By SUZANNE HAUGH, Special to the Bulletin | Published June 23, 2017
COLLEGE PARK—The Divine Healer was present and adored in the Eucharist while providing needed grace to individuals and families June 16 during the healing service at the Eucharistic Congress.
“Coming here is like a booster shot for your faith,” said Hal Todd, who attended with his wife, Kelly, and their three children, Mackenzie, 17, Sophie, 15, and H.B., 12.
Tony Rozier, a dentist, came with his friend and Grady Hospital coworker, Gerri André, who was attending the congress for the first time. As he waited for the healing service to begin, Rozier recalled the reason why he’s been coming to the congress since about 2005. “When you get this many people together to praise God, it’s contagious, infectious.”
To prepare for the Friday night healing service, presider Father Michael Silloway, chaplain at St. Pius X High School, Atlanta, leaned on his experience attending previous Eucharistic Congresses and his days at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio.
“It was a really powerful honor,” he said.
During the grace-filled evening, he shared the prayer leadership with Father Carlos Vargas and musician Sarah Kroger, who sang and played keyboard.
Creating an environment conducive to receiving the grace available was important. “When I found out Sarah Kroger would be providing the music, I said, ‘I’ve got Jesus and Sarah Kroger; I’m in very good shape!’” Father Silloway said.
During the healing service, he taught a simple song of praise to Jesus, exposed in the Blessed Sacrament on the altar. “I love you, Lord, and I lift my voice, to worship you, oh my soul, rejoice. Take joy, my King, in what you hear. Let it be a sweet, sweet sound in your ear.”
He then focused his comments on the topic of humility, defining it as “simply thinking of myself less.”
The Eucharist is a powerful example of humility. “Think of Jesus’ humility. The Son of God, King of the universe, is hidden in the guise of bread.”
Yet, Scripture speaks of many who could not accept this teaching, Father Silloway recalled. “‘Are we to eat you?’ they asked.”
Jesus replied, saying, “‘Amen! Amen! I say to you’—which are code words for ‘Yes, I’m telling you the truth,’” Father Silloway explained, adding that Jesus’ flesh is true food and his blood is true drink.
Like the apostle Peter, even in times of doubt, followers of Jesus must respond in faith. “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of everlasting life.”
Father Silloway asked the congregation of about 2,000 people to call upon the Holy Spirit when there is something within that “won’t grant a full yes to Jesus.”
He concluded his homily with this prayer: “Lord Jesus, help me to trust you. Help me to entrust my fears. Lord Jesus, heal my troubled, wounded body. Jesus Christ, Holy Spirit, Heavenly Father, you are welcome. Give us the healing we desire and may we be humble enough to recognize it.”
“It was cool”
Lay people experienced in praying for others had been given training and direction during a retreat day preparing for the congress. Father Silloway called them forward for a blessing before they went in pairs to the perimeter of the hall to await those seeking individual prayer. Prayer teams were available who spoke in Spanish, English and Portuguese.
He called upon God to pour forth grace on those called to pray for their brothers and sisters in need. “Lord, they are at work in you and you are at work in them.”
Kroger contributed to the meditative atmosphere with the gentle hymn, “Holy Spirit, you are welcome here.”
When ready, individuals and families in the congregation approached the prayer teams. Father Vargas offered encouragement to those gathered. ”Lord Jesus, we are looking for you. We are searching for your presence in our lives.”
The large number of people who remained seated were invited to come forward if they chose and kneel in the center aisle nearer the large golden monstrance holding the Blessed Sacrament. Dozens responded by drawing as close as possible to Jesus in this atmosphere of healing and worship.
Following an hour of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, Father Silloway offered Benediction and the Blessed Sacrament was reposed.
Susan Yaden, of Louisville, Kentucky, recalled the moments after being prayed with by the prayer team and looking up to see the Eucharistic procession coming toward her.
“My Lord was searching me out and blessing me in the monstrance with his unfathomable love,” she said.
Attendees trickled out into the hallway following the service. Andrew Stevenson, a young adult who has been away from the church, honored his mother’s request to travel with her from Douglasville to attend Friday night’s events. He invited his girlfriend, Rhianon Johnson, and friend Matthew Meyer to come.
“It was cool,” Stevenson said when asked about the evening. Johnson added, “I felt connected to the love in the room.”
Andrew’s mother, Diane Stevenson, was brought to tears. The parishioner at St. Theresa of the Child Jesus Church in Douglasville explained her concern for her son, but her smile now conveyed the joy she felt with his presence there and she recalled the moment the group knelt before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.
“I’m happy. A seed has been planted,” she added.
Her friend Michael DePetris was also present and moved to tears by the experience.
“This is my first time here,” DePetris said. “It was beautiful. I felt the emotion and could see the devotion of the people.”
“This was where we needed to be”
The Todd family has attended previous Eucharistic Congresses, but as much as they have enjoyed them, Hal said he and the kids were not “super-thrilled” when his wife suggested they attend Friday’s events as they are in the middle of selling and buying a house.
The parishioners of St. Brigid Church in Johns Creek knew Father Silloway would be presiding at the healing service, which made the decision to attend easier. During the healing service the family prayed with the prayer team of Altee Johnson and Monique Davis, who was a classmate of Hal’s. “We told them of our struggles as a family.”
Sadly, the family has dealt with the loss of three unborn babies in recent years.
“The wounds have never completely healed,” Hal Todd said. “Anything we can do to make progress with healing will help in the long run.”
The family was so touched by their experience praying with the prayer team that Sophie and Mackenzie went back to talk individually with them.
“This has been the most important day of the year so far,” Hal Todd said. “Every parent wants their kids to be happy and the only way to be really happy is to have a relationship with God.”
Kelly Todd added, “I knew this was where we needed to be. … I could almost put my hand out to catch the grace that was falling.”
The essential ingredient to the evening’s success is Jesus, according to the prayer team of Johnson and Davis, both from Holy Trinity Church in Peachtree City.
“One thing about healing prayer is that it is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit,” Davis explained. “It is never us but always Christ.”
Johnson added, “It’s his victory. … We are vessels he uses.”
She became interested in prayer ministry while attending a healing service at a Eucharistic Congress several years ago. Afterward, she completed the needed training at Holy Trinity Church following the program of the Order of St. Luke, as did Davis. Both discussed how the prayer ministry for healing is not widely thought to be something Catholics do.
“But we (Catholics) have the fullness of the faith,” Davis said, both healing prayer and Jesus present in the Eucharist.
Confession is a “huge part” of preparing for prayer ministry.
“We need to make sure we’re pure and not cloudy,” Davis added. “Otherwise we cannot hear the words or see the images or know what God wants to say through us.”
Sometimes people coming to them have experienced the occult, an area they refer to others to handle. Both expressed a need for more men to consider healing ministry, explaining that men are naturally protectors and warriors.
“All the healing is from Jesus,” Johnson reiterated. “Healers are just vessels. God is the healer. People must be open and trust.”