At least 4,000 ailing believers descended on the Wolstein Center at Cleveland State University Sunday, hoping to receive a dose of unconventional relief from the healing hands of Dr. Issam Nemeh.
Sunday’s service was the latest of several such events in recent weeks at which Nemeh – whose popularity is growing in Greater Cleveland – has drawn thousands seeking help.
Following a Mass offered by the Rev. Robert Welsh, a Jesuit priest and former president of St. Ignatius High School, Nemeh began working his way from the blind to victims of cancer to those in wheelchairs.
Nemeh, 50, of Bay Village, prayed with his eyes often shut as he placed his hands on ailing bodies of people who have suffered heart attacks, strokes and other infirmities that conventional treatment has failed to cure.
Seeing disabled men and women rising from the wheelchairs and walking was not what people like Daniel Stancu, 23, of Medina, expected to see.
But Stancu is a believer in Nemeh, a man he said helped turn his life around after a November 2000 automobile accident left him without the use of his hands and legs.
“I was a quadriplegic at first and now I’m walking, so I guess it’s going pretty well,” said Stancu, who chose to use crutches Sunday because of the crowd.
As he stared around the convocation center, Stancu said he could sense the burden of others, the burden and despair that he himself felt after his accident.
“There is a lot of depression and a lot of faith and believing in here,” he said. “It’s not that easy. I was in the same situation a few years ago.”
Stancu was at first skeptical, but went to see Nemeh, whose faith healing resulted in tingles in his feet and other “weird feelings.”
“In 31/2 years, I went from a quadriplegic to where I am now,” he said.
Sunday afternoon was soothing and comforting for Michelle and Dave Snyder, whose 3-year-old daughter, Page, was diagnosed with leukemia in December. They brought her to see Nemeh.
The toddler buried her face in her mother’s chest as Nemeh placed his hands upon the girl with big, sparkly eyes and smile.
“Any parent would do anything they possibly can whether conventional or unconventional to make sure their child has the best chances to be healed,” Dave Snyder said. “If you have children, you understand.”
Blind men like the Rev. Ric Saelzler, a priest from St. Thomas More University Parish in Bowling Green, walked away with what he described as warm feelings after being touched by Nemeh.
“I was trying to be open to whatever might happen,” said Saelzler, who lost his eyesight after cancer surgery three years ago.
At the time of the surgery, he marveled at the “miracle of medicine” that saved his life even though he lost his eyesight. On Sunday, he was open to the workings of God through people like Nemeh.
“I really felt a sense of peace, warmth, calm and a sense of the Holy Spirit present in him and through him,” Saelzler said.
Most people, like himself, are not out “looking for a simple miracle,” Saelzler said. “If I’m blessed with sight again, thanks be to God. If I’m not, thanks be to God. I still have a mission. I lost my eyesight, but I gained a little insight.”
Nemeh also prayed for Linda Lucarelli, 50, who went into a coma after suffering a heart attack. Nemeh is claimed to have brought her out of that coma.
Lucarelli’s husband, Sam, founder of Minute Men Services in Cleveland, paid $18,000 to rent the Wolstein Center for the healing Mass because he thought the chapel at St. Ignatius High School, where the healing service originally was scheduled, was too small.
During the Mass, the voice of Nemeh’s daughter Ashley echoed throughout the building. She drew applause after singing “Ave Maria” and other songs.
Well into the night, Nemeh, an acupuncturist with an office in Rocky River, showed little sign of wear as he attended to those who had waited for hours for his healing hand.