while before he could stand up."
She also gave him "a big beach ball to try and hold." Once he was able to hold it, she would give him smaller and smaller balls. "Finally I got him on his feet. He couldn't walk yet, but he could stand."
By his fourth birthday on Jan. 26, 1969, Leon had taken his first steps and was walking. Five days later, he was able to give his mother a kiss.
Therese said she believes "the Lord prepared" her for her son's illness. She read in a book that when a child gets sick with a brain injury, you can "train other cells in the brain to take over the work of the damaged cells. And this is what drove me to do this."
She also read to him a great deal. When he came up with a word, she said she knew "right then and there" that "he was going to be OL."
Frighteningly, Leon contracted a worse case of encephalitis on May 19, 1971, and was completely paralyzed. While hospitalized for 13 days, Therese attached little Padre Pio medals to Leon's shirt.
Therese and Joe feared their 6-year-old son "was not going to make it" and they thought they "might just as well give him back to God," Therese said. "So we fell in each other arms and cried and prayed that if He wanted him, He could have him back. We thanked him for giving him to us for all these years so far. The next morning we come to the hospital and he's sitting up in bed. He had pulled (out) all the tubes, his catheter, everything, and he was talking. He wasn't making any sense, but at least the voice was there." She believes, "Nothing else but the prayers brought him back." After extensive rehabilitation, Leon was eventually able to walk, talk and go to school again.
During the last three years before Joe died of asbestosis on Oct. 8, 2010 at 87 years of age, Therese said he would always recuperate and feel better after the Rev. Steve of St. John the Evangelist Church in Uncasville brought the sacraments to his home and stayed with him for one-half hour.
The evening her husband died, he "was so happy," Therese said, "I figured he was already in Heaven." When the evening nurse arrived, she said, "Maryanne, don't be surprised if today is the day that he dies."
All at once while sitting up in bed, Therese remembers Joe looked around and raised both his arms and said, "Please dear Lord, take me to Heaven," and he died. Because of "his actions," she believes "he must have seen something."
"I never shed a tear for this man leaving me even though I miss him terribly," Therese said. "He's in Heaven. What better place to be? He's better off. It's a much better place than here."
Once Joe "visited" Therese on her birthday after his death. She said she was sitting in her living room and saw him in the doorway "as plain as could be." She said she looked at him and asked, "What are you doing here?" and he vanished.
Therese writes in her book, "Believe," that her deep faith in God helped her "face and overcome many obstacles." Her goal is "to help other people - especially parents - cope with hurt and anxiety. She wants her words to demonstrate that life is good, obstacles can be overcome, and God is always in control." Her advice: "Pray and believe in God."
Therese was raised on a farm in Memramcook, New Brunswick, Canada and the eighth of 13 children. She came to Norwich in 1948 and lived with her sister, Doris and brother-in-law, Bob Lassonde. In 1951, she married Joe Dunn and lived in Norwich another nine years before moving to Montville. Together they raised four children: Carol, John, David and Leon. Therese and her husband loved traveling and were members of The Montville Country Steppers.
Therese remains active and continues to take drawing and painting classes at the Montville Senior Center, drive, clean her own home and practice yoga.
Author Therese L. Dunn's book, "Believe," can be purchased for $30 (tax included) by calling Carol Dunn at 860-303-3197 or emailing her at email@example.com.
Do you have a story you would like to share about divine intervention or miracles? Email Jan Tormay at