When my wife and I first received
Jesus into our hearts in 1976 we were
attending a Roman Catholic Church. It didn't take long for us to
get involved in the Catholic Charismatic movement and beyond. My
at the time was to help others to organize a prayer meeting and what is
'Charismatic Healing Masses'. The Charismatic Mass is led by one
the Charismatic Movement, and our favorite Charismatic priest was
Father George Koerber.
One day after Mass, Fr. George took
us out for coffee, and told us his
story. His story was that, at that time he was Catholic Chaplain
at St. Charles Hospital in Oregon, Ohio, just East of Toledo. But his
previous assignment had been as Catholic Chaplain at Mansfield
"Reformatory", a maximum security prison in Mansfield, Ohio. He
said that he got totally frustrated because nothing he said or did made
'a dent' in any of the inmates' problems. So in his frustration
he decided to leave
the priesthood, pack up his car and 'head west into the sunset'.
He confided that
decision with another priest, who said, 'If you are going West, how
you drop me off in South Bend, Indiana, this weekend because I have a
retreat to go to there.'
So Fr. George takes the other priest
to South Bend, and the other
priest drags Fr. George into the retreat because it is free food and
lodging for the weekend, and Fr. George is now unemployed. Fr.
George said that he had been on dozens of weekend retreats, and this
was the same format. Someone would give a talk about a spiritual
subject, there would be discussion and prayer time, and then another
talk. He said that this was the same as he had previously
experienced except that the last guy to give a talk about the Holy
Spirit was different! Fr. George said, "I could not tell you a
single word that this guy said, but I saw the love of God pouring out
of this man! So I went up to him after his talk and said, 'I
don't know what you have, but I need it, and the guys at Mansfield are
desperate for whatever it is.'"
The speaker, Fr. Francis, told Fr.
George, "Go to Staten Island Retreat
House a month from today, and you will find the answer." So Fr.
George went back to Mansfield Reformatory to spend the month until the
retreat, got his job back (because nobody else wanted that job), and
Staten Island, New York, for the next retreat. He said that the
retreat started in the chapel Friday evening at 7:00 as they all do,
and Fr. Francis greeted everyone. Then Fr. George said that it
like Fr. Francis was talking to his best buddy! Fr. Francis said,
"Well, Lord Jesus, we are all wounded in various ways, and You alone
our wounds, and are able to stretch forth Your hand to touch and heal
even the deepest
wound. So please touch everyone here and heal their deepest
Fr. George said that he just fell
apart. He wept and wept because
he and his mother had never connected emotionally. He thought
he was just a better son his mother would love him. But, when Fr.
Francis prayed that prayer, Jesus spoke to George and told George
that the real reason
why his mother did not have a heart connection with him was
was the sixth child and she had decided that five children was
enough. So when she found out that she was pregnant with him, all
of her disappointment was focused on him. It was not his fault
that he and his mother had never disconnected!
So George said that he wept and wept
until he ran out of tears.
Then he raised his head and looked around, and discovered that everyone
else had left the
chapel, and he was alone with God! Then he realized
that he was angry with God! He said angrily, "Lord, I am fifty
old. Why did You let me carry this wound in my heart for fifty
Then he said that Jesus, in an
audible voice, gently said, "George,
story of your life: Sixth child, went to school and graduated,
went to seminary and graduated, assistant pastor at Tiffin St. Mary's
church, and chaplain at Mansfield Reformatory." There was a short
pause, and then Jesus spoke conversationally again and said, "George,
you may have
noticed that I never got
mentioned in the story of your life."
George said that he was so
embarrassed that he thought about hiding in
shame from the Lord, but realized that there is no hiding place
from God. So he sheepishly replied,
"Lord, I noticed that too." In response the Lord graciously
asked, "Do you know why?" "No, why?" George replied.
Jesus then told him, "It is because you
have never been desperate for Me until now. You have wanted to
try every thing else, and I have let you try every thing else."
So George meekly said, "Lord, I am
desperate for You now, and so are
Mansfield Reformatory." So Fr. George returned to Mansfield
Reformatory after the retreat with hope in his heart for the first
time. Then he
laughed and said, "The first guy through the chaplain's door that next
Monday morning at 9:00 a.m. was Nick
"The Greek" Pirovolos -
tough guy, but walking
wounded like the rest of us. So I said, "Nick - I found the
answer. His name is Jesus. Get down on your knees and I
will pray for you."
Fr. George says that since that day
Nick has become chaplain's
and Nick says that more than six thousand men over the years have had
lives transformed by the Lord's healing touch at the Mansfield
Reformatory. Fr. George ends the story with a grin by saying,
'Personally I think it's about four thousand men, but no one argues
with Nick, even now that he's a good guy!"
THE REST OF THE STORY:
In 2009 my wife cut an obituary out
of the Toledo Blade and handed it
to me. Fr. George had passed away. The obituary mentioned
the fact that George was the sixth child of the family, that George had
been involved in the Catholic Charismatic movement, and that he got
mentioned in the book that Nick the Greek wrote about his ministry at
Mansfield Reformatory (http://www.insideoutministries.net/). See
Don't miss the addendum link below