Confined to a Wheelchair, Blessed by God

'People who have hope live differently,' said a devout young man in Maryland, whose life took a dramatic turn more than seven years ago

by Fr. Michael Sliney, LC | Updated 17 Apr 2018 at 9:57 AM

Life dramatically changed for Kevin Dyer on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, in December of 2010. As a senior at Washington and Lee College in Virginia, he was one of the passengers involved in a serious car accident with a few friends.

He knew from the moment the accident happened he might never be able to walk again, and for the last seven and a half years he’s been confined to a wheelchair, paralyzed from a little lower than the waist down.

As this young man made his way along a whole new faith journey, I had the privilege of accompanying him for those first two years; I was struck always by the glow on his face even after such a life-altering event. It was amazing to see him in his wheelchair or lying on his bed, unable to move his legs — yet fiercely determined to grow closer to Our Lord.

I noticed a crucifix near his bed one day, and asked him if the example of Christ on the cross was helpful during this extremely tough personal time. Without hesitation, Kevin replied, “Without Christ, I would not be able to do it.”

His four sisters, Katie, Colleen, Christine and Caroline, along with his mom, Diane, and his dad, Greg, have been incredibly supportive of his challenging journey. And he’s been blessed with an army of buddies who continue to visit him and show heartfelt concern and care on a regular basis. But it seems his mom’s deep Catholic spirituality is what’s most inspired Kevin Dyer in his journey toward Jesus.

The Dyers are active parishioners at Holy Redeemer Parish in Kensington, Maryland.

Kevin shared his spiritual journey in his own words:

About six years ago, I decided to follow my mother's inspiring example and started attending daily Mass with her, and I finally discovered that this is where all the happiness in the world comes from. It is the only place one can find genuine hope — even hope for something as big and amazing as a miracle.

Without hope, life can often seem impossible. At some point, we are all faced with adversity and are forced to come to the stark realization that on the battlefield of life, the war doesn't stop because you get sick or injured. And in the face of adversity, I quickly discovered that people who have hope live differently.

The hope that our Catholic faith offers is a gift from God that I have found is best received while at Mass because in the sacrament of Holy Communion, we are physically touching Jesus, the Divine Healer, and the Eucharist is the most effective means of healing known to mankind — spiritually, physically, and emotionally. All the answers to life can be found in the Eucharist, and miracles happen every day.

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This is not the type of man to sit around and feel sorry for himself. He teaches at a Catholic grade school in Bethesda, Maryland (Mater Dei), and for several years he's been the CYO coach for the Holy Apostles basketball team; most of the players come from several local parishes. Their motto is: "Courage, Honor, Team."

Consistently one of the strongest squads in the league, the team also shows a real commitment to Sunday Mass attendance along with community service. He played basketball in high school, so he knows the game — but more importantly, his goal is to help young men build faith and character. Although Kevin Dyer has never given up hope in a miracle, he said, “While I am still praying and waiting for my physical healing, I can honestly say that because of the Catholic faith, I have never had a bad day. I have never stopped smiling. I have never complained."

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Perhaps, as some have asserted, this is a miracle in and of itself. That can be credited to Kevin's frequent reception of the Eucharist, which provides all the grace and courage one could ever need to overcome life's trials and tribulations. "I truly derive all my strength from daily Mass and Communion, and for that, I thank my mom's example and Jesus for providing us with such a powerful gift," Kevin Dyer told me.

Suffering is a mystery, but as we can see with this example, it can be a blessing and an opportunity to witness the power of our faith and the joy Christ can bring, even in the midst of deep hardship.

Fr. Michael Sliney is a Catholic priest based in the New York City area and an adviser to the Lumen Institute, a professional business group. 

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