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Nun shares healing gift with others

When asked if she's a saint, she replied, "No! Not at all. I go to confession every two weeks because I have all the normal struggles. No, I'm not a saint."

NEW ORLEANS -- Sister Briege McKenna is as down to earth as they come.

"People phone me up and say, 'How much does it cost to get healed?' I say, 'Repentance and a change of heart," McKenna said with a laugh.

Even if her story is a bit out of this world.

Visit Sr. Briege's web site

"I said, 'Jesus, I don't want any gift of healing. You keep it yourself."

When asked if she's a saint, she replied, "No! Not at all. I go to confession every two weeks because I have all the normal struggles. No, I'm not a saint."

But she is no ordinary nun, either. Popes lean in to hear her.

"I loved Pope John Paul II. I met him several times."

She also met Pope Francis and Pope Benedict, and that's not all.

"I had lots of time with Mother Theresa," she said.

If McKenna is new to you, her reputation precedes her in much of the world, where crowds hundreds of thousands cling deeply to her prayers and often anything they can get their hands on.

"There's people that come up and want to touch you, and I always say to them, 'Well, touchin' me won't do you a bit of good, but I'll pray for you,'" she said.

McKenna was in Covington recently at St. Joseph's Abbey where she was invited to a retreat for priests. As she strolled through the grounds, Archbishop Gregory Aymond was at her side.

"God healed her, I believe, and gave her that healing power and God works through her to heal others," Aymond said.

McKenna will tell you her story began with her own miracle in church long ago. In her early 20s, the Irish Catholic nun had moved to Florida where she thought the warmer climate would help her crippling rheumatoid arthritis. She was wrong; it got worse.

She had worn casts on her legs to prevent deformity, but she was in constant pain. The doctors gave her no hope, saying she'd soon be confined to a wheelchair.

"I didn't believe that Jesus would heal me," she wrote in her book. "I believed that if I had gone to Lourdes or some other place there might be a healing, but I did not believe that healing could happen in normal daily living." .

But the skeptical nun's belief system was in for a jolt when one day at Mass, she prayed for more faith.

"I said, 'Jesus, please help me. Please come to me.' Snap. That moment I felt a hand touch my head. This power was going through my body and raw sores left my elbows. My knees, my one knee was very badly affected. My feet were badly affected. In one instant, everything left, I jumped up," she said.

McKenna was cured. Her rheumatoid arthritis never returned, but a few months later, she said she was paid another supernatural visit in church.

"The next thing I know a voice spoke audibly and said, 'Briege, you have my gift of healing. Go and use it and this power went through me and my two hands started burning.'"

A first grade teacher at the time, she said she wanted no part of a healing ministry.

"I didn't want it," she said. "I thought they'll think I'm hearing voices and I'm going to be going to a psychiatric hospital."

Ultimately, months later, it was a protestant minister who helped convince her healing was part of her calling. It wasn't long before her story, even before the Internet, went viral.

She and her spiritual director, Fr. Kevin Scallon, have been to more than 100 countries and ministered to over a million people over the past 40 years. She said she's witnessed many miracles, like the time a little boy's gangrened legs healed before their eyes.

"I think God gives people gifts that they use in his name. It is his power, but he uses that gift through human beings and particularly through prayer," she said.

McKenna met Aymond more than 20 years ago when he was the rector of the seminary. She'd been invited to talk to the men on the path to priesthood. McKenna and Mother Theresa became a tag-team of sorts, encouraging priests all over the world.

"We both spoke at the Vatican to 6,000 priests. She and I were on one after the other," she said.

McKenna is headed to Ireland and Germany in the next few weeks, but there's one place she always returns: here. Like so many others, she has a love affair with New Orleans.

"Yes, it is possible that there's a saint in our midst," Aymond said. "In the same manner as St. John Paul II, in the same manner as Henriette Delille, Father Seelos."

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