Rwandan priest leads Masses for Healing

GREEN BAY — A full house welcomed Fr. Ubald Rugirangoga to St. Bernard Church March 28 at a Mass for Healing. Fr. Ubald, a priest from the Diocese of Cyangugu, Rwanda, was joined by Bishop David Ricken and several diocesan priests to celebrate Mass and offer a healing service.

Fr. Mark Vander Steeg, pastor of St. Bernard Parish in Green Bay, carries a monstrance holding the Blessed Sacrament while he and Fr. Ubald Rugirangoga walk around the church during a healing service March 28. (Sam Lucero | The Compass)

The Mass for Healing was one of five held the last week of March at five churches in the Diocese of Green Bay. In addition to the healing services in Manitowoc, Antigo, Green Bay, Oshkosh and Neenah, a screening of the documentary, “Forgiveness: The Secret of Peace,” was held the evening before each Mass. The film shared the life and work of Fr. Ubald as a Catholic priest in Rwanda.

Fr. Ubald was invited by Bishop Ricken to offer the healing services around the diocese.

“I’ve noticed in the last two or three years, every place I go for Masses, for confirmations in the parishes, people tell me they are having so many health struggles, family problems, etc.,” Bishop Ricken told The Compass following the Mass and healing service.

He also said parishioners send him their prayer requests as part of his outreach during the Bishop’s Appeal. “The stories I read are just heart-wrenching,” he said. “So I thought, ‘We have to start praying with people.’ I knew Fr. Ubald is so good at this, so I invited him to come.”

Bishop Ricken said he was introduced to Fr. Ubald while serving as bishop of Cheyenne, Wyo. In addition, the priest celebrates healing Masses occasionally at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help.

People of all ages attended the Mass and healing service at St. Bernard, including young families, young adults and elderly couples. Joining Bishop Ricken and Fr. Ubald were Fr. Mark Vander Steeg, pastor of St. Bernard Parish; Fr. Luke Ferris, diocesan vicar for clergy and pastoral leaders; Fr. Thomas Farrell, pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Shawano; and Deacon Bernie Terrien of St. Bernard Parish.

Bishop David Ricken welcomes Catholics to a Mass of Healing at St. Bernard Church in Green Bay March 28. Five Masses were held at different churches around the diocese during the last week of March. (Sam Lucero | The Compass)

During his homily, Fr. Ubald reflected on the Scripture readings for the Mass and described how healings were part of Jesus’ ministry. He also explained how healing, whether spiritual, emotional or physical, can only happen through several steps. These steps include faith, forgiveness, renouncing evil, choosing to change and receiving a blessing.

Fr. Ubald said giving gratitude to God for his blessings is the first step in healing. He encouraged everyone to consider how their lives have been blessed.

Reflecting on forgiveness, Fr. Ubald shared his personal story of forgiveness following the Rwandan genocide that led to the killings of family members, close friends and his parishioners. He escaped Rwanda on foot and eventually fled to France. While there, he said he had a conversion experience at the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes that led him to forgive.

“So many families are destroyed because of unforgiveness,” he said. “Forgiveness is a gift. Sometimes we say, ‘I will forgive, but he is not sorry. He is never sorry.’ Never mind, forgive. It is a gift. Forgive and pray. We have to forgive under any condition.”

Fr. Ubald said he personally forgave the man who murdered his mother in 1994. “And when his children were without anybody to take care of them, because his wife died when he was in jail, I made the decision to adopt them, to take care of them,” he said.

Fr. Ubald paid for schooling for the boy and girl. Today the young man is a construction worker and the young woman is set to graduate from medical school. “I praise God I have had no experience of hatred or revenge,” he said. “I have forgiven and I have been merciful.”

His message to the congregation: “Try to remember, everyone who has made wrong to you. Make the decision to forgive. Make the decision to go and ask for forgiveness with humility.”

Fr. Ubald explained that identifying and renouncing evil is necessary for healing. A sheet distributed offered a long list of sinful thoughts and behaviors — such as pride, anger, fear, control, addictions – to assist in the process.

“There are different kinds of evil spirits and Jesus has the authority over evil spirits,” said Fr. Ubald. “We have to free ourselves from evil spirits. If you cry to Jesus, ‘In the name of Jesus, evil spirit of drugs, I chase you.’ He (the evil spirit) must obey,” said Fr. Ubald. “This evening, we shall chase the evil spirit of depression. It will obey Jesus.”

Following Communion, a consecrated host was placed in a monstrance by Deacon Terrian and Bishop Ricken then led the congregation in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. With the assistance Fr. Vander Steeg, who carried the monstrance, Fr. Ubald walked up and down the church aisles, praying silently as people kneeled before the Blessed Sacrament.

The evening concluded with benediction and Fr. Ubald describing what maladies he believed were healed through the Holy Spirit. People in attendance were invited to the sanctuary to share their healing experiences.

Following the service, Fr. Ubald told The Compass that he was encouraged with the response at the healing services. “I see that people are more open” to healing, he said. “At the beginning, they didn’t seem to claim (healings) so easily, but now they become more and more open to claim.”