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The Clergy and Religious
Specialty Group

Father Joe Scerbo, SA


      My journey with the Association has been and continues to be very special.  In 1972, I was returning to Toronto from Tucson, Arizona, by car and happened to pass through Pecos, New Mexico, where a vibrant Benedictine community was earning the name "the unofficial charismatic center in the USA".           

     It was here that I had my first contact with the Association of Christian Therapists (ACT) through Sister Betty Igo, Franciscan Sister of the Poor.  I felt at home with her as well as 15 Mexican friars who were also visiting the Monastery. One day as we were sitting by a roaring fire, Sr. Betty led me into a prayer for the healing of my inner child and I have never been the same since!   

     In my chats with her, I learned about the Institute for Christian Healing in Narberth, PA, directed by ACT member Bill Carr Ph.D., RIP, and Doug Schoeninger, Ph.D.  Little did I realize then how later God would call both Sister Betty and I to serve the Body of Christ in the Philadelphia / New Jersey area at the Institute for Christian Healing.         

     It was here at the Institute that I learned so much about the multifaceted world of healing. I saw 16 clients a week and began to be part of a wonderful team of eight professional ACT members who began to teach me Sister Betty’s “Principles of Inner Healing.” It was also here that I completed my Graduate Theological Union dissertation, "Reconciliation, the Purpose of Spirit- directed Psychotherapy," in which my own experience and education was distilled into a doctoral thesis in the area of "Healing in the Name of Jesus."         

     For some 25 years, I and Sr. Betty and Dr. Hank and his lovely wife Pat Kankowski RN, MFT and Fr. Ralph Weishauer OFM, all ACT members, continued to offer one or two annual Inner Healing workshops at Mission San Luis Rey, CA. During those many years, I witnessed the power of Jesus to heal in many cases with people from all walks of life with all kinds of physical, mental, emotional, relational and spiritual problems.         

     Both the experience at Narberth, PA, with the wonderful team of ACT members, and the constant flow of inner healing workshops helped me to grow emotionally and spiritually and broaden how I saw Jesus transforming lives.   

      When I experienced conflict that came from the living of my Religious Life as a Franciscan Friar of the Atonement, I always found a sanctuary within the ACT community at regional and international conferences.  ACT became a place where I as a priest, friar, and psychologist, could be ministered to - thanks be to God! -  and I could return to my community living with a strengthened heart and spirit!           

     Articles written by ACT members over the years have been such an anchor for me as I have served in hospital ministry, campus ministry at Berkeley and Howard University, Washington. DC., and most of all at Trinity College of Graduate Studies, Anaheim, California.  In 1987 ACT member and Social Worker Dr. Eleanor Whipple asked me to come on board and be the Academic Dean of the college she had founded in 1970. I served in that capacity for 17 years.  During that time the enrollment increased by 76% and the first ACT student Chapter was born. More than 700 students graduated with their Masters degrees in Marriage, Family, and Child Therapy and many continued to pursue their licensure. The mission of ACT to promote the Lordship of Jesus in the helping professions was united with the Mission of Trinity to train Marriage, Family and Child Counselors in a professional, charismatic, dialogical and ecumenical way.  We are proud of our graduates many of whom are now ACT members.          

     After I finished my term as president of ACT, 2000-2003, I was dubbed "Ambassador of ACT Abroad. " Through the financial support of ACT member Fr. Javier Jinojosa of Monterrey, Mexico, I was able to build up ACT membership in Mexico and with him opened new chapters of ACT in Kenya and India.  Truly through ACT I had my heart's desire met - to become a "missionary" with the heart of Jesus.         

     ACT member Bishop Martin Kivuva of Machakos, Kenya has readily embraced the ACT vision and continues to be supportive in our attempts to reach out to larger rhythms in the Church.  I have written about my experiences in Kenya on my own web site: 


     At the present moment I am a happy tethered donkey at a parish St. Paschal Baylon in Thousand Oaks, California, where I am able to bring the ACT Vision and Mission to the large parish of 6500 families, the largest elementary school in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and to the local Los Robles Hospital.          

     I am most grateful to ACT for being a sanctuary and a learning, teaching environment.  I will continue to be am ambassador for ACT where God calls me home and abroad          

     I have earnestly served ACT as a Board Member. At the Alabama ACT Conference, I was elected President for a period of almost three years (2000- 2003); the Board of Directors instituted many changes for the good.  During that time ACT underwent a renewal process which has strengthened our understanding of our Vision and Mission with a special emphasis on our ecumenical outreach and the prayer and passion of Jesus, "that they all may be one!"  The infrastructure of ACT was re-formed at that time and the by-laws were updated.    

     This year 2011 is my Golden Jubilee Year of my consecrated Religious Life as a Franciscan Friar of the Atonement.  I am grateful to God for so many people who have helped me be the person that God is still growing me to be.     

     When I was first ordained, my best friend sang “Bridge over Troubled Waters” and this song has been a clarion call for my life and ministry both in the parish where I serve and the community to which I belong.    

     And I thank God for all the passion of the members of ACT now and throughout the years. Our revised Identity Statement of how we live out our Mission says it all.  It can be found on this website.  I welcome all of you to join ACT today.  If you are ready to serve the world with your unique gifts; if you are called to begin a new project or career that is deeply fulfilling and would make a difference to others; if you want to grow spiritually with great healing liturgies at our conferences; I again invite you to join us!    

     Our commitments to the Hearts of Jesus and Mary continue to hold our compassion for a wounded yet blessed creation through ongoing educational renewal in our professions, deep prayer times, and just plain ole fun being with each other and the constant support  we offer to one another in giving Glory to God.

Fr. Joe Scerbo, S.A. M.A., M.T.S, Ph.D. 

If interested in seeing experiences of Catholic traditions in Inner Healing please see the following article: Sister Betty Igo, SFP, MS, Med, “Principles of Inner Healing,” Journal of Christian Healing, vol. 23, no. 2 (Fall/Winter, 2007), 7 pp. in www.ACTheals.org.  Click here to download this article.

For more information, please contact: 
Clergy and Religious Chair
Sister Betty Igo, SFP, M Ed, MS


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