Seventeen years ago, when the clergy sex abuse crisis began hitting the news, a prison chaplain at the Danbury Federal Correctional Institution approached Father Lawrence Carew about developing a healing retreat for victims of abuse, to help lead them out of the darkness from what seemed were wounds that could never be healed.
Father, who had a healing ministry in the prison system, undertook the project with Methodist minister Dr. Gail Paul. What they created was a six-session retreat titled, “Disregarding the Shame, Reaching Out for the Joy,” which has touched hundreds of victims of not only sex abuse, but also physical and emotional abuse, and is being used in Latin America and other parts of the United States.
The retreat is based on a simple creed that says: “Jesus Christ is not only able to heal the wounds and scars of sexual, physical and emotional abuse, but longs to, right here, right now.” In this moment. And whenever he gives the retreat, Father Carew has seen evidence Jesus is doing just that.
“The healing ministry of Jesus, which he exercised during his three years of ministry and also in the early church with the apostles and missionaries, was always meant to be a central part of the mission of the Church,” Father Carew said. “From time to time, healing prayer gets lost in Church tradition, but then it gets renewed and revived. We live in a period where it is getting renewed and revived.”
That means Jesus is today healing people of what some consider “ineradicable wounds.”
“Starting in 1996, the Lord brought me into some experiences of his healing presence, which left me with a whole new trust in his desire to bring deep and lasting healing in the lives of the sexually and emotionally abused in the here and now,” Father Carew said.
Father Carew, a native of Boston, grew up in Stamford and was ordained in 1966. He then went on to serve as parochial vicar at St. Peter Church in Danbury, St. Theresa’s in Trumbull, St. Joseph’s in Danbury and Christ the King in Trumbull, where he was pastor until his retirement in December 2016.
He has been active in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal since 1971 and was named spiritual adviser to the renewal in 1997. He has also served in several leadership positions in the national Catholic Charismatic Renewal.
Father Carew says that through healing prayer we invite Christ to the places inside of us that are in pain, physically, emotionally and spiritually. It is based on a trust that the Lord cares about those things and that there can be a solution through our relationship with him.
Father said that an estimated 90 percent of inmates were seriously abused in childhood and that the majority of cases he has encountered were not abused by clergy but teachers, Scout masters, people in authority and family members.
“When I meet with victims of abuse, I will talk with them about how healing prayer is a part of Christ’s help and I will pray with them, and they almost always have a sense that the Lord is there, blessing them, and that something good is happening inside of them.”
At the end of the session, he tells them that he has no power of himself but he is asking Christ to use his prayer and the touch of his hands on their head to be a conduit of his healing love. He also encourages them to spend five or ten minutes every day to talk to the Lord about their hurt and ask him to pour his healing power more deeply into them.
The retreat, which is on DVD, is based on six talks, followed by six healing prayer exercises, a period of music and opportunities for individual prayer.
“This retreat is part of the answer to the wounded Church,” he says. “Father Carew’s talks are inspiring for anyone. When people hear the talks, there is a sense that this is really medicine for a broken heart. The Lord works through him, and it is a healing balm for those who experienced abuse.”
(The “Disregarding the Shame, Reaching Out for the Joy” retreat will be held August 3 and August 10 from 9:30 am to 3:30 pm at the Oratory of the Little Way at 8 Oratory Lane in Gaylordsville, Conn. For more information, call 860. 354.8294.)