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A Heartbreaking Tale of Staggering Faith

From NRO

In May 2004, Fr. Timothy Vakoc, an Army major and Catholic priest, sustained a severe brain injury in Mosel when his humvee was struck by an IED.

Fr. Vakoc was returning from saying Mass for soldiers. It was the twelfth anniversary of his ordination that day.

He underwent surgery in Iraq and intensive care in Germany before his transfer to Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington, where he battled a stroke and infections. He eventually stabilized enough for a move later that year to the VA Medical Center at Fort Snelling, which specializes in rehabilitation after traumatic brain injuries. In December 2005, he was discharged to the St. Therese nursing home in New Hope.

During the next several years, his progress defied prognosis. After doctors felt they had done everything they could, family and friends volunteered to help with exercises and alternative therapies. He emerged from an unresponsive state and at the end of his life understood and responded to those around him, friends said.

"He became an inspiration to me because of his tenacity to get better," Strande said. "He had such a love for life."

Earlier this month, dozens of friends and family members gathered in the nursing home chapel for a special Mass commemorating the anniversary of his ordination and his recovery thus far.

He was able to hand his goddaughter Communion, the first time since his injury, and utter a benediction of "God bless."

Fr. Vakoc died this weekend.

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