Conventual Franciscan Father Brennan Joseph Farleo drew from his own family experience with addiction as he shared how faith can move mountains for those in crisis as well as their families.

Father Farleo, guardian in residence in St. Peter Parish, Point Pleasant Beach, explained that his own brother, Joseph, had become addicted to opioids when suffering intense back pain after an accident and subsequent surgery that left him paralyzed.

Deeply religious Charismatic family members urged his brother to turn to prayer and healing services, which led to him overcoming his addiction.

“He spent the rest of his life praising the Lord,” Father Farleo said, explaining that his brother died six years ago from cancer. “I can’t say it loud enough or strong enough. God loves you – don’t be afraid to come out of the dark and into the light.”

Love and Compassion

More than 100 people of all generations were in attendance Aug. 18 as Father Farleo led a healing prayer service in the church for those suffering from addictions and their families.

Hosted by the parish and the Secular Franciscans of St. Maximilian Kolbe, the service was timed to coincide with the Aug. 14 Feast of St. Maximilian Kolbe, patron saint of those suffering from addiction. The Franciscan friar offered his life in place of a prisoner in the Auschwitz concentration camp.

Throughout the service, the faithful joining in intercessory prayer, sacred song, reflection, the laying on of hands and the opportunity to pray with and be blessed by a relic of St. Maximilian Kolbe.

During the service, Father Farleo stressed that fear of revealing an addiction doesn’t have to keep those suffering from seeking help. “What Jesus Christ is telling you today is, ‘Don’t be afraid to open the door. Don’t be afraid to stop wallowing in emptiness and guilt, and realize how much God loves you and that his mercy knows no bounds,’” he said.

For those who wonder how God could love them through addiction, “Jesus Christ looks at you and says, ‘I love you right where you are. I want you to come here and feel the warmth of my Sacred Heart,’” Father Farleo continued. “None of us is worthy of the love of God, but because of his compassion, we should open the door and say to him, ‘Come in.’”

He urged everyone to make the most of each day and all the seconds in it – 86,400 to be precise. “Use them well. Walk toward Jesus. Know that he will help you.”

Reaching Out

Father Farleo’s words echoed those of Tracy M., who shared her own experience with alcoholism and the role prayer and parish community support played in her battle to overcome the addiction. A conversion experience during a trip to Rome called her to the Church, she said. “I was on fire” for the Church, she shared, but she remained an alcoholic.

A growing sense of misery coupled with her involvement in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults made her realize that “God had other plans [for me.]”

“God said it’s time to give up your addiction,” she said. “I went to rehab every day, prayed the Rosary on my knees and struggled to change everything. I threw myself into faith.”

The Church family she found at the parish and her own family helped her overcome her addiction. “I prayed every day, became active in AA … I reach my hand out [now] and do as much as I can” to help others, she said.

Dorothy O’Reilly, fraternity minister/president, explained that the service, a first for the parish, was scheduled to memorialize St. Maximilian Kolbe, for whom the parish hall is named, and to address the realization that all addictions – drugs, alcohol, sex, eating disorders and others – call for support from the Church community.

“We just want to see people get healed and freed from bondage, and it can happen through the power of prayer,” said O’Reilly, who noted that the fraternity’s involvement in reaching out to those with addictions is ongoing.

Those looking for more information on the Secular Franciscans or where to seek help for addictions can call Dorothy O’Reilly at 732-575-7913. Help is also available through the NJ Chapter of Drug Free America, http://drugfreenj.org.