It tells the brief story of the Servant of God Simon Van Ackeren, O.F.M., who entered the Franciscan Order in Teutopolis and died in Effingham:
The seventh child in a family of twelve children, Lawrence Van Ackeren was born at Humphrey, Nebraska, on February 17, 1918. Even as a boy he stood out by reason of his spirit of prayer and his love of our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. After completing the grade school, he wanted to go to the Franciscan preparatory seminary at Oak Brook, Illinois; but he had such a hard time with his studies that he was told to finish high school first. In September, 1936, he was admitted to the preparatory seminary and joined the fourth-year students. But by Christmas he realized that he did not have sufficient talent to pursue the required studies for the priesthood, and he applied for admission as a Franciscan lay brother.If you have a special prayer request, why not ask Brother Simon for the help of his prayers? I will ask his assistance this morning for a student concerned about taking his religion test today.
Toward the end of January, 1937, he was sent to St. Joseph Theological Seminary, Teutopolis, Illinois, and was invested as a Third Order Brother about a month later, receiving the name of Brother Simon. His ankle started to bother him about a year after he arrived at Teutopolis, and he began to walk with a slight limp. Soon afterwards, the limb became too painful and he could scarcely walk. He was taken to St. Anthony Hospital in nearby Effingham and received treatments for a month, but his ankle failed to respond. He returned to the seminary on crutches, and was permitted to make his profession as a Third Order brother on March 4, 1938. The next day he left for St. Louis to consult a specialist. After three weeks he came back, his ankle in a cast. The verdict was tuberculosis of the bone. Soon his general health began to fail. On the last day of April he went to the hospital in Effingham. There the doctors found that he had galloping consumption and gave him only a short time to live.
Brother Simon's condition quickly grew worse, and he was anointed on the sixth day after his arrival at the hospital. The next few days his strength failed rapidly. About ten o'clock on the night of May 10, while the sister on night duty was with him, his innocent soul winged its way to heaven. Though he was only a Third Order brother for little more than a year, Brother Simon has gained a greater reputation as a saint and intercessor in heaven than any other deceased member of the Franciscan Province of the Sacred Heart. During his illness and suffering no one heard an impatient word escape his lips; and he never ceased praying. His sunny smile never wore off. His greatness consisted in doing the little things well - doing them with extraordinary and always cheerful willingness, fidelity, charity, patience, and piety. "Being made perfect in a short space, he fulfilled a long time" (Wisdom 4, 13).
As it was Brother Simon's delight to help others in life, so he has continued to help others in a remarkable manner also after his death. Innumerable favors have been reported and attributed to his intercession. Strangely enough Brother Simon is gaining a growing reputation as a missionaries' broker and a helper in financial difficulties. Favors are reported also from sick persons who have gained health or alleviation from ill health through a novena made in his honor.
There is a novena asking Brother Simon's intercession:
O Lord, in these days wherein souls are hungering for pleasure and devoured by greed, and refuse to renounce themselves to take up your Cross and follow you, you have raised in our midst Brother Simon, who during his short life kept his eyes on your passion and, responding to your call, gave himself to you.After this prayer, you are to pray five Our Fathers, five Hail Marys, and five Glory Bes, in honor of the Five Holy Wounds.
Touched with this excess of charity and spirit of renunciation in a world of ingratitude, you have deigned, O Lord, apparently as a sign of approval, to make him a champion of your Cross.
We beseech you, O Lord, to make known the power of intercession reserved to your servant by hearing the prayers we are saying in union with his, and to grant us not only the petition of this novena, but also the grace to follow you, who are the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Amen.
Answers to petitions made through Brother Simon's intercession should be addressed to Ms. Mary Jo Van Ackeren, 145 S. Rose Lane, Columbus, Nebraska 68601.
And, while you are at it, please offer the prayer for his beatification:
O, Jesus, you love the meek and humble of heart. Hear the prayers we offer you in honor of your humble servant, Brother Simon. Approve the cause of his beatification. Through his merits and intercession may we receive the favors we seek. We ask this in your name, Christ our Lord. Amen.