By S.L. Hansen
NORTH PLATTE (SNR) - Father Mark Seiker, pastor of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in North Platte, is particularly looking forward to this year’s Oct. 9 pumpkin festival, because he hopes he will have a chance to meet more of the people who were praying for him after his Memorial Day accident with a semi trailer May 30.
News of the crash involving two semi trucks and Father Seiker’s van spread far and wide. Catholics and non-Catholics from across the country were praying.
“To receive cards from people far and wide – some I knew from years ago, some I don’t know who they are, saying they are praying….” Father Seiker got a little choked up at the humbling thought.
The last thing he remembers on May 30 was leaving his Jesus Caritas meeting in Lincoln – a gathering of priests who share a holy hour and a meal while encouraging each other spiritually. His next memory is waking up in Kearney’s CHI Health Good Samaritan Hospital a few days later with a concussion, cuts and bruises, and broken bones in his foot and ankle.
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton parishioners gathered to pray for Father Seiker May 31, joined by many other North Platte Christians who had heard about the accident. Parishioners also gathered a spiritual bouquet for their beloved pastor.
In mid-June, Father Seiker was stable enough to transfer to Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital in Lincoln. A short stay at Bonacum House for retired priests in Lincoln followed, and he was able to return home to his parish in early July.
He got along with crutches for a while, using a kneeling scooter at Mass so that he could have both hands free – much to the fascination of some younger parishioners, he said.
Father Seiker’s medical team was happy to report that Father Seiker’s bones healed faster than anybody could have expected. CAT scans on his brain have also turned up no long-term signs of the concussion.
Father Seiker firmly believes that it is prayer that not only kept him from being more seriously injured, but also enabled him to heal quickly so that he could attend a previously-scheduled Cursillo conference and a pilgrimage to Poland last month.
He’s ditched the crutches, the scooter, the cane he used in Poland, and regular physical therapy sessions. Now he only has to do some exercises at home to keep building flexibility into his stiff ankle and treat occasional swelling with elevation and ice packs.
“It’s really God’s grace,” he stated. “Thank the Lord!”
He is immensely grateful to his brother, Msgr. Daniel Seiker, who worked with doctors and kept the parish and the diocese informed of his injuries and recovery, and his sister, a nurse in Lincoln who was very helpful with many aspects of his recovery.
He is also thankful for the priests who celebrated Mass and heard confessions in his absence, and for all the parishioners who prayed and pitched in to keep the parish running by making bulletins, dealing with financial responsibilities and handling other details.
He really does want to shake hands with anybody who has been praying for him.
“Invite them to come out to the festival,” he said. “They can see the guy with no canes and no crutches.”
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish was established in 1994 and constructed a new church in 2011. It serves approximately 100 families in the North Platte area, south of the Platte River.