EVERETT – After two miscarriages, Linnea Wolff knew the signs that her pregnancy was in trouble.
An ultrasound and the doctor confirmed the worst for Linnea and her husband, Morgan: The fertilized egg had collapsed and the baby wasn’t viable. “It was pretty devastating,” Linnea recalled.
That Sunday, the couple decided to ask for help from a Prayer for Healing Ministry team, available after Sunday Masses at their parish, Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Everett. Two lay ministers prayed with the couple that day.
“It was really special,” Linnea said. “We both walked away feeling like we were in God’s hands … and everything that was meant to be, God would make sure it happened.”
The next morning, her doctor’s office called, asking Linnea to come in right away. The doctor wanted to do another ultrasound — prompted, he told Linnea, by a voice in his head. This time, everything looked normal. Linnea remembers the doctor asking: “Do you realize how miraculous this is?”
“I know it was God’s voice, prodding him,” Linnea said recently. “Marcus was supposed to be born.”
During Linnea’s pregnancy, the Wolffs occasionally prayed with the prayer ministers, and on Dec. 6, 2014, their healthy son was born. Today, Marcus scoots across the floor, sits up by himself and loves being tickled by his big sister, Elena.
Listening without judging
For more than 20 years, Prayer for Healing Ministry teams have been available for those in need after Sunday Masses at Immaculate Conception and Our Lady of Perpetual Help parishes in Everett.
“Probably one of the most Christian things you can do is listen to someone without judging them,” said John Sullivan, the ministry director. And praying with people in a loving way helps them realize “God is listening to them and not judging them,” he said. “A lot of healing takes place.”
Over the years, the ministers have heard stories of physical, spiritual, emotional and relationship healings, all “facilitated by this ministry, and with God’s healing touch,” Sullivan said.
More than 30 people are involved in the low-key, confidential ministry, including five new ministers commissioned in May after completing a two-year training program developed by the Institute for Christian Ministries.
When Father Bryan Hersey arrived as pastor of the two Everett parishes eight years ago, he didn’t know much about healing prayer ministry. The more he learned, Father Hersey said, the more he became “fascinated by laypeople taking on the responsibility of praying with our people.”
His parishes’ prayer ministers are a dedicated group of people who take their call seriously, Father Hersey said. “Even though they’re not counselors, they really bring a sense of professionalism to it,” he said. “They do know what the limits are and when to send the people to the priest.”
Elena Wolff helps hold her new brother, Marcus, who was born Dec. 6, 2014, as parents Morgan and Linnea look on. Photo: Courtesy Wolff family
Not a modern-day idea
Anyone who wants prayers to deal with life’s struggles can seek out the prayer ministry teams after Sunday Mass — weekly at Our Lady of Perpetual Help and twice a month at Immaculate Conception.
Because there’s usually just 30-40 minutes between Masses, the two-person teams may spend 10-20 minutes with an individual seeking prayer, Sullivan said. Longer and recurring prayer sessions can be arranged at other times for those with more in-depth needs.
Praying for healing isn’t a modern-day idea, Sullivan said.
“The prayer for healing ministry was one of the principal ways the church evangelized in the first few centuries,” he said. “People joined the church because they were healed. Those gifts [of the Holy Spirit] are still operative today.”
Sullivan has been involved in healing prayer ministry since the late 1980s, after experiencing a “pretty profound healing.” He started the healing prayer ministry at St. Luke Parish in Shoreline in 1989 and began directing the ministry at the two Everett parishes in 1994. Today, Sullivan conducts and oversees the parishes’ two-year training program, along with his wife Carmen and fellow parishioners Shirley Wilkins and Bob and Vicki Temple.
Sent out, two by two
Dolores Righi, one of the parishes’ newly commissioned ministers, said the training program helped her gain confidence to pray aloud with others. She learned “it’s not like we had to be Superman, we had to … just get out of the way for the Holy Spirit to tell us what to say. It’s very humbling.”
And the ministry has become a big part of healing in her life, said Righi, a psychotherapist.
“It’s brought me closer to Christ,” she said. “You know how he commissioned the apostles — ‘Go out two by two,’ and do his work? That’s what we’re doing.”
Since their experience with Marcus, the Wolffs have brought other needs to the prayer ministry, from worries about a doctor’s appointment to just feeling down in the dumps.
The answer may not come as quickly as it did with their baby, Linnea Wolff said. “It’s in God’s time,” she said. “God really answers your prayers if you just take the time to go and ask and give your heart up to him and pray for it.”