Catholic Charismatics Led by the Spirit
STEUBENVILLE, OH–"Our God is not a God of half measures. Our God is not a minimalistic God. Our God is not a God who says, 'Well, that's enough.' He's a lavish God, he's an abundant God," said Michelle Moran, president of the Vatican-based International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services (ICCRS).
ICCRS held its first Leadership Training Course in North America at Franciscan University of Steubenville, September 12-19. Conference attendees traveled from as far away as Peru, Ghana, Zambia, the Philippines, and Australia to attend the course, immersing themselves in praise and worship and the teachings and history of the Church. They also had a unique opportunity to engage the history of the Catholic charismatic renewal by visiting the Ark and Dove Retreat Center at Duquesne University, the birthplace of the movement.
"ICCRS is the product of a gradual evolution through the development of the charismatic renewal," said Moran. "Pope Paul VI appointed Cardinal [Leon-Joseph] Suenens to be the ambassador to the renewal and the person who would have responsibility for the charismatic renewal when things were emerging."
Eventually this led to an office in the Vatican. "That was a very significant time for the renewal because obviously you don't get invited to a place in the Vatican if you are not accepted," said Moran. "Then ICCRS worked at getting official approval from the Holy See and is now an institute of pontifical right."
The ICCRS represents the Catholic charismatic renewal in all its manifestations–including prayer meetings, covenant communities, and service committees–to the Vatican, and serves as the Vatican's representative to the international renewal.
The one-week traveling course is designed to form leaders of the Catholic charismatic renewal in sound theology and best practices of ministry.
Participants heard lectures on an array of topics including the life of a leader, Catholic ecclesiology, baptism in the Holy Spirit, and elements of a prayer meeting from members of the ICCRS and Franciscan University theology professor Dr. Alan Schreck, author of Your Life in the Holy Spirit.
The courses are designed to answer a papal exhortation.
"Pope John Paul II, addressing the new movements at Pentecost in 1998, called all leaders of every movement to 'bring your members to a new ecclesial maturity,'" said ICCRS Leadership Conference organizer Jim Murphy. The goal of the courses is to bring "solid, orthodox charismatic teaching to the men and women of the renewal."
Emphasizing the importance of properly formed leaders in the Church, both lay and clerical, he said, "If a wolf kills a sheep, he gets the sheep. If the wolf kills a shepherd, he gets all the sheep."
Murphy said that, out of all the current efforts by the ICCRS, Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, president of the Pontifical Council on the Laity, was most excited about the anticipated fruits of the traveling Leadership Training Courses (LTCs).
The conference came to North America at the request of Bob Canton, the ICCRS representative to the English-speaking renewal in North and Central America and the Caribbean countries.
"We at ICCRS are your servants," Canton told participants. "Our purpose is to serve the Catholic charismatic renewal worldwide."
Franciscan University Chancellor Father Michael Scanlan, TOR, a pioneering leader in the Catholic charismatic renewal, served as the chaplain for the conference–goers. They attended daily Mass with the University community, had daily eucharistic adoration, and enjoyed frequent opportunities for praise and worship. On Saturday evening, September 18, the conference moved to the Urban Mission in downtown Steubenville for "Share the Good News! Evangelization & Healing Service," an ecumenical outreach to the local community.
Participants were very enthusiastic about the conference, sometimes making great sacrifices to attend.
Al and Sally Smith, of Sacred Heart Parish in Oxford, Alabama, were one such couple. "In less than two weeks now, I have to go back to Iraq for nine months," said Al, a contractor who frequently serves extended tours in Iraq.
When asked what prompted him and his wife to spend some of their time together at the ICCRS conference, Sally immediately responded, "Love of our Lord, and the Vatican. This is a Vatican conference, the first time in North America, and we wanted to be a part of it . . . We waited 22 weeks instead of 14 weeks to see each other so we could come to this. It's a 'be there!' moment, you gotta 'be there!'
"You feel God at this university very powerfully at all times," Sally added. "It's been fun to eat with the college kids. They talk about Jesus, they wear the Jesus clothes and jewelry, and you normally don't see that on a college campus."
"And the love that you feel in the room, you can feel the Spirit alive among everybody in the room," said Al.
Throughout the week, the Holy Spirit was credited with the gathering and success of the conference.
"You've been brought together by the Holy Spirit," said Steubenville Bishop R. Daniel Conlon in his address to the conference. "But there's not just a need to draw people in, but also to send people out."
He challenged participants to take the fire of the Spirit with them to the wider Church and to the world. "So many members of the Church are dormant or asleep.
"Everyone in the Church is blessed with the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Many just don't know it or don't let them work. I like to think that as a member of the college of bishops, with the permission of the head, the pope, I can send you forth."
The next Steubenville Catholic Charismatic Conference will occur June 10-12, 2011. For more information, contact the Franciscan University Christian Outreach Office at (740) 283-6314 or 1-800-437-8368, or visit www.franciscanconferences.com.