Over the course of his career as a writer, speaker, and consultant, J. Basil Dannebohm worked with an international clientele from a broad range of industry. Accustom to a fast paced, jet setter, on-the-go lifestyle, Dannebohm's way of life took a dramatic turn in the summer of 2012 when he was diagnosed with post encephalitic extrapyramidal disease, resulting in clinical parkinsonism. Trading the corporate world for his, "new normal," Dannebohm focused his attention on speaking engagements where he would address such topics as economic development, social media engagement, and collaborative approaches to business and community. In 2015, he briefly served in the Kansas House of Representatives. His short-lived political career and subsequent attempts at public service caused Basil to be admired by some and sharply criticized by others.
He fell into despair.
“Never before had I felt so empty, so alone. My life was on a chaotic downward spiral,” said Dannebohm. “I felt like I had no one on earth left to turn to for guidance. Then it occurred to me - the guidance I needed wasn’t of this earth.”
After years of what he calls, “chaos and confusion,” Dannebohm says he began to find peace when he focused his attention on the Virgin Mary, “imploring her to come to his aid, begging her to heal his heart.”
He began to read books about Marian devotion, such as, “True Devotion to Mary,” by St. Louis de Montfort. One book, “The Marian Option,” by Dr. Carrie Gress, particularly resonated with Dannebohm, who while in office, became, “dismayed” by what he observed as intense, and rapidly increasing, division in government, religion, and the private sector.
“We have arrived a dangerous point in human history,” said Dannebohm. “We are witnessing an increasing disregard for human life, resulting in a significant uptick in violence, poverty, religious persecution, racism, ethnocentrism, divisiveness, and despair. In this age when hopelessness seems to be the new normal, I knew I wasn’t the only person feeling lost, depressed, and in a sense, resentful. Through prayer I realized that no matter what may divide us, Our Blessed Mother’s powerful intercession and Her Son's Divine Mercy can bring about conversion of heart, healing, and an increase in peace and understanding.”
Compelled by prayer, Dannebohm established The Society of Our Lady Healer of Hearts, an international prayer group of Catholic men and women, comprised of members of the clergy, religious, and the laity. Members make a spiritual pledge to pray daily that Our Lady will heal the hearts of the world, filling them with unceasing love and abundant forgiveness to fully experience Our Lord's Divine Mercy. Additionally, members pledge to "be love" to everyone they encounter - regardless of their differences. While not an official epithet of The Virgin Mary, “Our Lady, Healer of Hearts,” is a title Dannebohm hopes will foster a renewed sense of devotion from those who need to experience the same healing he did when he turned to the Blessed Mother in prayer.
The group has proven to be both relevant and timely. Individuals such as Dr. Carrie Gress, author of the bestselling book, “The Marian Option,” immediately recognized value of Dannebohm’s ministry.
“Our world today seems to be plagued with brokenness - and not just a superficial brokenness, but layers upon layers,” said Gress. “Our Lady has a remarkable track-record when it comes to helping her children when they are in need. Today is no different. The Blessed Mother wants to bring our hearts, souls, and minds back to wholeness. This society is a reminder of Our Lady's love and desire to reach into hearts and heal us, those we love, and to those in most need. We just have to ask.”
Like Gress, internationally acclaimed singer and songwriter, Anna Nuzzo, was quick to embrace Dannebohm’s ministry. For Nuzzo, the title, “healer of hearts” made maternal sense.
“Our Lady, Healer of Hearts is an incredibly fitting name for Our Lady, whose love and guidance transcends our comprehension,” said Nuzzo. “She wants nothing more than to take our needs before Her Son and His Heavenly Father, imploring on our behalf as only a mother can do. Like any loving mother, she desires that our hearts be healed, filled with unceasing love and abundant forgiveness. Like any loving mother, she’s by our side without fail.”
Gress and Nuzzo serve as members of the ministry’s spiritual advisory council alongside renowned Mariologist, Father Edward Looney and Father Kevin Barrett, the former chaplain for the World Apostolate for the Consecration of Families.
“The mission and vision of the Society of Our Lady Healer of Hearts is quite moving,” said Rt. Rev. Lawrence Stasyszen, O.S.B., Abbot of St. Gregory’s Abbey in Shawnee, Oklahoma. “For many years now I have become increasing dismayed by the decline of civility in all arenas of our society and at times even within our beloved Church. The ‘Father of Lies’ is also the ‘Father of Division,’ and this Evil One is doing his best to accomplish this task. We must be especially mindful of the power and truth of Love, most perfectly revealed in our Lord, Jesus Christ. As he has promised us, the very gates of hell will not be able to withstand the onslaught of Divine Love. While some might be tempted to despair in the face of the violence and division that afflict our human family, The Society of Our Lady Healer of Hearts is standing firm in proclaiming the hope that is ours in Christ Jesus Our Lord and in the intercession of our Blessed Mother.”
Stasyszen and other members of the spiritual advisory council are hopeful that The Society of Our Lady Healer of Hearts will be a worthy instrument of the New Evangelization.
"Our culture spends a lot of time stewing in the negative, but if we look at engines behind evangelization, snark and acrimony are not among them,” said Gress. “I have never heard someone say, ‘I converted because of a sarcastic comment on Twitter.’ Kindness, beauty, charity, and truth are the true seeds of transforming hearts."
A 43” tall statue, depicting Our Lady Healer of Hearts will be blessed and unveiled at a ceremony slated for early September. Dannebohm commissioned internationally acclaimed master sculptor, Gregor Mussner, and the world-renowned artists of Mussner G. Vincenzo Art Studio to create the piece.
“A statue depicting Our Lady reaching her heart to the observer in front of her is uncommon in her gesture, but not in what she stands for,” said Mussner. “Her gesture suggests she is saying, ‘Come to me. Both I, and my beloved Son, will give you all of ourselves.’ It could also suggest that she is saying, ‘My heart beats for you, trust me. I gave you my heart, now change your life and come to me.’ Our Lady, Healer of Hearts, is a title which can effectively be used to explain Our Lady’s grace.”
The statue dedication ceremony will be part of a larger Marian celebration coordinated by the society. The event will include prominent Catholic speakers and musicians.
For more information about The Society of Our Lady Healer of Hearts visit - www.ourladyhealerofhearts.com