Editor’s note: This series of articles looks at the many programs that are financially supported by the Diocesan Services Appeal in the Diocese of Palm Beach. Donations to the DSA stay local, financing 47 Catholic initiatives in our five counties. The funding protects the most vulnerable among us, from the unborn child to the elderly, provides food for those who are hungry, sustains our Catholic schools, supports seminarians preparing for the priesthood and much more. This installment in the series explores the Unbound Healing Prayer Ministry.
PALM BEACH GARDENS | Who couldn’t benefit from someone praying intensely for them to overcome past hurts and move on to a new life? Unbound Healing Prayer offers that to anyone who feels it would help them.
Unbound is a ministry in which a trained prayer team assists individuals in overcoming spiritual obstacles. The teams use five keys “to help access God’s grace and unlock the door to freedom,” according to the Diocese of Palm Beach’s website. The keys are repentance and faith, forgiveness, renunciation, authority and the Father’s blessing.
Unbound is not confession or therapy, though it can be therapeutic and remove a heavy burden from people, said Cathy Loh, director of the diocesan Office of Marriage, Family Life, Faith Formation and Youth Ministry, who is helping reignite Unbound after it was nearly extinguished during the pandemic.
“It’s very humbling to be in a ministry like this and have God work through you to bring that kind of healing to someone,” she said. “We often tell people, if something’s come up today that you haven’t taken to confession, if they’re Catholic, go and take it to confession and just get that sacramental seal, get those graces. Unbound ministry is not a replacement for that, but can serve as an examination of conscience on steroids.”
Along with many other programs initiated and operated by the diocese, Unbound is supported by donations to the annual Diocesan Services Appeal. The funds help pay for promotional brochures, books and other materials used to train prayer ministers.
“Oftentimes, we’re giving the books out,” she said. “We don’t charge for prayer. I also don’t charge for training, so the DSA money goes for the materials that a prayer minister needs to be trained.”
Loh said people who request prayer through Unbound may feel in a vague sense that something’s not right, but they don’t know what it is or how to address it. Reading the book helps prepare them for ministry by revealing those ways that they may feel stuck, she said.
“Priests often refer people to us,” Loh said. “What will happen is someone comes to confession and they’re confessing the same sin over and over again. They’re repenting. They fully intend not to do it again, but it’s a pattern of behavior. A lot of times it’s because they haven’t addressed what that entryway was or what the fundamental lie is that’s causing that behavior.”
The origin might be the result of something as simple as a “word curse,” she said. For instance, someone saying, “Oh, you have anger issues just like your father” or “You’ll never amount to anything.”
“It could be a throwaway comment that somebody didn’t really mean, but yet that person has received it, they take it in and it becomes a pattern for their life,” Loh said.
Unbound sessions are offered by prayer ministers at parishes from St. Helen in Vero Beach to Holy Name of Jesus in West Palm Beach. Prayer sessions are offered regularly on the fourth Saturday of the month and by special appointment at other times. Receiving soothing prayer through Unbound usually begins with a phone call to the Unbound prayer message center at 561-775-9524 to schedule an appointment, and a session is set up at a nearby parish.
Loh explained that a session usually takes about an hour, utilizing a prayer team of two: “a leader and an intercessor, who basically prays quietly, just asking the Holy Spirit to come and inform the whole session in the person leading and the person receiving.”
“They often will share things that they’ve never shared with anyone, so it’s very important to reassure them that it’s confidential. We seek to create a loving, nonthreatening environment for them where they feel listened to and understood,” she said.
The diocese is pleased that, thanks to a bilingual deacon and his wife, Unbound sessions will be soon available in Spanish. Training of additional prayer teams also will be offered in Spanish.
Loh, who partners with her husband, Deacon Les Loh, as a prayer team at St. Jude Parish in Tequesta, said many deacons and their wives participate in Unbound together.
“It’s a beautiful ministry, and I’m very excited that we’re expanding because there is a great need,” she said.
The Unbound page on the diocesan website contains real comments from people who have experienced the healing prayer ministry, such as:
“Participating in the Unbound experience was an opportunity to look closely at unrecognized stumbling blocks in my life, with the help of kind and caring people, and move past them,” said parishioner CR. “This program is a gift and leaves you feeling strong and confident in God’s love and protection.”
The generosity of Diocesan Services Appeal donors supports the Unbound Healing Prayer Ministry. The faithful’s participation in the appeal is a vital part of the Diocese of Palm Beach’s ability to provide this service. For more information about the Unbound Healing Prayer Ministry, visit www.diocesepb.org/ministriesoffices/ministries/marriage-family-life-faith-formation-youth-ministry/prayer-healing-resources/unbound-healing-prayer.html. To donate to the DSA, visit www.DiocesePB/DSA.