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Letter of Recommendation:
From: William Kurz, S.J. Emeritus Professor of Theology, Marquette University Jesuit Community at Marquette University 1345 W. Wells St. Milwaukee, WI 53233 To: Most Reverend Gregory Parkes Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee 11 North B Street Pensacola, FL 32502-4601 (Tel. 850/ 435-3500)
Fr. Robert Sears, S.J., Professor of Theology at Loyola University, Chicago, alerted me about Fr. Joseph (Yozefu-B. Ssemakula) and his book, THE HEALING OF FAMILIES, because, like Fr. Sears, I have some familiarity with prayer for healing both as a Marquette Professor of New Testament and from personal priestly experience of healing prayer. Much of my experience has been with members of charismatic renewal in St. Louis, New Haven (where I got my Ph.D. from Yale), and in Milwaukee since my ordination as priest in 1970. Fr. Sears had written to you in July 28, 2014, in support of Fr. Joseph’s book, and he personally asked if I too could read Fr. Joseph’s book and send my evaluation to you.
I have never personally met Fr. Joseph, but after I emailed him, in his return email to me he mentioned that you were open to his consulting another theologian about his book. He asked if after reading his book I could send you my judgment as a Professor Emeritus of Theology at Marquette University about whether there is anything in his book, THE HEALING OF FAMILIES, that would prevent you bestowing on it your Imprimatur. He also alerted me to others who had given you critical evaluations of his book, but I do not wish to get involved in those older controversies. I am leaving shortly for my vacation, and I only have time to give you some of my own independent judgments as another theologian.
I carefully read Fr. Joseph’s book, THE HEALING OF FAMILIES, as well as Fr. Sears’s 2014 report about it to you. My own evaluation of Fr. Joseph’s book generally agrees with Fr. Sears’s judgment. I will add some of my personal observations. I find the book reasonably clear and well-argued, even when I was unfamiliar with some of the kinds of cases he discussed. I did not have any concerns about Fr. Joseph’s orthodoxy. His writing is quite simple and direct and effectively aimed at ordinary lay Catholics. I only noted four places where I had some minor questions about the way he described some experiences, or which did not seem clear on my first reading -- on pp. 66, 69, 126, and 143. None of these are serious, nor do I think that they clash with official Church teaching.
Some of the healing prayer experiences that Fr. Joseph describes go beyond my own more limited healing prayer experience (circumscribed because I have been teaching New Testament full time at Marquette since 1971). I have not had extensive experience with praying with and for family healing, the main topic of the book. And Fr. Joseph’s explanations tend to be especially simple and unsophisticated. But I don’t find anything he describes questionable, unbelievable, or problematic. His experiences are certainly consonant with decades of my own priestly experience praying with the sick for healing.
Fr. Joseph’s book seems solidly grounded in Church teaching on Purgatory and its relation to suffering in this life on earth. The contents of the book seem rooted in years of his ministry to the kinds of human physical, spiritual, and moral sufferings that are commonly experienced, and in suggested ways to pray for their healing. Fr. Joseph writes confidently but humbly, not claiming too much and admitting where the evidence is not totally unambiguous. He clearly demonstrates a compassionate pastor’s heart all the way through his book, which he writes as a help to ordinary Catholics to pray for God’s help and healing for suffering in their families and individual lives. I think that his book can be pastorally helpful for ordinary Catholics about what they can pray for and how to pray for various needs for healing.
I hope that this simple evaluation may be helpful to you as pastor of your diocese.
Fr. William Kurz, S.J., Emeritus Professor of Theology Marquette University