Story courtesy of the Franciscan Friars of the Holy Spirit

Incense filled St. John the Baptist Mission Church in Laveen like prayers lifting to Heaven. The congregation had just received Jesus in the Eucharist and belted out songs of praise to the Lord, but also songs of longing to be healed, putting their trust in the Divine Physician.

Everyone made their way to the front of the church where three Franciscan Friars of the Holy Spirit laid their hands on people’s heads, sending prayers of healing to Heaven. Those who’d already been prayed over raised their hands in praise while others wiped away stray tears. It was a moment of vulnerability, of individuals sharing with the Lord deep desires on their hearts for healing.

Healing Mass is a normal occurrence at St. John the Baptist, happening every last Tuesdayof the month. The Masses are hosted by the Franciscan Friars of the Holy Spirit who have been serving and living on the Gila River Reservation since 2016.

Lola Tashquinth was present at the most recent healing Mass that took place in October and has been attending monthly healing Masses ever since the friars were established. Tashquinth has lived on the Gila River Reservation her whole life and feels like the healing Masses are needed to give people hope in a community that faces the effects of depression, alcoholism, drugs and homelessness.

In the times that Tashquinth has been prayed over, she’s rested in the Holy Spirit and received the gift of speaking in tongues.

“Healing Mass is so beautiful. It’s peaceful,” Tashquinth said. “It’s hard for some people because they’re not used to letting themselves feel the Lord. You just have to let that joy, that peace build you up and, and you’ll get closer to the Lord. Just let yourself go.”

Through attending healing Masses and growing in her faith, Tashqunith has felt her love for the Lord growing and desires to share it with others, before it’s too late.

“After a while your lamp has no oil or or you have no mustard seed,” Tashqunith said. “I’ve been telling my kids and my friends, it’s not time to wait. We need the Lord now.”

Fr. Antony Tinker, community servant for the Franciscan Friars of the Holy Spirit, talked about the Lord’s grace in his homily at the most recent healing Mass on October 24th.

“We’re affected by the sins of others,” Fr. Tinker said. “We turn away from the sins of others, pretending they don’t affect us when in reality, our lives have been marred by the sins of other people.”

Another part of the reality of the world we live in is the grace of Jesus.

“Have we allowed the grace of the cross of Jesus Christ to affect us? For that is the remedy for the wounds that have marred the world and it is our responsibility to open ourselves up to [this] great grace.”

Fr. Tinker continued opening up individual’s hearts, preparing them for an encounter with Jesus later on in the night, helping people see His presence even in dark moments.

“Jesus Christ…is abundantly present in the worst situations of our lives. It’s a beautiful truth but it’s a hard truth. Oftentimes, when we think about the worst moments of our lives, the first question that comes to mind is, where were you, God?”

Fr. Tinker explained that in order to see the Lord present in these situations, we have to allow our mentality to shift. Instead of saying, “Where were you God?,” we begin to say, “Lord help me to see you present in these moments.”

“Brothers and sisters, when we look upon the cross we look upon a God who is there in the midst of sin and suffering. Will we open our hearts to that grace? He knocks on the door of our heart very very gently. He calls us to be ready to listen…whenever it might be.

“Put on a disposition that says God, I don’t know when you might come…but I need you. Come to me in silence and come to me in the suffering and come to me and the grief and the pain and come to me through it all Lord. Set me free from sin so that I can know your peace, your love and your mercy.”

Kerry Schafer has felt God’s peace at healing Masses. She was first invited by a friend in the fall of 2020 and now she invites friends to come with her.

“The world is broken. We’re all broken in some way,” Schafer said. “There’s a lot of grace received and being prayed over, the grace [is] very powerful.”

Most times that Schafer attends a healing Mass, she’s carrying the suffering of family members and loved ones. A lot of the time, she feels the burden lifted at a healing Mass.

“For me to ask for prayers…gives me peace. It puts me in a position of trusting God. I’m carrying this burden, and I can hand it over to Him.”

She encourages others to attend a healing Mass, even if they’re nervous. She said part of the healing happens even when it seems scary.

“Just being in that environment, you can feel the Holy Spirit. Just being in the church affects you.”

Like Schafer, VJ Byrne was also invited to a healing Mass by a friend. Seven years ago, Byrne had a friend whose son was suffering from cancer. Byrne and others from his men’s group piled into a car and headed to St. John the Baptist.

“We drove through the bad neighborhoods of South Phoenix and got [to the friary] and walked into this vibrant environment of worship.”

Byrne explained that before the Loop 202 was built, it felt like a pilgrimage to get to the friary. Not to mention that a Gila River community member shared with Bryne that where the church is built has been a place of healing for the tribe.

“It really became like a pilgrimage before the freeway was developed. Driving out there…you were intentionally transporting to a place of healing.”

Although now he is cancer free, the young man with cancer wasn’t healed at the Mass. That night of prayer affected Byrne and he continued attending the Masses.

Byrne knelt in prayer at another healing Mass when all of a sudden one of the friars tapped him on the shoulder and asked if he had back pain. Byrne had a herniated disc at the time. Byrne was surprised at the friar’s knowledge, told the friar that he did have back pain and then turned back around to pray.

The friar tapped him on the shoulder again and said, “The Lord wants to heal your back. Do you want to be healed?”

Byrne hadn’t come to be healed from his back pain yet he knew that the Lord had a different plan. He said yes and one of the Franciscan priests prayed over him.

“He starts praying for my back, and I’ve got my eyes closed. All of a sudden there’s this shift in my body. One [leg] was longer than the other and it just straightened out. Now they’re both the same length. From that point on my back was healed.”

Just like in the gospels, Byrne knew that it wasn’t just physical healing happening, there was a much deeper healing taking place in his heart.

“I walked in very broken and in many different ways. The Lord just provided. He knew what I needed healing for.”

Byrne knows that power of prayer and feels that everyone who attends a healing Mass is affected in some way.

“Healing is needed everywhere,” Byrne said. “What do you have to lose? Give an hour and go and see what happens.”

The last healing Mass of the year will be Tuesday, November 28th at 7 p.m. at St. John the Baptist Mission Church in Laveen. All are welcome to attend! To see the schedule for upcoming healing Masses, visit: