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Injured Man Prays for Others, Not Himself

October 7, 1995

NEW YORK (AP) _ His body is ravaged, his voice but a memory, yet no infirmity could shackle his spirit. In the radiance of the pope’s presence, John Cervello prayed _ but not for himself.

Cervello, 22, came to Mass at Aqueduct Racetrack on Friday in his wheelchair. One letter at a time, he painstakingly tapped out his thoughts on a computer ``touch-talker.″

In 1988, a speeding van ended the life Cervello had known, putting him into a coma for six months.

``I was supposed to be a vegetable. My family did a lot of praying. I think that helped,″ he typed. ``I’m very thankful.″

``He’s never been angry or bitter,″ said his mother, Mary, who works for a Catholic newspaper. ``God gave this to him for a reason. And he’ll take care of him.″

John Paul’s visit was a blessed day for the Cervellos.

``I want him to be the best he can and to live with dignity. And I’ll take all the extras I can get for him,″ said Mrs. Cervello. As she fought back tears, her son grasped her arm and pulled it around his shoulders in an embrace.

Besides God, said Mrs. Cervello, ``We’ve got each other.″

Life’s cruel turn did not extinguish Cervello’s love of humanity, will to succeed _ he’s a college student _ or self-deprecating humor.

``I go to Mass every week. Never missing one,″ Cervello said. Then, perhaps due to the immensity of the occasion, he returned to his keyboard for a confession: ``Well, I try my best not to miss one.″

Cervello, who wants to become a child-care worker, came to Aqueduct with crosses and religious medals dangling over his sweatshirt. He wore wraparound sunglasses and a cap bearing the emblem of his beloved Yankees.

He came to pray for his mother, his deceased father, the aide who helps him in school _ and for all of humanity.

``I think the world can use all the help it can get,″ he said.

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