People come together for eucharistic adoration during an Ablaze Worship session July 27 at St. Patrick Church in Elkhorn. The Ablaze ministry, established by Father Michael Voithofer, associate pastor of St. Gerald Parish in Ralston, uses music, Scripture, spiritual teachings and the power of the Eucharist and the Holy Spirit to enkindle in participants a burning love for God. Since it was established in 2012, the ministry has grown and organizers now plan to construct the Ablaze House of Prayer near Springfield. COURTESY PHOTO

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Ablaze Worship setting hearts on fire for Jesus

Kris Borngrebe was paralyzed in fear each time her son’s medical condition took a turn for the worse – so much so that she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

That is, until she experienced Ablaze Worship.

The praise and worship sessions that some describe as charismatic in nature, have been changing the lives of people like Borngrebe around the archdiocese through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Borngrebe, a member of St. Patrick Parish in Elkhorn whose son Jonah has had recurrent brain cancer plus several autoimmune disorders, experienced her turnaround in 2015.

“It was a very hard time in my life … and I was just kind of angry with God,” she said.

Originally attending Ablaze with her sister, then several sessions alone, she eventually began bringing family members. During one session, feeling moved by the Holy Spirit to join those asking for a blessing, she inadvertently cut in line and tapped on Ablaze founder Father Michael Voithofer’s shoulder.

Though her daughter told her, “Mom, I think we did this the wrong way,” she was unfazed. “Even the hemorrhaging woman touching the cloak of Jesus … I bet she didn’t wait in line,” Borngrebe said.

“The minute he touched me, I saw these lights in my mind and I heard this voice from within say ‘something in your brain is going to be healed,’” she said. “And from that point on, my PTSD was cured, completely cured.”

Eleven-year-old Jonah’s condition is now stable. He recently experienced a seizure, but it did not traumatize Borngrebe as it would have in the past.

“It would have probably sent me over the edge, but it doesn’t bring me fear anymore,” she said.

Now she is so drawn to Ablaze that her commitment has grown to include singing in one of the ministry’s music groups.

People kneel during eucharistic adoration at St. Charles Borromeo Church in Gretna during a 2019 Ablaze Worship event. COURTESY PHOTO

Ablaze Worship, founded in 2012 by Father Voithofer, associate pastor of St. Gerald Parish in Ralston, includes contemporary praise and worship music, Scripture readings, spiritual teaching and eucharistic adoration. Sessions are held numerous times per year around the archdiocese.

“It’s hard to describe and do it justice because of what the Holy Spirit does there,” said Dave Cotton, a member of St. Gerald Parish. “You have to experience it.”

Describing himself as previously a “Sunday Catholic,” one who attended Mass but seldom prayed during the week, he now credits Ablaze for drawing him into a deeper prayer life.

Cotton, who has attended about 30 Ablaze sessions, said Father Voithofer’s passion is contagious. “I wanted what he had.”

The genesis of Ablaze occurred during Father Voithofer’s college years when fellow students invited him to an evening of worship, praise and adoration of the Eucharist. “I had some pretty powerful experiences in that environment,” he said, including the beginning of his vocational discernment.

He was inspired by the Gospel passage Luke 12:49 where Jesus says, “I have come to cast fire upon the earth and how I wish it were already blazing.” He also cites St. Catherine of Siena, who said, “If you become who you are supposed to be, then you will set the whole world ablaze.”

During his first assignment at St. Robert Bellarmine Parish in Omaha as a newly-ordained priest in 2010, Father Voithofer was deep in prayer and felt the Holy Spirit leading him.

“I heard a gentle voice in my heart saying, ‘I want you to begin what you experienced. I want you to offer adoration and use music, and praise and worship to invite people to the same encounter you had.’”

From small beginnings – with 10-15 people in attendance – Ablaze events at parishes, schools and other places now sometimes draw up to 400 people of all ages.

Such growth is prompting Ablaze ministry to take the next big step – building its own facility, the Ablaze House of Prayer on 40 acres of land near Springfield.

It will be “a place where we will have, God willing, 24-7 praise and worship of God,” Father Voithofer said, as well as workshops and seminars on living life in the Holy Spirit.

“I see a need in the church for helping people to not only encounter the Holy Spirit, but to learn about the gifts of the Holy Spirit,” Father Voithofer said. “How do they operate in your marriage, your family, as a student, an employee or employer?

“How are the gifts of the Holy Spirit working in your life, and how do you receive a greater outpouring of those gifts?

“I feel like that’s my mission as a priest, my charism – to help people really connect more deeply with the Holy Spirit,” he said.

“And, the ministry of Ablaze dovetails beautifully with the vision of our archdiocese,” he said. “It is an opportunity for the people of God within the Archdiocese of Omaha and beyond to experience that we are ‘one church’ … young and old, Catholic and non-Catholic, who are coming together to worship Jesus Christ.”

For more information about Ablaze, visit ablazeworship.org.