By Dave Jolivet, Editor
WORCESTER, Mass. — When asked when she thought her daughter Little Audrey was special, Linda Santo quickly replied, “When I was pregnant with her.”
Santo told The Anchor that she had cervical cancer at the time she was pregnant with Audrey, and “the doctors thought I wasn’t pregnant, but it was a tumor. I told the doctors, ‘Well this tumor is going to be running around some day.’”
That “tumor” turned out to be a healthy baby girl, Audrey Marie Santo.
There are many around the world who know the story of Little Audrey and her remarkable family, and many who don’t.
On Aug. 9, 1987, when Audrey was three years old, she fell into a swimming pool while playing with her brother. Audrey recovered but while at the hospital, she was overmedicated with phenobarbital. “Audrey was mistakenly given a dose that could have killed a grown man,” said Linda.
Little Audrey slipped into a three-week coma. When she emerged from the coma she was in a state of Akinetic Mutism, meaning she had limited movement and was not speaking.
“It was a very traumatic experience, but faith sustained us,” said Linda who was no stranger to tragedy, having lost three other children at six months old or less. “You never get over losing a child, you just get through it.”
Medical professionals told Linda that Audrey would best be served in an institution. Linda would have nothing of that. She brought Little Audrey home and immediately the family, which included two brothers and a sister, took Audrey under their protective wings.
“The other children adored Audrey,” Linda told The Anchor. “Each of them learned what they needed to know to take care of their little sister. I didn’t work so I could be there for Audrey, and my loving parents took care of our bills and other things. God bless them. My parents were pillars of faith.”
Santo said it was important to her family that they cared for Audrey. “They needed to be there for her, while many others like her have been isolated,” she said.
Very soon after Audrey’s accident, hundreds of people came to the hospital and the home to pray for the little girl. And it also quickly became evident that Audrey had a mission in life, even in her altered state.
Linda once stated that “Audrey does two things. She brings people back to Jesus, back to the sacraments, back to the Eucharist. And she is a statement of life in a culture of death.”
The Eucharist was extremely important in Little Audrey’s life. While in the Akinetic Mutism state, she was still fully aware of her surroundings. At age four, she made her first Communion. Remarkably, for the 20 years she lived following her accident, Audrey received all of her nourishment through a “g-tube.” The only solids she consumed was the Body of Christ in the form of the host every day of her life since her first Communion.
Over time unexplainable events occurred in the Santo home, most notably in Little Audrey’s room. Holy statues and pictures began to exude oil, and/or blood.
The first picture to exude oil was the traveling image of Our Lady of Guadalupe and the first statue to bleed was that of the Good Shepherd.
“There were physical healings that people attributed to Little Audrey’s intercession,” said Linda. “And several young men who visited her eventually became priests.”
Linda explained to The Anchor that through the years, many nurses had come to the home to assist in Little Audrey’s care. “Some were Catholic, some Jewish, and some Protestant. Most of them believed that Little Audrey was special in God’s eyes, and some even converted to Catholicism. Not all did, but even the nurses who didn’t, believed in what they saw happening. They weren’t afraid to tell others that this was of God.
“Jesus was with Little Audrey 24/7. She was never without him. He blessed her.”
Mass was often celebrated in Little Audrey’s room by area priests. Unexplainably, five times a consecrated host exhibited human blood. The hosts were tested and all five contained human blood. The hosts are presently kept in a tabernacle in the residence of Bishop Robert J. McManus of Worcester.
On Good Friday in 1996, blood flowed from a tabernacle in Little Audrey’s room. And a chalice filled with white wine transubstantiated to the appearance of dark red dried blood.
“I can remember the week before Sept. 11, 2001, Audrey cried a great deal. And the week before Hurricane Katrina, she put on 15 pounds of fluids, which was unusual for her,” said Linda. “I knew in both instances, something was going to happen.”
Religious images continue to exude oil and blood more than two years after Little Audrey’s returned to the Father on April 14, 2007. The bishop’s commission has stated clearly they have found no trickery in the presence of the blood and oil.
As her children grew older, Linda’s two oldest got married and had children of their own. “When the grandchildren were old enough, they too became a big part of Little Audrey’s life,” said Linda. “Her nieces and nephews would lie down with her and watch movies, and Little Audrey would cry at the sad parts. The children loved being with her.”
When asked if Little Audrey suffered much, Linda responded, “She was at such peace. She had Jesus, and she was so coddled by her family. She had long beautiful hair that was always pristine. The kids would constantly brush it.”
Linda smiles broadly when she says her family members “all practice the Catholic faith today. They pray with their children.”
Linda’s husband left after Audrey’s accident and returned nine years later, only to leave again. “We all pray for him,” said Linda. “It’s the right thing to do. We hope for the best for him.”
Linda believes all of the unexplainable events in Little Audrey’s life were to help bring others closer to God. “Even though she was fed with a g-tube, she would still sometimes fast. The nurses would get upset, but I told them, ‘What can I say? She wants to do this.’”
Little Audrey also exhibited medically unexplainable marks on her body resembling the wounds of her beloved Jesus.
Audrey went back home to Jesus in 2007, at the age of 26, having lived 20 of those years as a magnet, drawing others back to the faith, or increasing the faith of others.
When Little Audrey died, Bishop McManus released the following statement, “For many years, the Santo Family has devotedly cared for their beloved daughter Audrey, who suffered irreparable and irreversible harm from a near-drowning incident when she was a child. Audrey’s mother, Linda, in particular, has been by her side all these years and has never treated her as any less a member of the family, even though Audrey was bed-ridden and uncommunicative.
“We may never fully understand the causes of various paranormal events which have been reported to have occurred in their home. At this time, however, one thing is certain. Everyone who visited their home was touched by the unswaying commitment to life that was exhibited each and every day by the Santo Family and by the extensive network of friends and volunteers. God works in mysterious ways, but most importantly, he works through each of us to make his love present for those who are most in need.
“Today, we also stop and pray for so many like Audrey who are afflicted with illness and dire circumstances which force them to rely on the love and generosity of others.
“Our task is not ended, however, as we pray for Audrey’s eternal rest and for the grieving Santo Family and their friends. We commend Audrey to God, the ever loving Father. May the angels lead her into paradise and may her soul and all the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.”
Linda told The Anchor that the usual protocol for initiating a sainthood cause is when the faithful petition the local bishop to look into it, then the bishop petitions the Vatican to initiate the process. “In Audrey’s case, the Vatican came to us,” she said. Less than a month after Little Audrey’s death, Dr. Andrea Abrosi, postulator from the Congregation of the Causes of Saints in the Vatican visited the Santo Family for four days. He then met with Bishop McManus to begin the cause for Little Audrey, thereby making her a Servant of God.
A foundation for the promotion of the sainthood cause for Little Audrey was established and in September 2008, Bishop McManus recognized The Little Audrey Santo Foundation, Inc., with Father John Foley as president.
Linda Santo dedicated her life to her blessed Little Audrey, and even after her daughter’s death, she remains a very busy woman.
“I was asked to speak at a Pro-Life convention in the midwest and I accepted,” said Linda. “When the time came to go, I really didn’t want to. I felt I had nothing to say, and I told a priest friend what I was thinking. He asked me, ‘What did God do with Moses?’ Not totally convinced, I approached another friend, a Protestant minister from Africa, and she asked, ‘What did God do for Moses?’ I knew I had to go, and I loved every minute of it.”
Linda Santo travels often to help promote the sainthood cause of Little Audrey. “I know God continues to allow the statues and pictures to exude oil or blood to help the cause along,” she said. “Just as Jesus’ miracles drew people to him, these things help draw attention to Jesus. We hope that someday, Little Audrey will be the Pro-Life saint.”
The life of Little Audrey Santo was a remarkable witness to the love God has for all his children. It was also a witness of a remarkable family who instead of feeling sorry for itself, embraced their daughter and sister, and exhibited the love of a family — of the Holy Family.
Linda Santo will be present at St. Kilian’s Parish, 306 Ashley Boulevard, New Bedford, February 26 to speak about her precious Little Audrey Marie Santo.
The evening begins with a Holy Hour at 6 p.m., followed by a 7 p.m. Mass, celebrated by Father Rafael McGee, Friar of the Immaculate.
Linda Santo will speak following the Mass. The sacrament of reconciliation will be available.
For information call the rectory at 508-992-7587.
For more on Little Audrey Santo, or to help the sainthood cause, visit www.littleaudreysanto.org.