A surprise guest arrived June 23 at the home of a Fort Wayne 7-year-old. But he was not there to honor the child’s upcoming birthday, which was right around the corner.
Catholic parishes around the diocese and the world observe the feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ two weeks after Pentecost. The parish of St. John the Baptist, Fort Wayne, includes in its celebration a procession of the monstrance through the neighborhood to a nearby home. This year, the procession headed to the home of Aiden Newberg.
“He didn’t know we were coming,” Father Andrew Budzinski said. “His parents and I planned it. For the past four years we’ve been making a Corpus Christi procession to the house or houses of parishioners in our neighborhood. It was obvious where we should go this year. The Lord wanted to go see Aiden at his house.”
Aiden’s house has served as ground zero for his battle against cancer. It’s located just a couple blocks from the parish, where his mother, Katie Quinn Newberg, and dad, Paul Newberg, were married. His sisters, Danielle, Jessica and Emma, attended St. John the Baptist School and then Bishop Luers High School, just like their mom, who is now a paralegal. Paul graduated from Leo High School and now teaches middle school math there. He runs a golf camp in the summer and is the boys and girls head golf coach. Aiden likes golf, too, and also plays tennis and baseball if he is not swimming, reading or playing a video game.
Since Nov. 1, 2018, a diagnosis of acute lymphoblastic leukemia has kept Aiden from church, school and activities like playing Putt-Putt, going to TinCaps games and other activities the Newberg family enjoys. Over the last eight months he has undergone bone biopsies and had chemo injected into his spine, administered through a chest port, orally and via home injections.
For a while trips to Riley Hospital for Children were on the schedule, a stretch of visits every 10 days for treatments. A case of steroid-induced Type I diabetes challenged his recovery over the holidays, but in December the need for insulin ended.
Now in remission, Aiden began the maintenance phase of treatment in July. It will continue until January 2021. Daily oral medications will supplement monthly trips to Riley for blood tests and chemotherapy. Every third visit will require spinal injections, and physical therapy has been added to the agenda twice a week to respond to the effect of the chemotherapy on Aiden’s muscles.
But strength of character has proven itself in the soon-to-be first grader, according to Katie. “He’s a rock star,” she said. “And he’s really been so easy going about it all. His biggest frustration is that he’s constantly nauseous and often doesn’t feel well, but he smiles through it all and just tries to keep going and have fun.”
The list of ways the community has lifted up the family just keeps going, too. Aiden continued doing his school work with help from his kindergarten teacher, Jo Ella Graney, who volunteered her time twice a week to tutor him at home. Bea Royal, the principal, communicated with Riley about homebound instruction. Katie said, “My conversations with her and her support were a true blessing.”
Projects and crafts helped Aiden keep up his academic skills. A school-supplied iPad allowed FaceTime communication with his class and a place to work on instructional games. Other teachers brought dinner and presents: St. John the Baptist students held garage sales or gave bingo winnings to support the family. Fresh peaches from Georgia came with a recent visit by Father Budzinski and parochial vicar Father Patrick Hake, who have been known to visit for lunch and play games, too.
The presence of Jesus Christ in the Corpus Christi procession was a particularly special gift to the family, though. Katie called it “a testament of the spirit of God living and breathing in our community.”
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