I’m excited to share a wonderful sign of hope with you, Friends. At the start of this month, I attended the 2020 Encounter Conference in Toledo, Ohio where the gathered crowd spanned the generations from babies to grandparents. About 2600 predominantly Catholic attendees were joined by some brothers and sisters from other denominations while the lineup of speakers included two evangelical spiritual leaders. The theme of Christian unity ran through the days of the conference and Randy Clark, a non-Catholic Christian brother and overseer of Global Awakening, said in his presentation that revival in the US will come through the Catholic Church, yet, a joyful reunion it shall be with respect for all. It’s clear to me that many today are seeing what Charlie was shown so long ago.
Many of the happenings at the conference are described in Luke 7:22, “And he answered them, ‘Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have good news brought to them.’” Those weary of the battles in families, the workplace, the Church, our country and world were refreshed, encouraged and transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus healed all manner of human illnesses, pains and inner turmoil. Just two examples: lay people ministered Christ’s healing to Bishop David Ricken’s knee. He was totally tickled to demonstrate how he can now genuflect – something he hasn’t been able to do for a long while. Little children, involved in their separate age track, prayed over a middle-aged woman with stage 4 esophageal cancer whom Jesus completely healed.
The speakers shared powerful testimonies – heartening and hope-filled – about what God is doing in the world NOW, smack dab in the midst of the messiness. They ignited contemplation and further discussion while pointing attendees to apostolates designed to equip them with understanding and skills as they answer the call to evangelize and manifest the Father’s Love through Christ’s healing touch, bringing comfort to His people while wielding the weapons of His Mercy, thus, becoming a human bridge for those around them to embark on a deeper relationship – or sometimes a totally new one – with the Lord.
Below, I’ll highlight some of the speakers and link you to their sites where you can discover more if you’re interested. We have acknowledged in this community – and attending this conference has firmly cemented this reality for me – that Aslan IS on the move. God is, in human terms, desperate to reclaim His children and set them free, for He loves each one with love beyond all telling.
I counted 70 (others report 90) priests attending the conference and Friday’s Mass was con-celebrated with Bishop Ricken of the Green Bay Diocese in Wisconsin. He was animated in his homily with full support for calling down the Holy Spirit that the work involving the wood we need to chop is accomplished with vigor and joy. All present shared an ardent desire to renew and rebuild the Church, to see their parishes come alive, to reach inside and outside parish walls to bring Christ to all the places where they live, work and play, and to better tend to the suffering ones around us, thus bringing God’s Kingdom more fully to earth.
All were invited to tap into an inner place, a place of fully acknowledging how helpless we are without Christ. Self-reliance doesn’t work for building God’s Kingdom and, so, we all looked to the Holy Spirit to fill us with more of Jesus. Essentially, we were asking – and continue to ask – for a New Pentecost. In surrendering to God, we proclaimed: “Whatever You want Lord, we want.” And God did not disappoint. The greater the hunger for Him, the more the Holy Spirit poured forth His abundance during the entire event and, in a special way, at the last event on Saturday evening.
Speaker Highlights with Links:
Three leaders from Encounter Ministries, Fr. Mathias Thelen, Patrick Reis and Dr. Mary Healy, addressed the assembly. Mary, in particular, spoke to change breaking forth in this decade we have now entered and she reminded us of the story of Blessed Elena Guerra who was instrumental in convincing Pope Leo XIII – the Pope who composed the St. Michael the Archangel Prayer – to write about the Holy Spirit which he did in the late 1800’s in several Papal documents. As well, he kicked off the last century by singing the Veni Creator Spiritus in the name of the whole Church. Catholics at that time seemed not ready to receive what went out from Heaven that day and here you can read what did transpire on that very first day of the 20th Century.
Neal Lozano, who developed the Unbound Ministry as an approach to deliverance and healing prayer, also emphasizes the need to deepen the connection with the Heart of the Father that we may shed the lies of the enemy about our true identity and walk in the inheritance of our Baptismal call.
Dr. Bob Schuchts, author and founder of the John Paul II Healing Center in Florida, spoke on healing the whole person and gave testimony to the number of physical healings which spontaneously occur when people forgive – others and themselves.
Steve Dawson, President of St. Paul Street Evangelization, presented. When you visit the site, you can see opportunities for online studies for gaining evangelization skills.
The Anointed Life Acceleration:
When I first discovered Encounter Ministries, I was afire with desire to delve into its offerings. There is a school of training in Brighton, Michigan and leaders have established satellite schools in other regions of the country in addition to holding conferences in cities both nationally and internationally. In my desire to develop in the gifts of the Holy Spirit, I contacted Encounter Ministries and asked if they might consider creating an online opportunity for distance learning. Their plate was too full to begin such a venture. All I could do was surrender my disappointment and simply pray to God that, perhaps, He would make another way.
To my surprise and delight last August, Michael Sullivan, the executive producer of the documentary, Fearless, which brought initial widespread attention to Encounter Ministries, launched an opportunity for online study and activation. Enter The Anointed Life Acceleration! It has been a mighty blessing where people immerse in spirited and dynamic prayer as well as study and activation with the support of a beautiful community comprised of others interested in reaching out to BE Christ in this world. Michael – a gifted man of great vision – with his wife, Kelly – a gifted woman who shared in developing the vision – designed the program and chose leadership people to be guides who mentor community members. When you visit the site, the videos, information and testimonies well describe the purpose and activities. And I heartily invite you to take a look!
I love the interaction within the group and am especially grateful for the gift of greater confidence in taking the next right steps to which I’m nudged, day by day. There is a monthly – or you can opt for the annual – fee for membership and I attest it has been worth every penny. In fact, it’s a pittance compared to what I have received. I often think back to the times when we’ve mentioned here that we need new strategies for rebuilding our families, our Church and our culture. Whereas previously I was confounded in trying to imagine the how of it, I’m now certain God has strategies and keys to present if we but ask then look and listen for the answers. A young man from The Anointed Life gave testimony during Friday’s Morning Prayer call which shows this to be so.
When Brian, fresh out of college, was starting a new job at a major corporation in early fall, we prayed for him to be like leaven in his workplace… that when he walked into the company, his division would flourish, that projects would be done under budget and accomplished before deadline… that he would have Kingdom connections where he would find other people of faith in the company and that they would get together to pray for one another and the company. Brian reported that it all came together in ways that he knows God was working… that the big group Brian is in is flourishing as the most valued producing part of the organization right now – and this at a time when there’s budget cutting in many areas… that through conversations, some simple things that Brian was able to do are being used across the company… that in the “diversity training” sessions one manager said they want all employees to bring their whole selves to work so Brian decided he’d bring Jesus rather than feeling like he had to hide himself so he told the manager he (Brian) was there because God wants him to be there so Brian is happy to be working there… then one day a co-worker opened up to Brian about his dream which brought him to Christ and this man conveyed he’s to share about Christ with others at work when prompted to do so… then a co-worker complained about back pain so a few guys asked if the hurting one wanted them to pray for him and he agreed so they went to a private room, prayed over the man and the man was healed, pain-free… there’s a prayer group that’s formed as well; they meet every other week and pray for the company, for the leadership, and for the building of the Kingdom of God in their workplace. Can you imagine how culture-building change would come if every workplace had some human spiritual leaven such as this fermenting within its ranks?!
The members of The Anointed Life are a broad and diverse range of ordinary people, coming from many places with many stories and thanks to technology we see each other, face to face, in the virtual room as we pour out love via prayer and encouragement. It is utterly vivifying. Among us, there is a convert from Judaism who has a call to evangelize Christ to Jewish people; a former Muslim wants to introduce Jesus to those of Muslim faith; a sister has established the Loreto House, a home modeled on the first home of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, a place of encouragement, formation and encounter where mothers and families can receive the healing graces of Mary’s love. Each one of us is unique with a particular mission entrusted by God… just as it is so for each of us at ASOH. The prayer and activities of The Anointed Life integrate beautifully with what we’re about here at A Sign of Hope. In The Anointed Life, each one, no matter the call on that one’s life, receives prayer wherein concrete next right steps emerge. The ongoing testimonies give glory to God and build us all up to keep chopping, chopping, chopping, giving evidence that a New Beginning IS rising.
A few more stories…
***Our Anointed Life guide for prophecy is a wonderfully gifted and wise woman named Maria. Raised Catholic, she journeyed into another walk of faith in her adult life and is a pastor at her Christian church. As we were being mentored by Maria in the study of prophecy, her interest in reclaiming her roots of Catholicism grew and it was at the Encounter Conference when she decided to return to the sacraments. As you can imagine, preparing to go to confession after many years started to feel somewhat overwhelming. When the priest approached her, she had an open vision of Jesus walking toward her. Maria, not yet aware of the teaching that the priest is an alter Christus, was given instant catechesis by the Lord. After Mass, the confessor introduced her to Encounter Ministries Leader, Fr. Mathias, and when he hugged her to welcome her home, she went down in the Spirit in such a way that she brushed against her confessor who went down in the Spirit and every priest touched even lightly by the confessor went down in the Spirit too. When I laughed with Maria about this event, her brown eyes danced with joy as she remarked that she had never considered herself a holy roller. Maria is now a bridge between Catholics and those of other Christian faiths in her city and she’s been hired by her Archdiocese to teach a School of the Spirit for young people.
***I have recently met a new holy one, Blessed Maria Gabriella Sagheddu, who was a Trappist nun and belonged to a convent which had caught the fervor for Christian unity that was sweeping the European continent in the early 1900’s. During the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in 1938, Sister Maria Gabriella asked permission from her superior to offer up her life as a sacrifice for Christian unity. Mother Superior agreed and, soon afterward, Maria Gabriella fell ill and was diagnosed with tuberculosis. She suffered for eighteen months before she died in the evening between April 22 and April 23, 1939.
Maria Gabriella was recognized by John Paul II in his encyclical on Christian Unity, Ut Unum Sint (“That they may be one”) as a model of concern for Christian unity. Christian unity is not a cause for “special times” John Paul II wrote, rather it is a cause for “everyone, always, and everywhere.”
During the conference days, I walked back and forth between the hotel and conference center with my friends who I first met in The Anointed Life community. They are relatives of Blessed Maria Gabriella, Valerie Sagheddu and her daughter Maria Gabriella Sagheddu – namesake of the Blessed one.