continue at Regina MagFr Richard Heilman and his Knights of Divine Mercy help young Catholic men ‘put on the armor of God’ for themselves and their families. In this exclusive interview, he tells Regina Magazine about how a strip club invading a small Midwestern town made it all happen.
What prompted you to begin the Knights of Divine Mercy?
In 2005, I was assigned as pastor of two parishes, one of which was St. Mary’s of Pine Bluff, a Catholic parish in a small, unincorporated town near Madison, Wisconsin. The little town of Pine Bluff has one church, two bars, and a handful of homes. Fields and idyllic countryside surround it. It’s the kind of town where people dream of raising their kids.Shortly after my arrival, one of the bar owners decided to rent out his cozy establishment to a strip club owner. Neighbors were appalled, and
the little town was stunned. But there was not, it seemed, much that anyone could do.
That’s terrible! How did you get involved?
Discerning God’s will, I organized a mile-long Stations of the Cross through the town. I invited everyone to pray along this “miracle mile,” in an effort to reclaim this surrendered ground and to consecrate the soil back to Our Lord.The inaugural prayer walk was on Palm Sunday 2005. Over two hundred people spilled into the little town of Pine Bluff to participate in the miracle mile. We prepared for the prayer walk by placing two-foot-high crosses in the lawns stretching all the way down the main road and back, the length of the miracle mile. Participants carried their prayer sheets and a white ribbon (a symbol of purity and anti-pornography).The twelfth station found them at the entrance to the beautiful parish cemetery on a bluff with a life-size crucifix of our Lord and a one-hundred-year-old stone kneeler in front. The participants tied their white ribbons to this kneeler as a prayer form, much like lighting a vigil candle.What happened after that day?
After that first prayer walk, a container holding prayer sheets and ribbons was placed at the first station on the walk. All were invited to come, pick up a prayer sheet and white ribbon, and pray at anytime of the day or night, as they wished. Over the next six months, prayer warriors walked the path, prayed the Stations, and sang hymns nearly round the clock. It was estimated that 600-700 ribbons were tied onto the cemetery kneeler over that period of time.