By Judith Costello
For The Catholic Messenger
Priest speakers from around the Quad Cities and beyond traveled to St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Rapids City, Ill., last month to celebrate the “40 Hours of Divine Mercy” with participants from the region.
“I believe our church is uniquely situated on the Mississippi, right next to Interstate 80 so that we can be a witness to a wide area. Like St. John the Baptist, we are called to prepare the way of the Lord,” said Father Glenn Harris, the church’s pastor.
The speakers focused on the need for a revival of faith to shine a light for those who have strayed away from the church. This is what will bring about change in our troubled world, some of the speakers said.
“The ‘nones’ are walking away,” said Father Peter Zorjan, referring to the term coined by Bishop Robert Barron to describe those who check ‘none’ on surveys asking for religious affiliation. “How will they know what they are turning away from unless someone shares with them?” asked the priest, who serves parishes in Silvis and Colona, Ill. He challenged the laity to go forth to evangelize, using four tools: “First you need humility, humility, humility. Then you need prayer and study. You can’t pass on what you don’t know. Then you need to live the faith as an example to others.” He shared a detailed list of how to evangelize. “You need to understand your audience and then ask good questions. We can’t be afraid to save souls.”
The keynote speaker during the five-day event was Father Richard Heilman from Pine Bluff, Wis. He is a regular guest host on Relevant Radio and a nationally known speaker. In 2005 Fr. Heilman helped the small community of Pine Bluff organize a “miracle mile” of prayer in response to the opening of a strip club. Hundreds of people prayed the Stations of the Cross along that mile. Within months, the strip club was gone.
“God listens to us when we pray and miracles happen for those who believe,” Fr. Heilman shared with an audience of 150. “But we have stopped believing in the supernatural and the devil gains ground.”
The devil’s activity was also the topic for Father Mike Driscoll, the exorcist for the Diocese of Peoria. “Although actual instances of demonic possession are rare I believe the devil works in more subtle ways through temptations. Temptations are demonic attacks that are subtle, common and dangerous.”
Fr. Driscoll quoted the late Msgr. Marvin Mottet as saying, “The answer (to the devil) isn’t rocket science. We can protect ourselves through prayer, the sacraments and sacramentals.”
In showing that God will help those who truly have faith, Fr. Heilman shared three stories of miracles he said he had personally witnessed. One involved a male parishioner who had fallen in love with a woman he met online. The parishioner’s girlfriend was not a believer. The priest encouraged the parishioner to help bring about a conversion through prayer. The young lady converted, Fr. Heilman said.
Father Chris Weber, parochial vicar at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Bettendorf, reminded listeners of the power of the sacraments. “There are times in our lives when we can’t hear God. We don’t know where we are going. But in the sacraments, if we show up, God shows up. God shares his own life with us. In fact, God so desires a relationship with you and me that he traded his throne for a manger, so that he could come looking for us. And he went on to trade the manger for the cross.”
All of the talks from the 40 Hours of Divine Mercy are available through www.stjohnstmaryqc.org and on Fr. Harris’ Sound Cloud.