Tom Siemers isn’t sure what inspired him to bid on a large painting of a nun. “For some reason I was just compelled to have it,” says the 1953 graduate who won it at a charity auction in the early 1970s. Years later the spontaneous purchase proved to be a good investment, as Siemers and others believe the nun in the portrait had something to do with saving his life.
At first, Siemers and his wife, Susan, didn’t know anything about the painting until a houseguest recognized the nun as Sr. Frances Schervier. Schervier founded the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor in 1845. The house-guest later sent the Siemers a prayer card that included Schervier’s image and a novena—a series of prayers said over nine days.
The couple kept the card in a drawer and didn’t think much about it until 1989 when Siemers suffered a massive brain hemorrhage. He was rushed to the hospital and underwent multiple brain operations to stop the bleeding. The outlook was grim. Siemers was unresponsive and was given a 10-percent chance to live. As her husband lay in a coma, Susan began praying the novena. After finishing it on the ninth day, she went to the hospital and found him awake. At one of Siemers’ follow-up appointments, his doctor explained that the surgeries did not work. Confused, Siemers asked him how that could be possible. “He just smiled at me and pointed up to the sky.”
Now, more than a decade later, a tribunal formed by the Archdiocese of Cincinnati is investigating if this might sanctify Schervier for sainthood. Schervier was beatified in 1974, but for her to become a saint, it has to be proven she was responsible for Siemers’ miraculous survival. The tribunal is still gathering its report to the Vatican. Regardless of the outcome, Siemers is convinced the 19th century German nun is the reason he’s alive.