By GRETCHEN KEISER, Staff Writer | Published June 10, 2016
COLLEGE PARK—A healing service flowed from the opening Mass of the Eucharistic Congress as a monstrance holding the Blessed Sacrament was placed on the altar.
“The Holy Spirit has already begun the work of healing he intends to accomplish,” said Father Tim Hepburn, leading the bilingual service with Father Jorge Carranza.
Encouraging the faith of those seeking healing, Father Hepburn recalled Scripture stories of Paul and Silas, beaten and in prison, who began to sing praises to God despite their suffering. As they sang the building began to shake and the doors of the jail flew open.
“We are entering into the worship of God … and as we enter into our worship of the Lord, Jesus is going to open doors for our healing, even now,” he said.
The two priests alternated praying in English and Spanish, while musicians quietly sang consoling and simple words of faith. “Earth has no sorrow that heaven can’t heal. … All who are broken, lift up your face. O wanderer, come home. You’re not too far.”
Many stories in Scripture tell of people crying out, “Son of David, have mercy on me,” Father Hepburn said. “There is story after story of people who are sick, who are in a dark place, who are depressed, who found this cry in their hearts.”
“Can you remember one time in the Bible when Jesus said no? There is not one time. … We want you to cry out. This is a healing service and this is the place where you cry out, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me.’”
Quietly, he called forward teams of lay people who had volunteered and been trained to assist at the service. While they were blessed and they went to prayer stations on the perimeter of the hall, identified as Spanish or English prayer teams, Father Hepburn reminded everyone that the presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament on the altar was the focus. Those who wanted individual prayer went to the prayer stations while the rest of the congregation continued to pray and sing worship songs, following the lead of the priests and musicians.
Inspired by the Holy Spirit, the priests voiced prayers for anyone who felt they had been forgotten, for couples who yearn for children and have been unable to conceive a child or adopt a child, for the broken-hearted, for those with mental health problems, and for other needs.
One by one, people began to draw closer to the monstrance. They knelt in the center aisle of the hall. Some were weeping. Throughout this time, the prayer teams around the edge of the room individually ministered to people seeking prayer. They continued to do so for more than an hour, even after Benediction was prayed and the monstrance was taken from the hall.
“Jesus is the healer”
César Soto of St. Joseph Church, in Marietta, was one drawn toward the monstrance.
Afterward, he explained that he experienced a conversion beginning four years ago.
“It came the hard way, but I thank him because he didn’t come for the saints. He came for us, for the sinners,” said Soto, who works as a cook.
He was diagnosed with cancer affecting his tongue. The doctor told his family he might not be able to speak after surgery, but he has kept his speech and uses it to tell other people about Jesus, he said.
“I wanted everyone to know about him. Lord, you allowed me to talk again. I want to talk about you. … At the beginning I said, why me. Now I know he is using me for the conversion of my family, the conversion of my co-workers.”
Following the service, 83-year-old Gayle Peters, of St. Jude Church, in Sandy Springs, said she went to a prayer team.
“I feel I am so blessed,” she said. “I was kind of wishy-washy about coming. Someone I knew said I had to come. It was like a calling.”
“I have great peace now and I haven’t had it in a long time,” Peters said.
“It’s almost like you can reach out and touch his hands, his mercy. I don’t think anyone could come here and not know God’s love. You’d have to be really hard-hearted.”
Those who served on prayer teams take part in a daylong retreat to prepare. Over 125 people came April 30 to a retreat day with speakers, prayer, Mass and guidance on how to pray. Months before the congress, people begin praying for the intentions that attendees will bring for physical, emotional and spiritual healing.
“When we were invited to be part of the healing service months ago, we started interceding and praying,” said Linda Smith, who coordinated the prayer teams in 2016 as she has for seven past congresses. She is a member of Holy Trinity Church, in Peachtree City, and in leadership of the Healing Hands ministry there.
Having the service following the opening Mass is a natural flow because it emphasizes that every Mass is a time to ask for healing, Smith said.
“The Mass is always healing. The Mass is the Eucharist and the Eucharist is Jesus and Jesus is the healer,” she said.
Often what people report back following prayers for healing is that they experience great peace, she said.
“So many people we have prayed for in past years, that is what they have said—the peace, the deep inner peace, they receive.”
The teams listen to those they pray with and let them know they are loved by God. They pray that the love of God flows through the teams to those in need and seek to turn the hearts and minds of those receiving prayer to Jesus.
The results may not be visible or they may not be reported back to the prayer teams, but their work is done in faith.
“God touches and blesses and answers every time we pray,” Smith said.
“We don’t have to know. We just have to believe,” she said.
She also pointed out that while Friday night offers a healing service, the coming together of so many people of faith would permeate the two-day congress with other healing moments.
“There is going to be healing going on all weekend here. There is adoration. There is fellowship. You will see people praying with one another. That is the body of Christ, and it is so healing.”