Those who approach Christ in the Gospels — the rich, the poor, the powerful, the marginalized — share one universal quality: a deep desire for healing.
Fr. John Burns made this point during his opening remarks at the Healing the Whole Person retreat, held April 7 through April 9 at Holy Apostles Parish in New Berlin.
In Scripture, crowds of people follow Christ, pressing against one another to get near to him. Why?
It’s never to say, “‘Hey, Lord, I look at all the great stuff that’s going on in my life — I want you to be proud of me,” said Fr. Burns.
Rather, the crowds come to Christ with their brokenness.
“They come to him bringing their sick … they come to him bringing their fears, the places where they’re trapped, the places where they don’t know what to do and where they just can’t figure it out on their own,” said Fr. Burns. “In the Scriptures, the crowds lead with their greatest need.”
So why do we always seem to do the opposite?
“We tend to want to keep that stuff hidden away, pretend it isn’t there,” said Fr. Burns.
But the mission behind Healing the Whole Person’s ministry is to create a space where people can encounter Christ amidst their own brokenness, he continued. “In the end, that’s what these days are all about: letting the Lord free us from whatever keeps us outside of his love and stepping into what it is to be fully alive.”
Offered by the John Paul II Healing Center, a Florida-based apostolate that presents conferences and retreats all over the country, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee has hosted Healing the Whole Person three times since 2018.
Like previous iterations of the ministry, the three days of prayer, reflection and worship at Holy Apostles in New Berlin earlier this month included talks by Dr. Bob Schuchts, Bart Schuchts and Sr. Miriam James Heidland, S.O.L.T.
This was Heather Bougie’s third time attending a Healing the Whole Person retreat, and the second time she participated as a volunteer. She said she would recommend the ministry “to anyone wanting to further their spiritual journey.”
“It will teach them where they have been wounded and how to invite Jesus in to heal that wound in a way that nothing in our secular world, including counseling, can manage,” she said. “Our Lord is the master healer and physician. His love is the medicine that we so desperately need.”
In addition to the 650 participants who attended in-person, the sold-out conference was livestreamed to viewers in 29 states and nine countries.
In her talk on April 7, Sr. Miriam described the retreat as “a healing conference, but it’s not generic … we’ve been all over the place, to every different kind of demographic, talking to people from all different walks of life, and I can honestly tell you that we’ve never given the same retreat twice.”
“It’s for you,” she said to the crowd. “The Lord’s going to speak to you … in the particular way that you need it the most.”
The weekend also included opportunities for the sacrament of reconciliation, where some people patiently waited up to three or four hours to confess their sins, said volunteer Crystal Gonring.
“It is very apparent to me that this gathering of people (is) so hungry to be back in communion with Christ and in fellowship with each other,” said Gonring, a parishioner at St. Joseph in Big Bend.
“Even if you don’t feel like you need healing — news flash: everyone does — it’s great getting the reminders and the love and care of all of the speakers and facilitators during the weekend,” said attendee Chris Moede. “I’ve found that the Lord is always at work well before he awakens my intellect to that fact, and then you reach a point where everything clicks into place and you realize: ‘Oh wow, (God) has been working at this for a while and just let me know about it.’”
Those who have not been able to experience Healing the Whole Person’s previous retreats will have a chance to benefit from the ministry in a new way this spring and summer, when “Healing the Whole Person: Engaging Your Story” commences at four parishes in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.
Dubbed “HWP:EYS” for short, each installment of the eight-week session will include pre-recorded talks by Dr. Schuchts and Sr. Miriam, a guided prayer experience and a workbook journaling activity for private reflection and prayer. The series will also offer opportunities for prayer with a prayer ministry team trained by the John Paul II Healing Center, and to receive the sacrament of reconciliation.
Moede is one of the team leads for HWP:EYS at St. Robert Parish in Shorewood, which will begin at the end of May. He said that Milwaukee is “proving (to be) fertile ground for healing.”
HWP:EYS is an “amazing opportunity” to “participate in the JPII Healing Center’s healing ministry, and indeed, the mission of the Church,” Moede said.
Scripture tells us God is love. “Anywhere love is, healing is occurring,” he said. “Everyone stands to benefit from healing, as that’s what our Lord spent his entire ministry doing, and the precise reason he died for our sins — to bring us into communion with him, heal us of our afflictions and fulfill every one of our desires.”
The first of the HWP:EYS sessions will take place April 26 at Sacred Heart School in Fond du Lac. “Healing the Whole Person: Into the Deep,” a four-day overnight retreat utilizing the videos, will also be offered in August at the Schoenstatt Retreat Center in Waukesha.
For a complete listing of HWP:EYS sessions around the archdiocese, visit archmil.org/Healing-The-Whole-Person.