This is part two of a three-part series on special liturgical celebrations offered in the Diocese of Providence.
CHARLESTOWN — A streak of bright orange sunlight illuminated the altar of St. James Chapel while more than 300 faith-filled Catholics seeking healing sat in rapt attention as a well-known Catholic preacher told them to change their prayer lives, and not be afraid to declare their faith.
The worshippers gathered last Wednesday night to hear Father Bill Halbing, a priest from the Archdiocese of Newark, N.J., who has been active in Catholic charismatic renewal since the 1970s, traveling to parishes throughout the country, conducting parish missions and healing services.
The Mass and healing service concluded the parish’s second annual three-day Tent Revival.
According to Father Paul Desmarais, pastor of St. Mary Church and St. James Chapel, some people come to healing services seeking a cure for physical ailments, while others are searching for a resolution to spiritual or emotional problems, trying to overcome an addiction or resolve other difficulties in their lives.
“Sometimes people may not be cured, but they will be healed,” Father Desmarais emphasized, adding that those not physically cured would receive the strength from God that they need to bear their burden.
“They will walk away with something in their heart,” he continued. “Everyone will receive something tonight.”
Father Desmarais has offered a monthly Mass and healing service at St. James Chapel for the past three years.
“I?have seen the Lord doing some very miraculous things here,” he said. “I have seen cures take place.”
In his homily, Father Halbing urged the congregation to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and savior.
“I’m not the healer,” he emphasized. “It’s Jesus.”
Father Halbing urged the worshippers to read the Bible daily to find the encouragement and strength necessary to overcome obstacles.
“This is the medicine that can set you free,” he added.
Beverly Gibbons, a summer resident of Charlestown, attended the Mass and healing service after being inspired by last year’s Tent Revival.
“I totally believe in healing,” she said. “I prayed for some dear friends. I?came because I believe, and I’ll be back next year.”
Chris and Gina Poulos, members of Christ the King Parish, Kingston, said that they attended the event for healing in their marriage.
“I didn’t know what to expect at all,” said Chris. “I feel refreshed and rejuvenated and I want to pray more with my wife.”
Some of the individuals whom Father Halbing prayed over were “slain in the Spirit,” and were gently lowered to the floor by ushers.
A St. James parishioner has experienced this grace of the Holy Spirit several times in the past at other healing services.
“I personally feel it’s an incredible peacefulness,” she said. “When you are slain in the Spirit, it’s never forced upon you. God waits for you.”
The woman noted that she was always “fully conscious” when she received the Holy Spirit.
“It is like experiencing a little bit of heaven,” she added.
At a recent Wednesday evening Spanish language Mass and healing service offered at St. Patrick Church, Providence, faith-filled people of all ages gathered to pray and receive God’s healing.
“I believe it affords an opportunity for the Holy Spirit to heal people,” said Father James T. Ruggieri, pastor of St. Patrick Church, who added most of the people who he has prayed over have sought spiritual healing.
Jonathan Aquino, 19, a student at New England Tech in Warwick, said many young people who attend the Mass and healing service are former gang members, or have suffered from addictions.
“They are looking for good role models,” he acknowledged. “They are looking for a better way of life and trying to get out of their problems.”
Aquino continued, “I used to have small problems. I used to hang out with the wrong people.”
He stated that he finds the strength to combat difficulties in his life by attending Mass and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and by participating in parish activities.
“I try to come here every day,” Aquino said.
Roberto Herrera, 26. a native of Guatemala, said he received God’s healing several years ago, and was able to overcome an addiction to tobacco.
“God is the reason for my life,” Herrera said. “He is the most important thing.”
“Our purpose is to have a close communion with God. He wants us to be clean from sin and hate. Everyday we need to try to do our best, even to love those who hate us.”