Born 1925, Francis MacNutt grew up in St. Louis, Missouri and had hoped to become a physician after finishing college and medical school. However, ten days before entering Washington University Medical School, he was drafted into the Army, where he served as a surgical technician during World War II.
Following military service, Francis returned to college on the GI Bill. He graduated from Harvard University with honors and then earned an M.F.A. from Catholic University of America (in the Speech Department). At Catholic University, Francis was profoundly affected when he read Thomas Merton’s Seven Storey Mountain. Francis’ father was a deeply religious man who instilled in his son a sincere love and reverence for the Church. Francis’ life took a new direction when, at Catholic University, he felt drawn to the priesthood.
In 1950, Francis joined the Dominican Order, the Order of Preachers, and was ordained to the priesthood in 1956. At the Aquinas Institute, he earned a Ph.D. in Theology, and then was appointed to teach homiletics (preaching) at the Dominican seminary in Dubuque, Iowa. During his seven years of teaching, Francis wrote three books on preaching. He helped found the Catholic Homiletic Society (which no longer exists) and served as its president and, later, as its executive secretary.
In 1967, Francis was invited to a week-long charismatic Protestant retreat. Among the leaders were Rev. Tommy Tyson and Agnes Sanford. It was at this retreat that Francis asked for prayer to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. Not long after, he experienced a dramatic turning point in his ministry. Agnes Sanford told him that he would be used to bring healing prayer back to the Catholic Church. He began praying for the sick and many were either completely healed or noticeably improved. More and more he realized that a very important part of Jesus’ ministry (healing and deliverance through the power of the Holy Spirit) had been commonplace in the early church, but had been largely overlooked or ignored in the modern church. In 1977, Francis was one of the speakers at the famous Conference on Charismatic Renewal at Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium.
Francis was one of the first Roman Catholic priests to be involved in charismatic renewal and in an active healing ministry. He was an instrumental member of the group of charismatic leaders that formed the Charismatic Concerns Committee (CCC) in the early 1970s. The CCC was later re-named the Charismatic Leaders Fellowship, and Francis has served as its chairman for the past several years.
As the charismatic movement gained momentum in the early ‘70s, Francis became widely known and respected among Catholics and Protestants for his teachings about healing prayer and the power of the Holy Spirit to transform lives. He resigned his administrative positions and began a full-time traveling ministry, preaching and teaching with teams that included Catholic and Protestants, such as Fr. Mike Scanlan and Ruth Carter Stapleton. In just a few short years, Francis ministered in 31 countries on five continents. Merton House in St. Louis was his home base, as well as a center for charismatic renewal in St. Louis, where 60 priests were involved. In 1976, Francis became a founder of the Association of Christian Therapists, whose purpose was to bring healing prayer into the medical profession.
Francis first met Judith Sewell when he was a speaker at an international conference in Jerusalem (1975). Their paths crossed again, through ministry, two years later. They were married in 1980 and settled in Clearwater, Florida, where they established Christian Healing Ministries that same year. Since the very beginning of their marriage, Francis and Judith have travelled widely, speaking and ministering together. In 1987, at the invitation of the Episcopal Diocese of Florida, they moved to Jacksonville, Florida, and expanded Christian Healing Ministries into a healing center for prayer ministry and training.
In 1993, Francis received a dispensation from the Church and their marriage was celebrated with a ceremony officiated by the Most Reverend John Snyder, Bishop of the Diocese of St. Augustine, at Marywood Retreat Center in Jacksonville. Francis and Judith have two grown children, Rachel and David.
In 2007, the International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Service in the Vatican co-sponsored an international conference with Christian Healing Ministries for 450 Catholic leaders from 42 countries. Held in Jacksonville, the purpose of the six-day conference was to bring the teachings of Francis and Judith to the worldwide Church.
Francis’ entire ministry has been dedicated to bringing healing prayer back to its rightful place among Christians. In 1974, he wrote Healing, which has become a classic. He also has written Power to Heal, The Prayer That Heals, Overcome by the Spirit, Deliverance from Evil Spirits, Homosexuality: Can It Be Healed? and The Healing Reawakening. He and Judith co-authored Praying for Your Unborn Child.
In 2008, Francis named Judith his successor as President of CHM, and Francis now enjoys the status of President Emeritus.
For more information about Judith MacNutt see Judith MacNutt's Biography.