Published June 6, 2013
COLLEGE PARK—Once approached by some with hesitation and curiosity, the healing service offered as part of the Eucharistic Congress has become a welcomed and much anticipated opportunity for restoration and grace.
Led by Father Tim Hepburn, the archdiocesan vocations director, and Father Jacques Fabre, CS, administrator of San Felipe de Jesus Mission in Forest Park, the prayerful service of adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, Benediction, and the opportunity for individual prayer from prayer teams drew those who have come in the past and those coming for the first time.
Following the opening Mass May 31, where the celebrant, Bishop Luis Zarama, emphasized that healing begins in the Eucharist, Father Hepburn spoke to the assembly during exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.
Just as Mary brought the needs of the wedding couple at Cana to Jesus, she brings the needs of those present to Jesus, Father Hepburn said.
“The same thing happens in this room. … She’s walking through the room looking at you, understanding your problem. … ‘My son, Jesus, this man has cancer,’” he said.
Leading worship before the Blessed Sacrament and inviting those present to bring their needs to the Lord in faith, the time of adoration included prayer led by the two priests while prayer teams quietly prayed for individuals.
Jesus wants to manifest his glory and does so through the body of Christ, Father Hepburn said, calling forward those serving on prayer teams who were available to pray for anyone seeking healing or with other needs.
“They’re loving people who are here to pray for your healing,” Father Hepburn said.
Linda Smith, a parishioner at Holy Trinity Church, Peachtree City, has coordinated the prayer teams for many healing services. She and Father Hepburn worked together in the Catholic charismatic renewal. Smith called upon prayer intercessors she knew through the charismatic renewal when the archdiocese began organizing prayer teams.
Those leading prayer are not untouched by hardships themselves, she said later.
“People in the prayer teams have been through things. They know how to pray for others and know the incredible joy of receiving grace,” she said.
There are many reasons people come seeking prayer, she said, and healing encompasses many aspects of the human condition.
“There’s not just physical healing but also emotional and spiritual healing, and often many who become reconciled. … The important thing is to pray for those who are lost.”
Because many Catholics have grown up never being prayed over by laity or by priests administering the sacrament of the anointing of the sick, they often feel awkward, said Smith.
“When you’re not raised with it, your first reaction is ‘it’s not Catholic.’ But it’s very Catholic and dates back from the beginning of the church.”
“Jesus heals in many ways, most (powerfully) through the Eucharist, and he heals through the body of Christ as well. That’s what it’s all about,” she said.
As there is more understanding that the gift of healing is a gift of the Holy Spirit, she said, “people are now coming expecting healing. They have no fear.”
Father Hepburn is clear on his role in the process.
“The only healing is through the Lord,” he said.
Prayer team member John Menezes most assuredly knows the true healer, too. “We were just instruments carrying out the Lord’s command.”
Menezes frequently attends prayer meetings at Transfiguration Church in Marietta, where they gather around the Blessed Sacrament, sing hymns, read Scripture, and pray over those in need.
During the healing service Menezes, and his prayer partner, Linda Graciale, prayed with mothers petitioning for their children and with children asking for prayers for their parents.
“Some had domestic issues, others had health issues. … All came to the Lord for healing,” he said.
Among those asking for prayers were two mothers with their little children. Leslie Hampel first experienced the healing service at the congress about five years ago, when it was led by Sister Briege McKenna, whose healing ministry is worldwide. Since then Hampel makes the effort to come, asking for “whatever the Lord wants to give us.”
“Each year we’re in a different place,” Hampel said.
Young adults Alaina Abadie, a college sophomore, and Tyler Burnham, both parishioners at Good Shepherd Church in Cumming, were also in attendance. Abadie has attended previous congresses. “I come to refresh my faith, which is my anchor.”
It was Burnham’s first experience. When asked what the Mercer University student would tell others about his experience, he said, “It would be like trying to describe God.”
His most profound moment was Eucharistic adoration during the healing service.
It was a “wonderful night” for Juan Carlos Zarate, who also attended the opening Mass. One of the most touching moments for him was when the Blessed Sacrament came close.
“It passed in front of me and I felt something great,” he said.
Zarate grew up in a Catholic family in Mexico but fell away from the faith.
“When you are young you think you can do everything. Four years ago I was in a lot of problems with my family and with legal problems. But Jesus found me,” he said.
He attended a different church before returning to the Catholic Church. He appreciates the ministry of Father Fabre.
“He touched and prayed for me. After that I never (miss) any Sunday or Wednesday meeting days. When I accepted Jesus … he saved me. My life changed a lot. … He gives me a lot of peace.”
During the healing service Zarate prayed for those who have wandered from the faith, as he did.
“I prayed for people like me before—those who are lost.”
It was ladies night out for a mother, her daughter and granddaughter. The mother, Victoria Enwonwu, sat with her family as the crowd thinned and the evening ended.
“I’m so happy for this day and to have my family,” she said. “I hope (God) hears us.”
Granddaughter Winifred Ofili, 23, has been to the congress several times.
“I like to experience the atmosphere and the prayer. You try to help yourself. It comes only once a year, so I try not to miss it,” she said.
Her mother, Francisca Ofihi, attends for the sacraments and healing.
“My heart feels fulfilled that I made it here. I believe God answers prayers. I felt (the evening) was very inclusive and that I was with a family who really cared for me.”