On June 2, 1951 a young deacon named Peter Smith was ordained to the priesthood in the chapel at Mother Cabrini High School. His unusual path to the priesthood began shortly after his birth.
Peter was born on March 13, 1921 at Columbus Hospital in New York, one of the hospitals Mother Cabrini founded. He was a healthy baby, with big eyes of blue, like Mother Cabrini.
Following normal procedure, a nurse named Mary Redman put drops of silver nitrate into the newborn’s eyes. As she put the bottle away she was horrified to discover that instead of using 1% solution, she had somehow used 50%. The acid quickly bubbled up and burned through the corneas of both of Peter’s eyes. Two doctors examined the infant. They grimly noted that the baby would be blind… if he lived to survive the experience.
The hospital superior ran to retrieve a piece of Mother Cabrini’s clothing. She placed it over the baby’s eyes before pinning it to his garment. Then she, the other Missionary Sisters, and the nurse spent the night in the chapel praying to Mother Cabrini, who had died only four years before.
The next morning eye specialists came in to examine baby Peter. The infant opened his eyes and peered back at them. Miraculously, he could see.
That evening the Sisters were back on their knees again, when Peter spiked a fever of 107 and gasped from double pneumonia. Again their prayers for the baby were heard, and again he was healed.
Peter Smith’s healing was the first of the two miracles accepted as part of the cause for Mother Cabrini’s beatification. On November 13, 1938, at the age of 17, Peter Smith was in attendance at St. Peter’s for the beatification ceremony. Nurse Mary Redmond was there as well.
As he grew older, Peter Smith’s calling to the priesthood became clearer. He was ordained a deacon in Texas. On June 2, 1951 he traveled to New York City, where he was ordained to the priesthood by the His Excellency, The Most Reverend Mariano Simon Garriga, Bishop of Corpus Christi. He served faithfully as a priest in Texas for 40 years until he died of an aneurysm on Feb. 12, 2002.