The History of the St. Joseph’s Prayer Center

To begin, it is important to mention the Society of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which came about in the late 1990’s. Fr. James J. Wheeler, S.J., met with a triad of Prayer Center Directors, Sr. Dymphna Murray, R.S.M., New York; Mrs. Maria Esther Barnetche, Mexico and Mrs. Ginny Antaya, Texas. Through their prayer and discernment the idea of developing a Society that would be an umbrella under which the present and future prayer centers would be formerly united, while keeping their individual names. The name for the society came from prayer and discernment from all the Directors. The Patron Saint of the Americas was chosen, Our Lady of Guadalupe. This was a formal acknowledgement of the place our Dear Mother held in the hearts of those ministering as well as the important part Our Blessed Lady played in inner healing, at all the centers.

IMG_0014During one of the annual meetings of all prayer center directors in Mexico City, they went to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe. There the lay directors made a vow to follow the vows of Poverty, Chastity and Charity. These vows were to be practiced in the context of each person’s calling along with the recital of a daily rosary. Directors brought back all teachings to their respective centers from these yearly meetings.

To continue with the History of St. Joseph Prayer Center, it was in the end of the 1960’s and the beginning of 1970’s that Father James J. Wheeler S.J. and Sister Mary Dymphna Murray, R.S.M. following a Charismatic prayer experience, felt called to begin a Ministry of Healing Prayer and Spiritual Direction. This ministry was and still is a need for the laity involved in the · Charismatic Renewal Movement within the church.

Father and Sister’s ministry was first offered at Mercy Center in Rockville Center, N.Y. Soon with an increase of people seeking to be ministered to, more space was needed. St. Joseph Church, Kings Park, N.Y. had an unused convent that Pastor McCormick invited Sister .and Father to rent. During their time at St Joseph the formal name for the center was established as,

Father Wheeler“St. Joseph Prayer Center.” Fr. Jim and Sr. Dymphna resided at the Center, in order to be available for their very active ministry. In time, four more Sisters, each from different orders, came to the Center to pray and learn the ministry and eventually became ministers as well.

In addition to individual ministry there were:

Healing Masses: Many physical and inner healings occurred.

Couples’ Group and a women’s group was developed for those who had been ministered to individually. These folks had the desire to continue on with their Spiritual Journey, at the center, and form a community. Each group met once a month and began with a shared meal followed by praying a scripture, then breaking into a smaller group where they could minister to each other. Individual daily prayer was required along with having a Hermit Day once a month at the center. Each meeting ended with celebration of the Eucharist. Fr. Jim and Sr. Dymphna led both groups.

The Truth Will Set You Free: A series of video talks with a work book, given by Father Matthew Linn, S.J. and Father Dennis Linn, S.J. This was offered as a prelude to inner healing and possible entry into school.

School of Inner Healing and Spiritual Growth: In February of 1978, the school was offered for the first time. Many of the folks coming for ministry were hungry for a deeper Spirituality and had a desire to become more conscious of their inner wounds and have a closer walk with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This school was developed by Fr. Jim with the support and organization of Sr. Dymphna. The program taught different types of prayer, encouraged Hermit Days, daily mass and offered abundant scriptures to enable inner healing. A spiritual director or guide, of the participant’s choice, was required along with attending the follow up sessions in a smaller group meeting. The school was 2 years in duration and entailed a serious commitment for those attending and still does.

Sr. DymphnaSister Dymphna in an interview with The Long Island Catholic, in March of 1979, when asked about the response to the School for Inner Healing being offered stated, “Response to the school was a movement within the church led by the Holy Spirit.” Sister also commented that, at St Joseph Prayer Center, “There were 19 lay men and women ministering and 12 people who answered the phone and prayed with those needing prayer.”

The School for Spiritual Direction: In the summer of 1979, Fr. Jim received an invite from the Board of Charismatic Renewal in Albuquerque, New Mexico. They had heard of the School of Inner Healing and Spiritual Growth and requested that Father bring the school to them. Additionally, they wanted Father to teach them how to pray for inner healing and give spiritual direction. Because of this request, the School for Spiritual Direction came about, to specifically train those called to this ministry. This also was a 2 year school. Guest religious and professional speakers taught along with Father Jim and Sister Dymphna. Daily mass was required along with daily prayer, hermit days and having a spiritual director for the journey. There were lists of books to read, materials to study and the last semester of the school was directed to a clinical hands on experience at the center.

The fruit from these schools brought about the opening of other prayer centers in various parts of the world. They are now in Austin, Texas; Manor, Texas; Las Cruces, New Mexico, Zapopan, Jalisco, Mexico; Olivar de los Padres, Mexico; Puebla, Mexico; Chihuahua, Mexico; Barcelona, Spain; Heredia, Costa Rica; and Queretaro, Mexico.

Co-Dependence was a series of weekend workshops open to all. The ministers as well as those receiving inner healing ministry attended.

There were ongoing days of reflection, retreats, and groups meeting at the center to pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy and the Divine Will.

Ancestral Healing Masses were offered and a Liturgy for Children. In fact, all the activities at the center ended in Eucharistic Celebration.

While Fr. Jim was in Albuquerque, New Mexico, as stated above, he had arranged for Father Richard Rozette S.J., to stay at the center filling the vacancy of a needed priest. Fr. Rozette was a wonderful presence at St. Joseph Prayer Center. Sadly, after a few years, Fr. Dick passed away. He was greatly missed.

Fr. Jim returned to the center and he and Sr. Dymphna prayed about having an assistant for Sister Dymphna. Both agreed on inviting one of the lay ministers at the center, Suzanne Reilly. Mrs. Reilly and her husband attended the schools, led the Couples Group while Fr. Jim was away and their 8 children enjoyed the Children’s Liturgy. The Reilly’s first encounter at St. Joseph was in 1973 when they had gone to receive inner healing. Additionally, Father and Sister were notified during this same time period, the Convent at St. Joseph Church was needed for parish activities.

Father Wheeler 001Within a month Father and Sister found another convent available to rent. St. Joseph Prayer Center was invited by Pastor Fr. Bruce Powers to rent the unused convent at St. Elizabeth of Hungry Church, Wolf Hill Rd. Melville, New York. Pastor, Father Powers, agreed to rent the building to St. Joseph Prayer Center. Before we could move, Sister Dymphna fell and injured herself and went to recuperate in Brooklyn, New York at the Sisters of Mercy Mother House. After the move Sister returned to St. Joseph Prayer Center at Wolf Hill. After almost 2 years Sister needed additional surgery and returned to live at the Mother House in Brooklyn. Sr. offered her availability to continue to pray with others, as well as giving her support to Mrs. Reilly. Sister Mary Dymphna Murray, R.S.M., has gone to her rest. Sister Mary Dymphna Murray, RSM, was the Spiritual Mother of St. Joseph Prayer Center. Her teachings and prayers will be remembered.

Once again we were told we had to move because the convent was needed for parish use at St. Elizabeth Church. All furniture, books, tapes, papers etc. were placed in storage. The Director, Mrs. Reilly and her Assistant Grace Ianuzzi and Core group of the center continued to meet and pray for discernment. The School for Inner Healing was in its second year when the Pastor of St. Francis of Assisi in Greenlawn, Long Island, New York, invited the school to finish the second year there. Healing Masses were offered at Greenlawn as well.

Nine months had passed and Fr. Jim came to us one day to inform us about an anonymous donor that was offering a large sum of money to purchase a place for St. Joseph Prayer Center. The director and assistant found a house at 312 Maple Ave., Patchogue, N.Y. where the center is currently located. There were many dedicated ministers and friends who helped not only in the move but also worked diligently in attaining a non-profit status for St. Joseph Prayer Center and establishing the Center as a Corporation. A Board of Directors had been established. Fr. James J. Wheeler, S.J. was President; Mrs. Grace Ianuzzi, Vice President and Sister Mary Dymphna Murray R.S.M. were Secretary.

When Mrs. Reilly moved out of state in 2001, Mrs. Ruth Lescowicz took over the position of Director along with Mrs. Grace Ianuzzi. After a couple of years she was followed Craig Nurenberg , succeeded by Mrs. Louise Kramer.  The current Director of St Joseph Pray Center is Mrs. Linda Dudley .  The Board of Directors are : President, Mrs. Louise Kramer , Secretary, Mrs. Rosemarie Fava, Trustees, Mrs. Marty McIndoe, Mrs. Carolyn Felten, Mrs. Toni Homerick, Treasurer , Ms. Diana Lescowicz

Pope Francis said “The Charismatic Renewal within the church is likened to a field hospital.” The prayer centers might be thought of as a part of the Triage Unit within that hospital. The fruit of the centers is bringing all participants into a deeper consciousness of who the Father has created each of us to be.