From: Bridget Gabrielle Hylak
Subject: Re: "JesusInTheClouds.com" and The Good Shepherd photo
To: "Fr. John McFadden
Date: Saturday, July 2, 2011, 12:26 PM
Hello, Father John;
As we approach this blessed Easter Season - I ask you to meditate on our Lord's passion, and if you have a moment - to consider the "Good Shepherd" and "White Cross" photos that we have been blessed with in light of your meditation. It was Easter Sunday, after all, on which Joey was blessed with "The Good Shepherd" -- and as for the "White Cross" -- after we met there on Easter Sunday of 1990, it was just days later that the "White Cross" was taken.
You were the inspiration and the impetus, Father, for why Joe decided to travel to Medjugorje in the first place. As you have done in so many ways throughout your life on behalf of so many people, your words of love and peace and faith touched his heart so profoundly, that he was drawn to your prayer group week after week for years. When you mentioned to Joe that you thought it might be spiritually helpful for him to take a pilgrimage to Medjugorje - to seek the peace which you could see was not at that time in his mind or heart - like a child listening to his father, he bought his tickets within weeks
I know that his life was in a lot of turmoil and confusion at that time, in large part due to some bad decisions that only he could take responsibility for, but I also know that your words must have been like a light in a dark tunnel to him. That is why he traveled to Medjugorje that Easter, and why he went back several times since.
It was not really Medjugorje or its miracles that he was seeking, though knowing Joe's temperament as well as I do, I can tell you that even he didn't know that at the time; it was the promise of peace and the hope of salvation that present themselves so tangibly somehow in that little shrine that propelled him on that journey. Weak as we are as humans, who could resist wanting to be nearer to that hope - especially if one were struggling so much for balance and direction?
Father, if the Holy Spirit leads you to share your insight, we would be honored. You were there, after all, when Joe returned from that first trip to Medjugorje in 1988 and realized, to his own shock, that he had captured the blessing of The Good Shepherd photograph on film. You were there when he first started printing these photos up by the hundreds and handing them out everywhere he went. You were there when he FIRST named (and copyrighted!) the photo as The Risen Lord, and then was corrected by a nun who told him that she felt the photo was The Good Shepherd.
You were there when, even after taking the photo, he continued to struggle in his faith walk. You were there, too, after the two of us met in Medjugorje and married and finally, to some degree, began a new life that focused on continuing to work on the conversion necessary so as to please God. You were there when we baptized our first son, Luke John; you were there, too, to bless, console and encourage us when we buried him four years later.
We do continue to this day, Father, on the original quest that Joe sought on his first trip to Medjugorje: that of pleasing God, finding peace and hoping for salvation. We pray that we are doing some things right. We assure you that, if we are, your influence, example and prayers have helped to give us those measures of grace when we are properly disposed to receive it and, as you used to say, when the Holy Spirit manages to get through.
God bless and keep you, Father John.
I am so sorry for my procrastination. I visited the website: JESUS IN THE CLOUDS.COM in order to refresh my memory as to the phenomenal heavenly gifts of The Good Shepherd and the White Cross in the sky. Years, decades have passed since I first saw these photos, and I recall well when Joe first took them, and the enthusiasm of so many people who have been touched by them. Seeing the photos again after all these years was important for me because I was reminded of how the Dear Lord will use every means (especially and even His beautiful nature such as what we can appreciate in the clouds) to get our attention. He wants our attention because He loves us, because He longs for us, so the fact that He would manifest Himself in this way does not surprise me. He does so to remind us that HE IS GOD, OUR GOOD SHEPHERD, AND THE LAMB OF GOD WHO SHED HIS BLOOD ON THE CROSS FOR OUR SALVATION.
So I share my insight on these photos in this way:
I am both honored and pleased to introduce myself as the Spiritual Director and good friend of Joseph Hooker and Bridget Hylak and their children.
My history with Joe Hooker began over 30 years ago in the city of Chester, PA. I was pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish when, one day, Joe call on me at the rectory. He told me his story. It was one of pain and confusion, a life gone awry that he could not seem to rewind or undo.
I saw this young man as a person of conviction, sincerely trying to find the right direction for his life. He has issues that were causing him some anger and disconcertion. As I "heard him out," it became clear to me that Joe wanted and needed peace in his heart, and I discerned that the Queen of Peace could be a most powerful tool to help Joe know just how much Jesus, her Son, loves him.
After all, that is the whole message of Medjugorje, the whole reason that Mary said she has been allowed to come to the earth: to tell the world that God exists, and to beg us to understand how much we are loved by Jesus Christ.
I had been blessed to be one of the first priests to visit Medjugorje in June of 1983. Like Joe, I was experiencing some confusion and skepticism in my faith walk. And, praise be to the Lord Jesus Christ, during my first five days there as I took in the messages brought by the Queen of Peace and experienced the incredible power of the Eucharistic Liturgies, my skepticism and confusion became history. Our dear Blessed Mother brought me into a deeper faith walk with her Son.
I knew that Joe Hooker needed to take in the graces of Medjugorje.
I shared my Medjugorje experience with Joe, and I strongly encouraged him to make the pilgrimage SOON. As the saying goes, "The rest is history. Joe made the arrangements and, once he arrived, heaven wasted no time: Joe was caught up in the grace of holy peace as he walked the pilgrim's walk. He returned from that first trip with the amazing picture of The Good Shepherd which he shared with our prayer group and everyone he met. He felt blessed, touched and encouraged by God to stay on the path he had just embarked upon. For a time, The Good Shepherd picture, and sharing his story, became a great focus for him.
His story was not over, though, and even after taking the photo, he struggled to meet his own expectations, and God's. We had many talks during that time. He was trying, but somehow struggling worse than ever. Recognizing his own faults, and realizing more than ever where God wanted him by giving him such a blessing as The Good Shepherd photo was undoubtedly taking a toll on him.
He kept returning to Medjugorje, seeking the peace he had originally experienced there, and after a few trips, he prayed desperately one Lent for help, a companion to help him.
Our Lady arranged by Divine Providence that Joe and Bridget, his soon-to-be wife would meet one another there on the top of Cross Mountain. Two young persons came to Medjugorje seeking a new and clear direction in their lives, and Joe and Bridget knew that their meeting on that holy ground in the shadow of the cross was no accident.
Our Lord and Our Lady had a mission for them. They married soon after. Henceforth as husband and wife and with their children, they have devoted much time, effort and resources to sharing these gifts and the messages of Medjugorje: Conversion through reparation; reconciliation, prayer from the heart, fasting and thanksgiving.
And in confirmation of God's plan for their life and mission, the Lord sent a sign that Joe had been seeking and praying for: The Good Shepherd and The White Cross, manifestations of God's own beauty and presence. The photographs of these signs continue to inspire and encourage the faith of thousands of persons who view them.
Truly, Joe and Bridget Hylak Hooker are living a "YES" TO OUR LORD AND HIS MOTHER.
Sincerely, Fr. John McFadden
Disclaimer by Bridget Hylak: Father John is incredibly generous in his opinion and view of us. We know we are but imperfect servants seeking to do God's will - both greatly succeeding and horribly failing at times.
One thing, however, is undeniable: These photographs are real. Sharing them has at times brought great hardship to our families and our professional lives. Still, we cannot deny them. They are a part of the Truth that has woven itself into our existence. We are unsure of the final outcome of the tapestry, but confident of The One who Weaves.
Everyone may have his or her own impression, interpretation or opinion on what these photos are or what they mean. For many people, that impression and opinion has been enough to change the course of their lives. May God's will be done in and through us all.