A Surprise Healing
A Surprise Healing of the Past Through Christ’s Church and Loving Acts of Service
By Fran Schaeffer
I grew up in a loving Catholic family as the oldest of five siblings and the only one who remained Catholic. It hasn’t always been an easy journey, but I am the better for the trials and tribulations along the way. Prince of Peace has been a significant part of my journey, nurturing my faith with each step so that I could be strong enough to face my past and to help me put my faith into action through loving service to others.
I joined POP when I moved to Cypress in 2001 and was very excited to be a part of a faith community that was warm and inviting. I had been a single parent for most of my son’s life. At the time, he was a 22-year old in recovery from drug addiction that began at age 15. For three years, we had been through a rigorous recovery program that included parental involvement, which allowed me to grow in my faith. When the chaos finally subsided, I was ready to be active in my parish and there were numerous opportunities to do that at POP.
My first opportunity was in the Worship Ministry as an EMHC and then as a Sacristan. I met others in the parish, felt more a part of the community, gained a deeper reverence for many parts of the Mass, and felt the presence of the Holy Spirit through my service. I loved the beautiful liturgies and inspiring, and sometimes challenging, homilies. One of the challenges issued was to pray on your knees every night. I have done that ever since and feel the closest to Christ at these times.
In 2004, to deepen my faith and connect more with the parish community, I decided to go on an ACTS retreat. Since registration was full and I didn’t want to wait another year, I found an ecumenical Catholic-sponsored retreat called the Journey to Damascus (JTD). What I experienced on that weekend inspired me to learn my faith more fully from the ground up, which I began by teaching three-year olds on Sundays at POP. I loved the children and what we were learning—simply that God loves us. But after three years, my duties changed at my job and I wasn’t able to teach on Sunday mornings any longer.
Since I loved teaching and the youth, I went on to teach 9th grade Faith Formation on Sunday evenings with the Youth Evangelization Ministry (YEM) for about three more years. What I experienced was a love for the students while learning and understanding my faith at a higher level in a systematic, easy-to-understand format. Since that program ended, I have been volunteering at Connect as a group leader for 10th graders. The group discussions about understanding and putting your faith into action in today’s world challenge me even more in my own quest to follow the Gospel and see Christ in everyone I meet.
Growing in my faith through involvement with the many opportunities at POP has led me to go deeper. I now read more about the faith, listen to Catholic radio, watch EWTN, attend presentations at POP and completed the Formation Toward Christian Ministry classes through the Archdiocese. I also finally went on an ACTS retreat. And, by attending Women in the Spirit (WITS) retreats, I began seeing a Spiritual Director regularly, which has encouraged me to go to confession more often. The Arise small groups faith sharing program was also instrumental, which had a strengthening effect and gave me a renewed desire to share more with others.
Speaking of sharing more, the next part of my journey demonstrates just how important this level of involvement at POP became for me in healing my past. I became strong enough and deeply rooted in my faith in such a way that I was able to embrace and reveal a walled-off secret and go through a healing process.
This healing began in 2010 when I was asked to give a talk on a JTD retreat. The topic was “Piety.” The talks always contain your faith journey and life story as it relates to the topic. In this talk, I finally spoke of the abortion I had over 40 years earlier, which only three people had known about. It was liberating to not have this deep dark secret anymore and I thought that was the end of it. But, then, a good friend mentioned going on a Rachel’s Vineyard (RV) retreat for healing. I didn’t think I needed it, but I went anyway thinking it couldn’t hurt.
To my surprise, that weekend was the most profound experience I have ever had. I didn’t realize that there was so much healing that I needed, and that so much was locked away that I needed to face. I came to know my unborn baby and grieve for him and ask his forgiveness and to know God’s mercy. It wasn’t just a procedure or a blob of tissue. It was a baby, my baby. I continue this healing today by teaming on RV weekend retreats, helping other women and men who have had a part in abortion to go through their own healing process.
Not long after coming to terms with my abortion, I saw a notice in the bulletin for attending a 40 Days for Life prayer vigil sponsored by the POP Mercy Ministry. I went on the bus from POP with a handful of others from the parish to pray outside the biggest Planned Parenthood (PP) abortion center in the Southwest, to stand for the lives of the babies being sacrificed in there, and for the healing and conversion of the mothers and others involved.
I became very drawn to the 40 Days for Life campaigns offered twice a year at the same time all over the world, and through that experience I felt called to join the Mercy Center’s Pro-life Ministry team this past fall. I am happy to say that, in April, we filled three buses of prayer warriors and met many others from POP at the same Planned Parenthood for another 40 Days for Life campaign.
I continue to heal, grow in my faith, and live it out through the many ways that POP ministers to the parish. I recommend POP to family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers as a place to grow closer to God and encounter Jesus, to get their questions answered and their spiritual journey on track by sharing how these things have happened for me at the parish.
POP has provided continued support in my faith journey and helped me to become more of a part of the parish community. I continue to be inspired by the homilies, nurtured by involvement in the various ministries, and enriched by the many opportunities to serve, attend presentations, and participate in programs. Experiencing all that POP has offered to me now and in the past has helped me grow closer to God, allowed me to understand and practice my faith more fully, and be able to share the Gospel more fervently and frequently.