By JEAN DRISKELL, Special to the Bulletin | Published June 7, 2018
COLLEGE PARK—Those needing healing, whether in physical, emotional or spiritual areas of their lives, were invited to look directly at Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and bring him their pain and burdens.
“We need faith to be healed, not faith that we will be healed. We need faith in him. We need faith in Jesus,” Father Tim Hepburn said at the healing service of the 2018 Eucharistic Congress June 1.
The service immediately followed the opening Friday night Mass of the two-day congress, and, in a continuation of the spirit of prayer begun at Mass, the monstrance holding the Blessed Sacrament was brought out onto the altar for an hour of adoration. Most gathered there knelt in prayer on the concrete floor of the large hall at the Georgia International Convention Center.
“Turn our hearts and our faith directly to Jesus and allow him to continue to do his healing work,” Father Hepburn said.
The vocations director of the archdiocese, who has frequently led the healing service at the annual congress, encouraged the faith of those attending, with the assistance of Father Carlos Vargas, who spoke to those present in Spanish. Praise and worship music to deepen the spirit of prayer and adoration was provided by Jerry Aull and Geneva Tigue, music ministers who are also father and daughter.
Father Hepburn spoke of the importance of prayer and praise because this puts the focus on God.
He told a story about an inebriated man he sat next to on a MARTA train. The man passed out and fell onto the priest’s chest.
Father Hepburn said, “Something happened in my heart. I loved him. It was as if God was saying to me, ‘When I look at you, in your wretchedness, I love you. No questions asked.’ That kind of love is what heals us.”
“Jesus is always looking out for you, for me,” he continued.
He also spoke about when Jesus told Peter that he prayed for him so Satan could not crush Peter.
Jesus “sees oneness”
Father Hepburn drew on the theme of the congress from the Gospel of John, chapter 17, “That they may all be one.”
The disciples had friction and division at times, and throughout history the Christian church has splintered into thousands of different denominations, he noted.
“But Jesus looks at the church whom he loves, even, sometimes, in our wretchedness,” he said. “Jesus sees oneness because he prayed for it, and one day it will be.”
“It is one of the greatest healing works of Jesus, when the Lord begins to draw us together once again as one body,” he said.
“That is what the Lord Jesus wants to do for us tonight,” Father Hepburn said.
He spoke on St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians. St. Paul “talks about the gifts of the Spirit right after he talks about the Eucharist. He says that in the body of Christ there are many gifts and one of them is the gift of healing. The Lord pours out many gifts of healing in the body of Christ.”
Father Hepburn and Father Vargas then asked the designated prayer teams to come forward to the altar, where they were given a blessing before they went to stations around the perimeter of the hall. The prayer teams, who prayed individually with anyone requesting it, had been prepared for their roles, Father Hepburn told the gathering. In particular, they attended a one-day retreat where they received instruction about how to pray for and with the people coming on this night to receive the healing power of the Lord. About 50 prayer teams were available, ministering to people in English and Spanish, with one prayer team in Vietnamese.
“Jesus wants you to bring your disappointments to him tonight,” Father Hepburn said. “He wants to heal them. Bring your disappointments to the Lord and let him lighten your burden.”
Texas family comes for prayer
One of those at the healing service was Cathy Haas, parish ambassador coordinator for The Quest radio station, 1160 AM. She said she had an “overwhelming feeling of grace and filling up with the Holy Spirit.”
She said she came seeking healing in “whatever areas that I may specifically be in need of and to pray for my children and being filled up with the grace of the Holy Spirit.”
JoAnn Williams, 80, from Jasper, Texas, and a parishioner of St. Raymond Mission there, came for healing for herself and her great-grandson.
“When he was 6 years old, his daddy was murdered, and he’s 19 now. He has never gotten over that,” she said. “My granddaughter took him to a doctor and they put him on all this medication and he is now addicted to it. He’s very depressed, so I’m really praying for him.”
Sharon Whitman, Williams’ daughter, said her mother is pretty feisty, but even though she can walk she is in a lot of pain in her knees and back.
Whitman, from Vidor, Texas, attends Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church there. During Hurricane Harvey last August her house was flooded with four feet of water as were about 70 percent of the homes in her community.
“We had people from New York to help us,” she said.
“It’s brought people together. We’re still in an RV,” she said. She hopes to be in her home again by September.
Whitman said that she was seeking prayers for herself and her children.
“I have arthritis in my knees and a cyst on my thyroid and I need to get a biopsy of it. Relationships, healing, that’s the main thing. Physical healing is not as nearly important as that,” she said.
Paul Giles, a parishioner of Sts. Peter and Paul Church, Decatur, said he was seeking prayers for healing for his wife, Sharon, and for himself.
“Her arthritis is extremely bad. I need the strength to help her,” he said. “I suffer from arthritis in my neck and I had a stroke in my optic nerve. A lot of need for the Holy Spirit to help her and to help me.”
“Jesus does it all”
A husband and wife prayer team, Marie and Stephen Day, of St. Peter Chanel Church, Roswell, have been praying for people at the annual Eucharistic Congress healing service for at least 10 years, Stephen Day said.
“We know that prayer works, and we have been mentored by wonderful people who have showed us the specific prayers to pray for,” Marie Day said.
“Jesus is the one, we know, who heals,” she said.
Married for 14 years, they lead the charismatic prayer and worship group at St. Peter Chanel Church, they said, and teach classes on how to pray for people. They both serve on the Atlanta Catholic Charismatic Renewal leadership assembly and in Resurrected Life Ministries.
Stephen Day said he has been involved in praying for others for over 20 years. Marie Day said she has been praying for others for 14 years.
“We got involved in the healing service at the Eucharistic Congress by listening,” Stephen Day said. “Because our calling is to pray for people, we are going to be there.”
Youth ministers from Life Teen have called them and “we’ll go on retreats with them and pray for the kids,” he said. “If we hear someone wants prayers, we’re going. It doesn’t matter whether it’s Hispanic or Vietnamese or whomever, we want to be there to let the Lord do what he wants to do and let the love he showed us pour through us to them.”
“We know we don’t do anything. We know Jesus does it all and we’re very happy to see him do it,” Stephen Day said.
Linda Smith, of Holy Trinity Church, Peachtree City, coordinated the prayer teams for the healing service, as she has for many years, and their preparation and retreat day.
“I had a sense that all the people had come with faith to receive God’s healing touch in their lives. Faith was the consistent theme as we prayed before the congress and at the retreat for the prayer teams—our faith in what God would do, and the grace of faith that would be given to the people who would come to the healing service,” Smith said.
“ We know that God always hears and answers our prayers. It is not always in the way we might expect, but always in his perfect way, his perfect will and his perfect love.”