|The Universe, Sunday February 24, 2002|
The miracle life of healing Sister Briege
The life story of Sister Briege McKenna is a truly remarkable one. Warned by doctors that she would be confined to a wheelchair by rheumatoid arthritis, she was cured by a miracle. Now she uses her God-given healing powers to help others. By Michael Kelly
EVERYTHING is possible to God we say - Sister Briege McKenna knows that God can do the impossible. Some believe in the theory of miracles, Sr. Briege believes in the reality of miracles because she see them happen.
Sr. Briege has seen God intervene in the most remarkable ways since she was healed of crippling arthritis in 1970. Her own healing set her on a path that would take her to the ends of the earth - from huge rallies in Latin America to retreats in remote parts of Korea.
Briege McKenna was born in a remote part of Co. Armagh, Northern Ireland, on Pentecost Sunday in 1946.
Briege lost her mother when she was only 13. She remembers it well, "As I cried that night, I heard a voice say, 'don't worry, I'll take care of you'. The next morning I knew I wanted to be a nun," she says.
Briege went on to enter the Congregation of the Sisters of Saint Clare in her hometown. She remembers her first vows vividly, "As I knelt in the chapel, waiting to be called up, I saw Jesus dressed as the Good Shepherd coming to me to take my hand, saying 'come with me'."
Briege had several assignments in different convents, but was heartbroken in 1965 when she learned that she had developed rheumatoid arthritis. She went to Florida in 1967 but her condition gradually deteriorated, "I cried with the pain, the doctor said that there was no hope for me and that before long I would be confined to a wheelchair". Meanwhile Sr. Briege also began to experience immense spiritual pain and dryness. "I even began to ask myself whether I really believed in Jesus," she revealed.
What happened next began a remarkable chapter in the life of this extraordinary woman. Sr. Briege explains: "I attended a retreat in December 1970. I listened to talks on the power of prayer and the power of the Holy Spirit. During the retreat I remember looking at the clock as I closed my eyes. It was 9:15am, December 9, 1970. The only prayer I said was 'Jesus, please help me'. At that moment, I felt a hand touch my head, I opened my eyes and no one was there, but there was a power going through my body. I looked down. My fingers had been stiff, but not deformed like my feet. There had been sores on my elbows. I looked at myself. My fingers were limber, the sores were gone and I could see that my feet, in sandals, were no longer deformed. I jumped up screaming, 'Jesus! You're really here'."
Since that fateful day Sr. Briege has never had arthritis and carries out her ministry with a breathtaking energy and enthusiasm that would leave most people exhausted!
Doctors are baffled by her recover, but Sr. Briege needs no explanation. For her it is simply the power of the touch of the healing hand of God. Sr. Briege's miraculous recovery was just the beginning of a whole new life for her. Not only had she been healed herself, but she had also received the gift of healing, and a powerful gift of insight.
Sr. Briege was reluctant to take on a healing minsitry, in fact she put the idea completely out of her head-but the Lord will not take no for an answer. She explains: "I was at a prayer meeting, I wasn't going to talk about healing, but as I got up a lady jumped up and said, 'Excuse me, Sister, I want to say something. You have the gift of healing. You know about it, but you are more worried about the approval of people than you are about God's will'. I looked at her and said, 'I've never seen you in my life, who are you?'" The lady had been inspired by the Holy Spirit to reveal what was special about Sr. Briege.
Sr. Briege with Fr. Kevin Scallon, who she often works with
Sr. Briege eventually embraced her gifts and God is doing wonderful things through her. It would be easy to get proud with such gifts, but Sr. Briege keeps her feet firmly on the ground. "I don't do anything" she says modestly, "it's all the healing power of Jesus. He's simply chosen me as an instrument."
Everywhere Sr. Briege goes she is met by countless people in need of healing. God is blessing people in a very special way through her ministry. Sr. Briege maintains a gruelling schedule criss-crossing the globe bringing the power of Jesus to whomever she meets. She is as comfortable addressing an intimate gathering of bishops in Rome as she is addressing thousands of people in football stadiums in Latin America.
In her ministry, Sr. Briege has a special focus on priests. "Because the priesthood is under such severe attack, it needs, perhaps more than ever before, our encouragement and support," she says. A lot of Sr. Briege's work takes her to seminars and houses of formation for young men training to be priests. It is a ministry of comfort, a ministry of confirmation and a ministry of affirmation. Everywhere she goes is the same; one seminarian described her as "an inspiring signpost pointing to the Lord". Sr. Briege, while praying before the Blessed Sacrament had a vision about priesthood. "It was then that the Lord revealed to me that I couldn't just sit back and criticise the priesthood" she said.
"Actually, in the sacrament of Holy Orders, the priest says yes to God so he can be a priest for me, for you, for everyone of us."
"Jesus led me into what seemed to be a sequence of images appearing over the tabernacle. There I saw the ordination of a priest-through the Lord's eyes.""When we look at a tapestry hanging on a wall, we see only the finished results of the labour of the artist.
"We do not see all the labour and love that went into its making. However, on the reverse side, we see all the different threads and stitches and labour that went into the making of the beautiful work of art."
"So, too, when we look at a priest, we see the obvious strengths and weaknesses. But we do not see behind the scenes where the Lord has, with love and faithfulness, endowed the soul with a priestly vocation and guided him to ordination. I found myself weeping as I watched the unfolding of this powerful revelation of the priesthood and what it means to a man to be ordained. "I had a sense that everyone in Heaven - Mary, the angels and all of the saints - were praising God's faithfulness to humanity in his call to men in every age to give them the power to make him present among his people."
"Through this experience, I got a new understanding of the priesthood. I got a new love and a deep reverence for the sacrament of Holy Orders. I came to understand that priests were in need of great prayers, and great consolation." This started Sr. Briege on her mission to confirm priests in their vocation. "Too often priests get disheartened, they don't get enough support," she says. "Priests are human too, and weak, they need our constant help and support."
Sr. Briege McKenna is a remarkable woman; someone who puts Jesus first in her life, and her great gift is to bring others to Jesus.
As she says in her own words: "I am convinced that no one can do more than become a signpost that points to Him, to help others discover Him in their own hearts and permit Him to give them great blessings."
Sr. Briege truly is an outstanding witness to the power of Christ working in the modern world; God is doing great things for his people through her ministry.
Sunday, February 24, 2002
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