Throughout his 45 years in the priesthood, Father Richard DiGiulio has ministered as a doctor of sorts, diagnosing, treating and healing the souls of wounded people. Burning Bush House of Prayer is his practice. St. Lawrence Church in Buffalo serves as his hospital.
Father DiGiulio began taking part in healing Masses in 1973, while involved with charismatic prayer groups. A new movement at the time, Charismatic Renewal holds the belief that the scriptural Gifts of the Holy Spirit, such as prophecy and healing, are still present today.
Father DiGiulio became director of Charismatic Renewal for the diocese in 1997. He expanded that ministry three years ago with Burning Bush, a minstry of deliverance that guides people into the victory that Jesus died to give them.
"We established Burning Bush with the purpose of trying to help people with many particular problems and rehabilitate them, and to bring them into the life of the Church," he said.
Often, during a Healing Mass, people will approach him asking for further assistance. Burning Bush is like the examining room. Father DiGiulio and his team of around 25 people talk to the client to determine what course of action needs to be taken. Most of the problems are of a psychological nature. Some are physical or have to do with medical issues.
They met a client who had hallucinations due to prescription medications. The team advised him to consult his physician. Psychologists and registered nurses on the team help to identify those problems. Father Thomas Roman, Father Dennis Mancuso and a couple of deacons use their talents when the issue is of a spiritual nature.
"Usually the people who call us are not sure themselves, of what they need," Father DiGiulio said. "They just know they need help. They might find our number and realize we're in the business of trying to help people, so they'll call us."
Anthony Sheeda is associate director of the Burning Bush ministry. He said the initial interview the team does with people provides a certain direction.
"The initial interview we do helps us to uncover whether or not it is a psychiatric problem that requires counseling," Sheeda said. "And that we will do. We'll send him to Catholic Charities for counseling or we'll recommend them to link up with a good psychiatric practitioner.
"If we think it's a medical problem, our medical people are able to help us to diagnose that. We'll make sure to tell the person to see a doctor. If we definitely feel it is something of a dark nature, meaning a demonic thing, we can handle that with no problem at all. Father DiGuilio has given his life to do that."
Father DiGiulio serves as the official diocesan exorcist, and has performed, in his estimation, half a dozen exorcisms. "There are a few cases that really need exorcisms, but not too many," he said.
Once the treatment is planned, a team will be assembled, based on expertise, to minister to the person. People who need psychological help will be brought to the proper team from Catholic Charities.
"We'll work with that person until they are healed," Father DiGiuilio said. "We might have several sessions. We might have just one session. Whatever it takes to heal them, we will do that."
Father DiGiulio said there is no timetable when it comes to praying for someone. He tells people not to expect a fix overnight, because they have usually had the problem for a while and it will take a while to get back on their feet.
"I believe in taking time with people," Father DiGiulio said. "It's better that way, because if you do it too quickly and they get healed right away, the temptation is, they might revert right back to their old habits. Then all your work is going to go right out the window. But, if you take the time and give them the steps of things to do in the meantime to help themselves, then you eventually put in a new way of life, a new way of living, a new attitude; then the healing will take root and it would be permanent."
Father DiGiulio encourages all clients to have a relationship with the Lord and attend a church.
"A lot of them just need spiritual direction," he said. "I would discern that and give him direction. I have a lot of cases like that where I don't refer them to Burning Bush Ministry. I'll take care of them myself, because when people just need spiritual direction that should be a one-on-one."
"We never limit the power of the sacraments," said Sheeda. "The sacrament of reconciliation is so important. If that person has said to us they've done some things in the past that require the sacrament of reconciliation, we will tell them, 'You need to get to a priest right away.'"
About 25 people have come to the Burning Bush team in the past year. Father DiGiulio has seen people healed, but the person has to put in the effort to change.
"I've had people who come up to me and thought I could wave the magic wand and heal them," Father DiGiulio said. "I had to tell them to leave, that I'm not a magician. If you want to be helped you have to start by going back to the church, not necessarily Catholic, and they refuse to do it."
Father DiGiulio shared a story of how a man came in for prayer and wanted to be completely healed and go home.
"It doesn't work that way," Father DiGiulio said. "You have to do certain things on your own to become healed. You have got to stop doing the things you're doing. If they refuse to do that, I tell them I can't help them."
If a patient won't take the prescribed medicine, the patient will not get better.