Nancy Boyd was carrying what she calls “the huge cross” of a son suffering from mental illness when a friend invited her and her husband to a prayer meeting at a parish in Irvine, Calif.
Deacon Steve Greco (left) poses with Bishop Gerardo Alminaza of the Diocese of San Carlos in the Philippines in January 2017
The meeting – led by Deacon Steve Greco, a member of Legatus’ Orange Coast Chapter – began with singing, continued with a talk, and ended with an opportunity to receive individual prayer for healing.
After Greco prayed over Boyd and her husband Chris, the couple felt strengthened to deal with the sorrow of their son’s illness. The continued going to the meetings, and when their son died on Feb. 17, 2016, the couple was able to turn their grief into a gift.
“Now we will help absolutely anyone we can whose family is suffering with mental illness,” Nancy Boyd said. “We have incredible empathy and compassion and deep understanding that God never gives you more than you can handle, and we know that’s why this happened to us.”
Urgency to Evangelize
The Boyds are just a few of the many people who have been touched by Greco’s ministry of healing and evangelization, known as Spirit Filled Hearts. Through prayer meetings, parish missions, healing services, Life in the Spirit seminars, retreats, a radio program, recordings, books, workshops and pilgrimages, the ministry has extended its reach beyond California’s Diocese of Orange into several other U.S. states and the Philippines.
In May, Spirit Filled Hearts will take a ministry team to Ireland and, within a year, to Nigeria, Ghana and Sierra Leone.
Greco said he and his wife Mary Anne have seen lives changed and people healed of cancer and depression through the ministry. “One man was addicted to heroin for many years, and as a result of coming to the prayer group and ministry, he’s now totally off drugs and a leader in our Spanish ministry,” Steve explained.
Deacon Steve Greco delivers a homily during Mass at the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem in 2016
“Sometimes, we don’t hear the story for a couple of years until we run into the person later,” Mary Anne added.
Orange Coast Legate Ralph Linzmeier, who serves on the Spirit Filled Hearts board, said as the driving force behind the ministry, Steve Greco is an amazing evangelist and homilist whose whole life is focused on praising God.
“He has such an urgency to evangelize,” Linzmeier said. “There’s no question what the most important thing in his life is — just to spread the Word.”
Although Spirit Filled Hearts was founded just three years ago, its work is rooted in an encounter Steve had more than 30 years earlier when he was a 28-year-old sales manager. He inquired about a Holy Spirit pin on the lapel of one of his sales reps, and the man replied, “I found Jesus.”
Realizing that he had Jesus in his head, but not his heart, Steve said, “I went home and looked in the mirror and said, ‘Jesus, I give you my whole heart.’” He began reading the Bible, discovering it as “God’s love letter to me.”
“He was remarkably different,” Mary Anne recalled. “He used to be a sports addict and that was all he cared about. The next thing I knew, he was talking about God and Jesus all the time. It was a good change.”
However, it was somewhat reluctantly that Mary Anne started going with her husband to prayer meetings and healing services. “And then,” she said, “we both kind of got crazy for Christ.”
The Grecos became prayer group leaders at Our Lady Queen of Angels Parish in Newport Beach and got involved with the Southern California Renewal Communities, undertaking a mission of evangelization and healing that continues today through Spirit Filled Hearts.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. Pope Francis has expressed interest in participating in celebrations taking place in Rome during Pentecost weekend in June. Other activities and events are scheduled worldwide during the Golden Jubilee year.
Trust in Jesus
When Steve began the ministry, one of the first things he did was start a radio program called “Empowered by the Spirit” on ESNE, a Spanish-language Catholic channel. The program was picked up nine months later by Immaculate Heart Radio in San Diego, and is now aired nationally. Plans are in the works to add a television show later this year.
L-R: Deacon Steve Greco, Kristin Seagondollar (Habitat for Humanity Orange County), Michael Aimola (VP of Spirit Filled Hearts)
Both Steve and Mary Anne work in the ministry through teaching and leading prayer meetings and Life in the Spirit seminars. Their prayer meeting at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Irvine is the largest of its kind in southern California, with average attendance of 100.
Nancy Boyd, who serves on a healing prayer team for the group, said the most important thing she hears from Steve at the prayer meetings and healing services he leads is to pray for the gift of faith.
“He says over and over and over, if you just ask for faith the size of a mustard seed, you can get through any trials you’re experiencing in life.”
Added Steve: “A big part of our ministry is getting people to surrender and trust in God. It’s important to trust and open your heart to the Holy Spirit.” He also stresses that it’s critical to praise God, not just petition him.
Toward that end, he wrote a daily meditation book, 365 Days of Praise, available on the ministry’s website and Amazon.com.
Although Steve had already answered the call to serve in a ministry of evangelization and healing while working professionally in the health care field, he heard another call — this one to the diaconate — when he was 51.
“I fought it in the beginning, but at the end of the day, I thought that if this is what God wants me to do in service to those in need, that’s what I will do.” He was ordained in 2007. Last April, after 35 years as a health care executive, he retired to pursue ministry full time.
His latest outreach as part of Spirit Filled Hearts was to the Philippines, where Steve and his team ministered to more than 20,000 people in January 2017.
“Our ministry is one of evangelization, healing and working with the poorest of the poor — and, more and more, working with children. In the Philippines, half of the kids are too poor even to go to school. The parents let them wander in the streets.” Spirit Filled Hearts is raising support to help these children.
Wherever he goes with Spirit Filled Hearts, Steve said, his aim is the same: To spread the Word of God and the New Evangelization. “It’s getting the word out about how much Jesus loves you.”
JUDY ROBERTS is a Legatus magazine staff writer.