Ministry offers hope to families impacted by addiction

CARVER -- In the midst of their son's struggle with opiate addiction, Frank and Karen McWilliams tried out many self-help meetings and support groups, but they felt that those groups lacked the spiritual dimension they needed.

To fulfill this need, the McWilliamses began the Family Healing and Recovery Ministry in 2013 by holding meetings privately in a home. As they realized more people needed that kind of prayerful support, they changed their location to their home parish, Holy Ghost Church in Whitman, to be able to welcome more people.

The Family Healing and Recovery Ministry now holds three monthly gatherings -- alternating between Holy Ghost Church in Whitman, Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Carver, and St. Joseph the Worker Church in Hanson. The McWilliamses said about 20-50 people typically attend each gathering.

Speaking to The Pilot after a Feb. 15 service at Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Karen McWilliams said she did not want anyone who attended their meetings to feel obligated to share their experience, as might happen in other support groups. The Family Healing and Recovery Ministry, instead, provides opportunities for people impacted by addiction to pray with and for each other. If attendees want to speak, they can do so during the time of fellowship afterward.

"We're asking the Lord to strengthen those who are struggling with addiction, but also their family and all of us who are praying for them, that we are in this with them, and we are supporting each other," Father Joseph Raeke, the pastor of the collaborative parishes of Our Lady of Lourdes, St. Peter, and St. Kateri Tekakwitha, told The Pilot.

The Feb. 15 prayer service began with the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. Parish nurse Karen Wenger led the attendees in a prayer to St. Mark Ji Tianxiang, patron of those with drug addiction, followed by a healing rosary. The mysteries of this rosary focused on the Gospel accounts of Jesus' miraculous healings: the centurion's servant, the madman in the Capernaum synagogue, the paralyzed man, the man born blind, and the resurrection of Lazarus.

After the rosary, Frank McWilliams gave a brief talk about his son, Nicholas "Nick" McWilliams, whose struggle with addiction began when he was about 14. Nick McWilliams died on Feb. 27, 2019, at the age of 27.

About five months after Nick's death, a friend asked Frank McWilliams if he would like to work with men living in a sober house. He started doing this a few days a week, but he now works five days a week with men about the same age as Nick, attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings with them and helping them find healthy alternatives to their addictions.

"Their struggles aren't something that get resolved just like that, because relapse is a reality," Frank McWilliams said.

His talk was followed by a period of silent Eucharistic adoration, before the service closed with prayers and a hymn. Then, the approximately 20 attendees went into the parish hall to share food and fellowship.

Speaking to The Pilot after the prayer service, Father Raeke said he was "honored that we can have something so important in our parish."

"One of the most important things we can do in this day and age is to share hope, because so many people are struggling to hold on to that," he said.

Karen McWilliams said an increasing number of bereaved parents come to the meetings, which are "really about healing families" as they show families that they are not alone in their struggles and grief.

"We may not be able to stop this, but we can certainly give people hope by bringing them to this," she said.

More information about the Family Healing and Recovery Ministry can be found at