March 13, 2013 // Local

Deacon with healing ministry visits during 40 Days for Life

SOUTH BEND — Deacon Vince Ricciardi and five other people will bring their healing ministry to the brand-new Life Center on Ironwood Circle in South Bend March 19-21. Relics of St. Faustina, St. Padre Pio and Blessed Seelos will accompany the team.

Mass will be celebrated at 6:30 p.m. every evening, with a homily, sacramental anointing and prayers for healing. The sacrament of Reconciliation will also be available. The Chaplet of Divine Mercy will be prayed at 3 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday. These special events are part of the ongoing 40 Days for Life.

Based in New Jersey’s Divine Mercy center, Deacon Vince has traveled all over the world, including Belize, Italy, Portugal, Trinidad and Israel. His hope for the visit to South Bend is straightforward, that “whoever needs healing will come.”

A self-described “street kid” from Newark, N.J., Ricciardi grew up Italian Catholic, but first encountered the Lord in a powerful way when he was wounded in Vietnam. On May 28, 1968, his father’s birthday, he died on the table during field surgery and had an out-of-body experience, which enabled him later to recount the words of the doctors working on him. Told it wasn’t his time to die, he was sent back into his body, which remained in a coma for about a month. Meanwhile, his family had been notified he was killed in action, even though no body was recovered. When he telephoned in June, they thought they were hearing a ghost.

Back home, Ricciardi met and married Daisy, his wife of 44 years. He became one of the first extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist, though he had a hard time overcoming the nun-instilled fear of touching the host. His first outreach was a Cub Scout pack his eldest son wanted to join if a leader could be found. After Ricciardi volunteered, the pack grew from eight boys to 150, who all earned their religious medals (Parvuli Dei and Ad Altare Dei) under his tutelage. Those Cub Scouts still contact him from time to time.

When he bought a farm, Ricciardi moved from Scouting to 4-H and the Knights of Columbus. When a priest suggested he pray about becoming a deacon, he laughed. He got cold feet six months short of ordination and didn’t return to the program for 10 years, being ordained in 2005.

His spiritual director, Father Brendan Williams, introduced Ricciardi to the charismatic renewal and told him he’d have a ministry to the sick and dying. Ricciardi considered this improbable, but he was soon nursing his dying mother. At 2 a.m. one morning he woke up and told his wife she had breast cancer and needed to see a doctor right away.

“How did you know?” asked the doctor who discovered a very aggressive form of cancer that would have been fatal had it not been caught so early. “Did you feel a lump?”

Ricciardi shook his head. It was a word of knowledge from the Holy Spirit. This happens so often when he prays over someone for healing that the working title for the book being written about miracles of healing is “Deacon, How Do You Know?”

The first person he prayed over was a young girl with back pain. He told her that the family situation whose stress was causing the pain was about to improve. “Who told you about that?” she asked.

Deacon Ricciardi has experienced many miracles of healing, but he also treasures the times when he has been able to witness the miracle of a holy death. He talks about two preschool-age children from Florida, Bella and Anna, one healed of neuroblastoma, the other of leukemia. “Bella’s so filled with the Holy Spirit, she should be praying over me,” he claims.

Located next to the abortion clinic, the Life Center already houses Right to Life of St. Joseph County. It includes an Adoration Chapel and will soon provide adoption services. Healing prayer seems a fitting inauguration for its life-affirming work.

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