By Alex Lorio, Clarion Herald Contributing writer
A few days after miraculously leading the Israelites out of Egyptian oppression, God led the people of Israel into the wilderness and gave them a deeper glimpse into his identity. Speaking to Moses, God declared, “I am the Lord, your healer” (Ex 15:26).
For those attending the 2018 Southern Regional Catholic Charismatic Conference, the mysterious God of Exodus revealed he is still, as keynote speaker Bob Canton put it, “in the healing business.”
More than 700 people gathered recently for the annual charismatic conference under the theme, “I Am the Lord Your Healer.”
The weekend featured liturgies, praise and worship, speakers and prayers for healing. Speakers included EWTN’s Johnnette Benkovic, former Saints wide receiver Danny Abramowicz, Father Mark Goring and Archdiocese of New Orleans director of youth and young adult ministry Timmy McCaffery.
Friday night’s session began with an introduction from Archbishop Gregory Aymond and featured a teaching on healing by Canton, who lives in Stockton, California, and travels internationally to speak and minister in the charismatic gift of healing.
Canton has witnessed countless healings and noted that at a conference in February, he prayed with a woman who has been deaf and mute since birth and witnessed God heal her deafness. The woman was able to listen to directions and began, for the first time, repeating sounds she had heard.
“God is able to do anything,” Canton said. “Nothing is impossible for God. God loves to show his compassion by healing our diseases. Sometimes, we can have a problem with no solution, but God can fix it.”
Canton followed his teaching with prayer for healing for two women who had been in wheelchairs after losing strength in their legs. Each woman began to walk around the conference center holding Canton’s hand.
On Saturday morning, attendees heard from McCaffery, who told of his own deep struggles with serious sin until God freed him in a powerful experience of the baptism in the Holy Spirit at a charismatic youth retreat when he was in college.
“I had for many years attempted to break free from my sin,” McCaffery said. “But, it never occurred to me that God wanted to heal me. …When I was overcome with the power and love of God (on the youth retreat), it was as if I never again wanted that sin in the same way.”
McCaffery also spoke in a young adult workshop on the biblical and theological foundations of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal.
“Sometimes the impression is given that the Charismatic Renewal is a movement on the fringes (of the church), but it is clear from the testimony of all the recent popes, from Paul VI on to Pope Francis, that this is a chance of renewal for the whole church,” McCaffery said. “To be devoted to the Holy Spirit is urgent in order to perform the ‘greater’ works that Jesus tells us we will perform (in John 14:26).”
Trust despite tragedy
Conference attendees heard a compelling teaching on trust in times of suffering from Benkovic, host and founder of “Women of Grace.”
Benkovic, who lost her son in a car accident in 2005, explained that in the aftermath of the accident, trust became real for her.
“I was filled with fear that something would happen to my daughter,” she said. “It was then that the challenge of trust became real for me. I learned a new meaning for trust – ‘True Resolve Under Severe Testing.’”
The conference concluded on Sunday with a eucharistic healing service and Mass celebrated by Father Goring, a member of Companions of the Cross, a new religious order born in the Charismatic Renewal.
Alex Lorio is a theology teacher at Archbishop Rummel High School and a volunteer youth minister for the Catholic Charismatic Renewal of New Orleans.