By Tony DeGol
Jack Slezak is among the individuals who could be considered at risk for COVID-19.
In his words, he would have an easier time catching the virus and a harder time getting rid of it.
“I have a suppressed immune system,” explained the parishioner of Saint John Gualbert Cathedral in Johnstown.
That vulnerability stems from Slezak’s struggle with leukemia, which began with the diagnosis the day after Christmas in 2016.
What followed was what he describes as a tough battle, including 28 straight days in the hospital.
Slezak received a stem cell transplant after luckily finding the right donor in a national search.
It was rough road during which the Johnstown native held tight to his Catholic faith.
Happily, Slezak marked his third post-transplant anniversary last month and continues to enjoy remission.
“It’s not what they consider a cure, but every year in remission is that much closer to being cured,” stated the 56-year old.
Without question, the prayerful support of Slezak’s family and friends helped him on his journey, and so did his personal relationship with the Lord. So it is hardly a surprise that he once again turned to God as he wrestled with the impact of the pandemic in society and his own susceptibility to the virus.
“It is definitely concerning,” Slezak said. “There’s a lot of anxiety about it.”
He found himself praying each day for various people affected by the crisis, such as families, front-line workers, and researchers.
“One day I sat down to put all this in perspective and make one prayer that I could say every day,” he added.
The result was his Coronavirus Prayer:
Dear Jesus, Dear Blessed Mother and Dear God, Please protect me, my family and all of our friends and loved ones from the Coronavirus in every way. Help us to be smart in our choices to be careful and stay safe.
I pray for all those who are ignorant to the severity of this illness. Give them your guidance to realize the role each one of us must do to prevent the spread.
Please protect all the doctors, nurses and medical professionals who are working around the clock to help those suffering with the virus, despite the health risks they face for themselves. Help them both physically and emotionally. Also, protect all the brave, first responders in their continued critical service. As well, bless all those still working to provide us our essential needs.
Guide and direct our government to make the right decisions for our country. Please too, help all the brilliant minds in the medical field around the world, in their relentless pursuit to find treatments, vaccines and a cure for this incredible Pandemic.
And most importantly, I pray for all those afflicted with the Coronavirus. Bless them and bring them back to good health soon. Give them, as well as their families and loved ones, strength and peace of mind at this very difficult time.
As always, my faith is with you, as I know with your help and my prayers ~ nothing is impossible.
And I so believe in you.
Slezak hopes others will join him in offering this daily prayer during these uncertain times.
Meanwhile, he continues to be vigilant for the protection of his own health.
Besides an occasional errand or a walk for exercise, he mostly says home. He works in the automotive business, and his employer is urging him to not rush to return.
“He said just play it safe and stay home for now,” Slezak relayed.
Like most Catholics in Altoona-Johnstown, he misses attending Mass, but greatly appreciates the Proclaim! TV Mass that airs every Sunday at 11:00 a.m. on WATM ABC 23.
His message to others coping with the impact of the coronavirus: “Don’t let up on prayer; be inspired to pray more.”
[Photo: Jack Slezak (right) is joined by his family (left to right): son-in-law John Herbick and his wife, Jack’s daughter, Samantha; daughter, Abbi; and wife, Betsy.]