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Service aims to promote healing for ‘Church in crisis’

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BEACON HILL — Three-dozen worshipers shared candlelit prayer, song and reflection Jan. 20 in the Holy Ghost Chapel of Beacon Hill’s Paulist Center for a service in the style of the Taize religious community.

The service called a “Healing Service for a Church in Crisis” was a response to the turmoil surrounding the clergy abuse scandal and the ongoing reconfiguration of parishes in the archdiocese, said Sheila Connors LeDuc, a member of the center’s pastoral council.

LeDuc said she was involved in the planning of the service, which she wanted to be both positive and inclusive. She also participated as the service’s reflector.

She was especially pleased that the service drew middle-aged individuals who have the emotional brunt of the Church’s troubles. In contrast, younger Catholics did not share the same expectations, so are not as disillusioned, she said.

“If you look at the median age of the people who came tonight, you will see that these are the people, growing up the Church was huge for them,” she said.

It is important to get out the message that the Church’s foundation is still strong despite the current difficulties, she said.

“The idea was that we all have pain and we all need to pray through it,” said Timothy P. Westerhaus, the center’s pastoral minister for liturgy and music.

Westerhaus said he was pleased with the turnout, because he wanted the service to open to people who have not visited the center before. “When I looked up, I only recognized about half the faces.”

The service was publicized by the Voice of the Faithful.

In her reflection, LeDuc read the story of the woman who was healed from her hemorrhaging by touching the hem of Jesus’ cloak.

LeDuc said the woman had suffered for 12 years and depleted her savings on doctors with no relief. Yet, she saw Jesus in the crowd that day, reached out to Him and was cured.

When did the actual healing occur? she asked.

Was it when she touched the cloak? Was it when she stretched out her arm? Was it when the bleeding stopped? Or was it the moment the woman made the decision to reach out to Jesus? she asked.

“I need to tell you what I know,” she said. “Our faith will heal.”

She said she knew there was atmosphere of mistrust in the Church, but it does not have to continue. “You can trust me on this: our faith will make you whole.”

Westerhaus, playing the center’s two-week old Steinway grand piano, was accompanied by Julie Buras Zigo on flute and Janis T. Young on the electric keyboard.

He chose songs for the service from different cultures, English, Spanish and South African, which is consistent with the practice at Taize, Westerhaus said.

Other elements in the Taize tradition were use of candles, soft music, icons and periods of meditation, he said. The community has become very popular with young Catholics.

At least three members of the pastoral council have visited Taize, a community of brothers in the hills of Burgundy, France, he said.

Westerhaus has attended services in America led by Taize brothers, but his first visit to the community in France will be this summer, he said.

The service was an important step for people hurting to come and pray, said Sister Maureen Dorherty, CSJ.

Sister Maureen said she thought the service was a success. “The whole prayerful atmosphere and solidarity showed me that we are a Church that suffers, heals and rejoices together.”

In the future, The Paulist Center will do more to include the parishes and groups around the archdiocese in its religious programs, especially events like the healing service that focus on prayer, LeDuc said.

“We are a people of prayer, so what we should do is pray,” she said.

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