Catholic store delivers owners little miracles - Tucson Local Media: Import

Catholic store delivers owners little miracles

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Posted: Thursday, September 28, 2006 11:00 pm

September 27, 2006 - A week before her store opened in January, Susan Dowler began to get cold feet.

"You never know if you're doing the right thing, opening a small business," she said. "It's a big risk."

But while stocking shelves at her Catholic gift shop in Oro Valley, that all changed. She spotted two women on the ground outside her front door.

"I thought, 'Oh my God, they're hurt! She fell! A lawsuit before I even open,'" Dowler recalled, "But when I rushed outside to see what was wrong, the women were kneeling on the ground praying and crying."

Rosaries in hand, the gushing women told Dowler they prayed for years for her to come open this store.

Owning her first business is stressful and challenging, but from that day forward Dowler and her husband Greg said they knew they were doing the right thing.

Sonoran Saints, 10825 N. Oracle Road, is a religious gift store specializing in Catholic goods. It carries everything from prayer cards and bibles to talking Jesus dolls and giant hand-carved crucifixes from Bethlehem.

As Greg Dowler put it, "It's the store for the person who has everything. When a new car doesn't bring you happiness, you need something that can bring you a different level of fulfillment."

So far, the store is making money. But Susan Dowler said the real fulfillment for her comes with all the special moments that have happened since she opened.

One of Susan's favorite memories is the time an old woman, moving snail-like with a cane in each hand, came in and immediately noticed a 3-foot high statue of Mary perched on a tall table.

"Can I touch your Mary?" Dowler recalled the woman asking her.

The old woman carefully placed her canes against the table and reached up with both hands to embrace the statue. Dowler went about her business.

"When I turned back toward her, I thought she was stuck up there!" Dowler said. "I asked her if I could help her, but the woman shook her head no."

For several minutes a confused Dowler watched the woman stretched upward, grasping the statue.

"Then when she came down," Dowler said, "she looked at me and said, 'Mary wouldn't let go.'"

The woman went about the store, bought her things and left. But a few hours later, Dowler said the old woman's husband called. He asked if his wife left her canes, and Dowler glanced at the table, where they were leaning.

"Well, did you help her to her car?" the man asked. "She can't walk without her canes."

"It's moments like that that make working here so special," Dowler said.

Greg Dowler recalled another time when a couple, redecorating their home, came to buy a large, $300 wood-carved crucifix. A priest was in the store, special ordering a book behind the counter, when the couple questioned him about getting the piece down from the wall.

Joking with the couple, he told them not to buy it. He was saving his pennies for the day he could afford it. Fairly intent on going home with the item, the couple laughed with the priest, but continued to make the purchase, Greg Dowler said.

"After they bought, they said, 'Oh, but father, would you bless it for us?' The priest did, and just as the couple turned to walk away, they stopped and handed it right back over to the priest."

He was shocked and almost didn't accept it, Greg Dowler said.

"To me, that's true generosity," he said. "That was truly amazing - that kindness."

Susan Dowler said sometimes she feels like she was put on Earth to run her store. She's always being educated, she explained, witnessing random acts of kindness that teach her to be a better person.

"People will come in and be touched by some one thing they see," Susan Dowler said. "They cry. And it's not a sad thing, it's just emotional. It's really a joy. I'm very much at peace."

For now, the Dowler's are gearing up for their busy season. This will be there first Christmas since opening the store, and they're expecting it to be a big one. There's a "help wanted" posted on the front door.

"Life's going to get real busy," they said. "We're doing God's work in November and December."

Peddling Christmas tree ornaments, prayer dice or "Heavenly Lips" chap stick - yes, it's religious lip balm - whatever it is a spiritual shopper is looking for, the Dowler's say they've got it.

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