Thirty-six years ago, Diane Ferrell was a young mother in her early 20s with a 16-month old toddler.
The family lived in Orlando and with an abundance of water around, Ferrell taught her son to swim when he was 6 months old and he took to the water like a fish.
One day, Ferrell's son and another boy were swimming and playing in a nearby lake, which Ferrell discovered later was contaminated with bacteria that got into the boys' eyes, mouths and ears.
Both boys contracted spinal meningitis and their temperatures soared to 105 degrees. The other boy died and Ferrell's son slipped into a coma. She called a local priest in to give her son last rites.
Ferrell will never forget that day when Father Albert MacPherson arrived, surveyed the situation, and asked the family to leave the room.
The priest anointed the feverish child with oil, laid his hands on him, and prayed for God's mercy and healing and that he would be spared.
"Within seconds, my son sat up and started yanking off all the probes hooked up to him," recalled Ferrell. "They told us he would be brain damaged."
Not only was the boy's fever gone, no signs of the illness lingered. Today, he is a lieutenant colonel in the Army and has four children of his own.
"He is the epitome of health," said Ferrell.
Ferrell hasn't seen Father MacPherson since that fateful day, but she will see him this weekend when he comes to St. Rita Catholic Church to lead a three-day healing ministry.
MacPherson is now part of the St. Augustine Order of priests and for the past 36 years has traveled the world and visited 34 countries leading healing ministries. He is coming to St. Rita for Advent at the request of Ferrell and will lead a healing ministry Dec. 3-6.
"What happened that day changed my life. It was a miracle that my son's life was spared," said Ferrell.
Father MacPherson told The Sun he remembers the day, but not all the details.
"I found out I was gifted by people responding when I prayed over them, and them telling me that they were healed," he said. "Jesus is the healer. We just pray."
While the priest said that Ferrell's story is a very inspiring witness, he said there are thousands of others, such as the day his father fell on ice and suffered two breaks in his leg.
"I prayed with him over the phone at the hospital and he said he knew immediately that he was healed. He got up and went to the bathroom and when the nurses came back in the room, he was packing to go home," the priest said.
Everyone is invited to the healing mission to be anointed and to pray for healing of body, mind, or spirit for yourself or intercession for someone else.
"Jesus said, 'ask and you shall receive,' so we can trust that God will answer our sincere prayers either the way we ask or in a much more wonderful way," said Father MacPherson. "I think that God answers everyone's prayers one way or the other. He said 'My ways aren't your ways.' It's up to the Lord."
Those who come are encouraged to attend each session as the progression of the mission is prayer and supplication on Sunday, prayer and reconciliation on Monday, prayer and healing on Tuesday and Wednesday.
A mission collection will be taken on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday for the support of the Augustine Healing Ministry.
MacPherson was born in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia in 1941 into a family of 13 children. He joined the Order of Saint Augustine in 1962 and was ordained into the priesthood in 1974. He completed undergraduate studies at Saint Francis Xavier University, Nova Scotia and Villanova University before pursuing graduate theological studies at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.
He spent 10 years leading parishes in Ontario, New York, and Florida before beginning a full-time healing ministry in 1983. He is a member of the Association of Christian Therapists.
Father MacPherson will preach at all of St. Rita's weekend masses Dec. 2-3.
On Sunday, Dec. 3 at 3 p.m. will be the Exposition of Blessed Sacrament. At 6:15 p.m. will be the Advent meal after 5 p.m. Mass. At 7 p.m. will be a healing prayer.
Monday, Dec. 4 at 7 p.m., will be the Holy Mass and Penance Service.
Tuesday, Dec. 5 at 7 p.m. will be the Holy Mass and Healing Service.
Wednesday, Dec. 6 at 7 p.m. will be the final Holy Mass and Healing Service.