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Father Greg Paffel, priest director of the St. Cloud Jesus Heals team, prays with Alecia Kabore and her daughter, Zola, following the Fraternity of Priests Mass for Healing Feb. 8 at St. Mary’s Cathedral in St. Cloud. Jesus Heals team member Debbie Blickenstaff of Perham assists. Photo by Kristi Anderson / The Visitor

By Kristi Anderson
The Visitor

About three years ago, Father Greg Paffel went on sabbatical, visiting an Ignatian retreat center in Florida. On this 30–day silent retreat, he felt there was something that just wasn’t “clicking” in his life.

While there, he stumbled across the book “Unbound” by Neal Lozano, an international speaker and the executive director of Heart of the Father Ministries and the Unbound ministry efforts.

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Third in an ongoing series on the Works of Mercy

“I found great healing in reading this book, apart from the healing I receive through confession,” said Father Paffel, pastor of the churches of St. Paul and Our Lady of the Angels in Sauk Centre and St. Alexius in West Union.

“Confession is the first and the most important part of inner healing, to be forgiven by God,” he said. “But sometimes we may still need to forgive ourselves or others. Just because the weight of sin is lifted off of us in the sacrament does not mean that there is not more healing left to do.”

When he returned to his parishes, he felt like there was something more he was supposed to do with what he had read. He consulted with other priests in the diocese, including Father Jerry Mischke, a retired priest. The two decided to team up to develop a resource for lay ministers adapted from the Unbound ministry to help others learn how to pray in a systematic way for inner healing.

‘Jesus Heals’ principles

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Nadine Pullis receives a blessing from Father David Grundman, pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Waite Park and St. Michael Parish in St. Cloud. Jesus Heals team members Deacon Tom McFadden and Renee Theis join in the prayer. Photo by Kristi Anderson / The Visitor

Father Paffel had heard about a similar group in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and with their permission decided to adopt the same name, “Jesus Heals.”

Father Paffel said it is important to make a distinction between deliverance ministry and inner healing.

“Both are healing ministries,” Father Paffel explained. “One has to do with when the devil is still attacking you. That is deliverance ministry. The other is when we have been wounded by the devil, the world or our own flesh. Sometimes the devil has gone away but has left a wound that needs healing; or the person is wounded by their sin, an unfortunate event or someone else. The St. Cloud Jesus Heals team is trained to pray for inner healing, not to confront the devil.”

The pilot group, which began training about a year ago, is a team of 18 people who were selected by Father Paffel and Father Mischke and hail from various parishes across the diocese. Father Paffel, who took the lead in teaching, explained that there are five basic principles the Jesus Heals team uses when praying with someone in need of inner healing:

  • Repentance. Is there anything they still need to repent for? If so, the person is advised to seek confession with a priest.
  • Forgiveness. Is there anything they need to forgive others for? Or forgive themselves for? Or forgive God for? Forgiveness is not just forgiving someone who did wrong, it is also letting go of something you have no right to hang onto.
  • Renunciation. In this step, participants are asked to renounce the lies they have come to believe as well as things like the spirit of rejection, fear or specific habitual sins.
  • In the Name of Jesus. Everything we do is coaching the person to pray in the name of Jesus because Jesus is the one with the power to accomplish the healing.
  • Blessing. The last thing we do is a blessing. Once we have opened our heart and soul to the mercy, the love, and the grace that God wants for us, we can finally be open to what God was offering us all along and fully receive it.

“Once we’ve taken the garbage out of our lives, we have to fill it with blessings. If we don’t ask God to fill that empty void, we will try to fill it with other things. It must be filled with the blessing of God,” Father Paffel said.

The team officially began praying with others in December.

“We’ve only been doing this since Christmas but we have already seen numerous ways God has been at work through this team,” Father Paffel said.
Cathy Behrens is one of the initial team members and she, too, has seen the fruits of Jesus Heals.

“Most of the time, we feel a real joy in seeing the peace that comes into a person when letting go of their pain. It can be so simple yet so profound. It is a very gentle way to deal with wounds from as far back as their childhood. It’s really beautiful,” Behrens said.

Team member Michele Rosha said the teams spend a lot of time focusing on the emotions of the person.

“In confession, often what is identified are actions,” Rosha said. “Our group deals with emotions like anger, shame, fear. And that is what is so cleansing about it. It’s like a deep love. When people share their deepest vulnerabilities, you love them even more.”

Many of the members including Rosha, who works in spiritual care at St. Gabriel’s Hospital in Little Falls, experienced healing in their own lives during the training. They also learned how to take care of themselves while working in such an intense ministry setting.

“One of the most challenging things is to not take on the burdens of the people,” Rosha explained. “We are hearing so many heavy, painful stories and it is really difficult not to take that on ourselves. Many of us are ‘fixers’ and want to ‘fix’ what is broken. That’s not what we are there for. We are there to pray with the person. Whenever we have these meetings, we always include a cleansing prayer. Prayer is so much in every part of this.”

Each of the team members also has five additional intercessors who pray for them. Members always go out two by two so when they meet with someone, that means there are 10 others praying at the same time.

Healing experience

On Feb. 8, members of the Jesus Heals team met with Bishop Donald Kettler to tell him about their efforts.

“Forgiveness is such an important part of healing,” he told the group. “There is a real need for the work you are doing.”

Following the meeting, Bishop Kettler and the Fraternity of Priests celebrated a Mass of Healing at St. Mary’s Cathedral. After Mass, attendees were invited to stay and pray individually with priests and members of the Jesus Heals team.

“We had a beautiful night of prayer,” Father Paffel said. “People were relieved from addiction, found courage in the midst of terminal disease, received hope for their troubled marriages and most importantly, they experienced the healing touch of Jesus.”

For more information about the Jesus Heals prayer team, contact any one of these team members who will help set up an initial meeting: Cathy Behrens (Brooten area) 320-250-5842; Greg Kuhn (St. Cloud area) 320-249-0862; Michele Rosha (St. Cloud area) 320-309-4410; Mary Thomas (Sauk Centre area) 320-267-2058; and Debbie Blickenstaff (Perham area) 218-298-4461.

Forgive all offenses: What does the church say?

By Maureen Otremba
For The Visitor

The now-familiar icon for the Year of Mercy bears the inscription, “Merciful Like the Father.” It is a timely and necessary reminder that in every work of mercy we are called to practice, our source of strength and inspiration must be the very mercy that God shows to each of us.

This is essential when we strive to forgive all offenses. A tall order, and one that poses formidable questions and logical objections, until we consider the source of forgiveness: God’s love made visible in the life and example of Jesus Christ.

A few clarifications about the word “forgiveness” can help us focus on what is being required of us.

First, forgiveness does not excuse the wrong that was done, reverse the hurt and damage caused by the offense, or necessarily restore the relationship (although this can certainly be an eventual outcome).

In other words, if I forgive a person who has injured me, I am not dismissing the wrongness of their action or vowing to carry on as though nothing happened. What I am deciding to do is to release that person from his or her offense. In essence, I am determining that I will not equate that person with his or her behavior; I will not identify the person who hurts me with the wrong they have done to me. I will honor the person’s human dignity even in the face of behavior that is beneath their dignity.

Second, forgiveness does not flow from a feeling but is rather an act of the will. I can’t wait until I feel like forgiving someone; rather, I must will to forgive them. In this way, forgiveness is rightly understood as a function of love, which is also an act of the will.

This act of will requires divine help. And we have it in the life and parables of Jesus: the prodigal son and the merciful Father; the wicked steward who refused to forgive a small debt owed to him after his master forgave his enormous debt; and Jesus’ own words of forgiveness from the cross.

We receive this divine help when we enter into the Penitential Act at the beginning of each Mass, and every time we pray the Our Father.

Most important, we receive God’s assistance most concretely and fully when we are nourished at the table of his Word and Sacrament in the Eucharistic Liturgy of the gathered community. For it is here that we come to know our need for God and the great forgiveness he has already showered on us.

Such is the wellspring of the mercy we show to our brothers and sisters, that we may indeed be “merciful like the Father.”

Maureen Otremba is a writer and workshop presenter and is a member of Sacred Heart Parish in Sauk Rapids.