The Charismatic Prayer Group at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament will host its first Mass with Prayers and Blessings for Healing later this month.
It will be held at 7 p.m. Nov. 25 at the Cathedral.
Celebrating the Mass will be the Rev. William Kiel of the Greensburg Catholic Diocese. Kiel, a recently retired parish priest, has redirected his minister to serve at conferences, retreat or wherever he is called.
He said he has been leading healing services for 17 or 18 years, responding to requests along the East Coast including Tennessee, Florida, Maryland, Ohio and Vermont.
Kiel said it is the first time he has been invited to the Altoona-Johnstown Catholic Diocese. A former biology teacher at Greensburg-Salem High School, he was ordained a priest in 1993. He said about one and a half years after he was ordained, he was blessed by a priest.
"Afterward, I wanted to share blessings with other people and started blessing people," he said. "They received healings," he said.
"I didn't understand it at the time," he said. "It was truly a gift. I didn't know what was happening. I laid hands on people and prayed with people, and they shared about their healing."
"It is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the gift of healing," he said.
Kiel emphasized that people come to the services to receive a touch from God.
"It is not me who does the healing. It is God who does the healing," he said.
An Altoona resident who has been to the Masses and prayer services is Cathy Chirdon. She attended her first one about four years ago at St. Bernard ofClairvaux Roman Catholic Church in Indiana, where Kiel served as pastor until his retirement.
Chirdon said she had learned about the services from a friend whose mother had suffered from kidney cancer but was doing quite well.
Chirdon's granddaughter, Kiera, was diagnosed with an untreatable cancer at age 9. Chirdon said the cancer was one that would not respond to chemotherapy or radiation and was in an area near her tailbone that could not even be reached by surgery.
After receiving prayer at several healing Masses, the tumor shrunk, and surgeons were able to remove it, Chirdon said.
The next year, Kiera developed a lump in her chest wall, and doctors said they could not operate because of the way it was sitting on her ribs, Chirdon said. She said they made a trip to Medjugorje, Bosnia-Hercegovina, where it is believed that the Virgin Mary has appeared and given messages to the world, with Kiel and members of St. Bernard parish. When they returned, Chirdon said doctors gave Kiera radiation to ease the pain from her tumor.
Chirdon said the tumor seems to be gone, and Kiera has no more pain. She said doctors are amazed.
"It is not Father Kiel, it's God," she said.
Chirdon said when she went to the first service, she was a bit mystified when she saw people "resting in the Spirit" or who seemed to have fallen to the floor in a dreamlike state.
She said before she attended the Mass, she couldn't eat or sleep because of Kiera's serious condition.
"I couldn't think about losing her," she said.
Chirdon said when Kiel prayed for her, she felt a warmth radiate through her body and found herself "resting in the Spirit."
"It gave me a sense of peace," she said. "I could have stayed all night."
She said after that experience, she had peace.
Kiel said the most important aspect of the services is that people receive a spiritual healing, and he leads the people through an examination of conscience. He said prayers also are said for emotional and physical healings.
"Some people are not aware of their blessings until days or weeks later," he said. "Not all healings are in an instant."
Jim Roland of Altoona said he and his wife, Diane, heard Kiel speak about the Anointing of the Sick during a symposium at Mount Aloysius. He said his wife has been anointed several times during her battle with an aggressive lymphoma, including when it attacked her brain. He said after chemotherapy treatment, the cancer was gone from her brain, and he believes God gave the doctors wisdom in how to treat his wife's illness.
Kiel said at the Masses and prayer services, "the Holy Spirit is present and works in great ways. People feel the presence of the Holy Spirit, the peace of Christ and the love of God for them."