Healing ministry distributes St. Raphael oil, a sacramental

This article was originally published at Catholic Free Press

  • Healing ministry distributes St. Raphael oil, a sacramental

    July 8, 2022
    By Christina Galeone
    CFP Correspondent

    Many people might dismiss the future of an alcohol-addicted, divorced, depressed dad of five as hopeless. But amazing things can blossom with a little faith.

    Not only did Joseph F. Whalen return to the faith and overcome his roughly 40-year-long addiction to alcohol through faith and Alcoholics Anonymous, but he was also ordained a La Salette Catholic priest at age 66 and spread healing and hope globally through the ministry he founded.
    Father Whalen retired in 2014 and passed away in 2016 at age 93. Today, the Archangel St. Raphael Holy Healing Ministry continues to flourish in 110 countries. The ministry is headquartered in Grafton.   
    On its website, straphaeloil.com, the healing ministry describes itself as a “charitable apostolate dedicated to serving Jesus Christ through spreading his message of love, forgiveness and healing to all people. It is important to acknowledge that all of this comes from the blessings and graces of our dear Lord, Savior and Creator, Jesus Christ. It is through the graces poured out on all of us by Jesus and Mary through the powerful intercession of the Archangel St. Raphael that we are able to offer our services.”
    The ministry makes bottles of St. Raphael oil, a sacramental, and distributes them with prayers for the intercession of Mary and St. Raphael. Although the oil is never sold, donations are accepted.
    Every couple of years, on a holy day, 50-100 volunteers gather at the ministry headquarters in Grafton to prepare the oil and offer prayers. Crushed rose petals from church altars, convents and monasteries and extra virgin olive oil are combined to make the oil. The day-long event generally also includes confessions, Mass, a recitation of the Book of Tobit, the book of the Bible that features St. Raphael the Archangel, a blessing of the oil by a Catholic priest and a healing service.
    “God does the healing,” Mary Ann Wichmann, the administrator, coordinator and co-director of the ministry, assured. “But he uses the oil as a healing mechanism through the intercession of St. Raphael the Archangel.”
    Mrs. Wichmann wouldn’t have dreamed that she would be a key person in a healing ministry. But after being a lapsed Catholic in young adulthood, the Vermont interior designer had her faith reignited after a cancer scare in 1998 led her to an encounter with a picture of Our Lady of Medjugorje that emitted oil at Little Audrey Santo’s Worcester home, a place where many similar unexplained phenomena have occurred.
    Then, in 2001, she met Father Whalen when he blessed her hospitalized brother during his recovery from a serious illness.      
    “He was over his head with everything else he was doing,” Mrs. Wichmann said of the priest who had founded the ministry not long after being ordained. “We started working together immediately.”            
    That work included arranging and traveling to healing services with Father Whalen and Father John E. Welch, another healing priest. The services sometimes drew more than 1,000 people, and the priests heard confessions and prayed over each person who needed healing.     Mrs. Wichmann was in awe of how jovial, energetic and attentive Father Whalen was at the services.
    “He was an amazing human being,” she said.
    Since Father Whalen died, Mrs. Wichmann has been running the ministry along with Raymond and Marguerite Baril, of North Grafton.
    “He brought us all together,” she said, referring to God. “Pardon the pun, but we’re like a well-oiled machine.”
    Mr. and Mrs. Baril joined the ministry in 2007 after Mr. Baril – while in a medically induced coma due to a lung condition – was anointed with the oil by his wife. Mrs. Baril had received the oil from a former nun who attended the couple’s monthly rosary group.
    After making several trips to Medjugorje, Mr. Baril developed a devotion to Mary. He said he had unforgettable dreams while hospitalized. One featured Mary walking with a basket of olive branches, and she told Mr. Baril that she was there to bring peace.
    But it was another that had an even greater impact on him.
    “I went over to the other side, and I was being held by the Blessed Mother,” Mr. Baril said, noting that she gave him the chance to go with her to heaven or “go back and bring souls back to her son.” He added, “The feeling of love was in your entire being. I think the body can’t handle it. The soul can handle it.”  
    Later that year, after travelling to Medjugorje again, the couple decided to learn more about the mysterious oil. Since the ministry had grown tremendously, the couple offered the use of part of their business property, Temp-Flex in South Grafton, for healing services, and they became co-directors. Along with 12 dedicated volunteers, they store, process and ship bottles of oil and the accompanying resources.  
    The growing ministry has shipped orders to every U.S. state in addition to 109 countries. It also has distributors in Ireland, France and Australia. About 3,000 to 4,000 bottles are shipped each month.
    “We pray for all the people,” Mrs. Baril said. “Our work is a labor of love.”    
    The volunteers who process the orders enjoy the work. Mrs. Baril’s sister, Jeanne Ducasse, is one of them.
    “It gives them a lot of hope,” she said of the people who receive the oil. She added, “I’m so thankful to be able to do it.”
    Thanks to Catholic priests who hold healing services using the oil, even more people benefit from the ministry.
    Father Laurence V. Brault, the pastor at St. Gabriel the Archangel Parish in Upton, recently returned to holding a regular healing service, Mass and confession, at 7 p.m. on the second Thursday of every month. (July 14 is the next service.) Father Brault stresses that the oil being used is a sacramental and should not be mistaken as a substitute for the sacrament of the anointing of the sick.
    Father Brault said that he was approached by the ministry in 2011 and asked if it could hold healing services at his parish.
    “In the construction of the church, I had received several signs indicating that the new church would be a place of healing, and so I was filled with much joy when this request was made and immediately welcomed the ministry into the parish,” Father Brault said, and “found that these healing services revealed a great powerful spiritual grace for those coming.”
    After Father Whalen died, Father Brault was asked to consider conducting the services. After much prayer and discernment, he agreed.
    “These services offer a prayerful and spiritual opportunity to experience God’s healing presence and power and have become meaningful for those who come,” Father Brault said. “We also indicate that the healing that is prayed for is … for not only physical illness but also spiritual, emotional, and psychological illness.”
    Father Brault noted that several people “credit the prayer and anointing as the reason for the maintenance of their health … as well as the spiritual comfort they have received and the hope that has been regenerated for them. For these reasons, conducting these healing services has become an important part of the parish’s schedule of ministerial activity.”    
    As the ministry continues to thrive, its leaders hope that it continues to not only heal, but to bring people to God.
    “As long as the ministry keeps growing, it’s what God the Father wants,” Mrs. Wichmann said. “Whatever he wants, that’s what we’ll do.”

    The St. Raphael oil can be ordered on the ministry’s website, by calling 802-343-0573 or by mail at: ASRHHM, po Box 234, South Grafton, MA 01560.