I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the RIVERS OF LIVING WATER 2017 Catholic Charismatic Renewal Jubilee Conference in Pittsburgh last month. This conference was designed to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. Since it was the Catholic Charismatic Renewal that led me in to the Church back in 1972 and has fed me so well with its Spiritual Fruits, my wife and I decided we had to go celebrate. I am so glad that we did. The Conference ran from Thursday July 29th through Sunday July 23rd. Many thousands of people filled the Pittsburgh convention center with songs of praise and witness to the power of the Holy Spirit at work in the Church today. Pittsburgh was chosen as the place to have the conference because the Renewal started near there.
From February 17th through the 19th in 1967, several Duquesne University students gathered at the ARK AND THE DOVE Retreat House (see picture) to experience more fully their Baptism and Confirmation. After considerable prayer, the Holy Spirit came down upon them there as in a New Pentecost. They experienced the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. This changed their lives dramatically and empowered them to go out and tell others and the Charismatic Renewal began, initially at Catholic Colleges and in local parishes. It quickly spread throughout the world so that today there are over 120 million Catholic Charismatics in the Church today. There were bus trips out to the Ark and the Dove Retreat house. My wife and I went and were so glad that we did. It is definitely a Holy Place (see pictures).
Top: Retreat House chapel where the students gathered to receive the Baptism in the Spirit. Bottom: Cross and Spirit placed on Retreat grounds to celebrate the 50th anniversary. In the back you can see the DOVE house. The large blue house is the ARK.
The Conference had large gatherings and masses for all those in attendance and included song groups that sung in English, Spanish and Haitian. There were workshops for all three languages to supplement the General Sessions. Msgr. Joseph Malagreca, from Brooklyn emceed the event. Msgr. is fluent in many languages and went back and forth in all the General Sessions. Msrg. Is a good friend of mine who actually prayed over my wife and I for the Baptism of the Holy Spirit while he was a seminarian. Bishop Sam Jacobs, and two other Bishops, were celebrants at the masses. The music and prayers of praise were outstanding.
Three bishops and many priests and deacons celebrated mass.
Another good friend of mine, Eileen Benthal, is a member of the English music group, Living Praise (see picture) that sang at the Conference. Being at the general sessions was like being in Heaven on Earth. Each general session had a keynote speaker. They included, Patti Masfield, Esther Garzon, Ralph Martin, Mario Castaneda, David Mangon and more. Father Dave Pivoka moved so many people with his homilies. Damian Stayne led a healing service where hundreds of people received miraculous healings. In the midst of so many things to do, the Conference planners took time to present a slide show featuring many of the early leaders of the Renewal. They also included, and honored, those who have died. Throughout all of the sessions, the power of God was continually being manifest. God was certainly at work.
Living Praise song group
The breakout sessions included many notable teachers and speakers such as my good friends, John and Theresa Boucher, Mary Healy, Sr. Nancy Kellar, Mary Beth McLanski Green, Vinson Synan, Michelle Moran, Fr. Bob Hogan, Dave Van Vickle, Alan Schreck, Dan and Caroline Dirkes and others. There was something for everyone. I attended a priest and deacon workshop by Bishop Sam Jacobs. He was fantastic.
On Saturday evening we had Eucharistic Adoration and then a Eucharistic procession out of the Conference, through the city streets to a park about a mile and a half away. Thousands of us went in the procession carrying lit candles. We started out of the Conference center going through their wall of water, which reminded me of Moses parting the Red sea (see pictures). It was a very moving experience and a sign of witness to the city.
We started our evening candlelit Eucharistic procession by passing through the walls of water at the Conference Center. It reminded me of Moses dividing the Red Sea.
The Eucharis was carried under a canopy as we all sang songs of praise.
We closed the conference on Sunday by celebrating the Mass of Pentecost with Bishop Sam Jacobs presiding. The whole weekend was a witness to the Power of the Holy Spirit at work in the Church. I know that it invigorated me. God is so good.
The streets were alive with the sound of music. This is outside our hotel. The spirit of joy and praise carried on throughout the hotels and restaurants and city streets.
Several times, Popes have addressed the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. Below you will find some of the most important quotations that have given the Renewal light and strength. ICCRS has published a book with all the messages and addresses which the Popes have given to the CCR: The book, “Then Peter stood up…” – Collection of the Popes’ Addresses to the CCR from its origin to the year 2012.
Pope Paul VI
“How then could this “spiritual renewal” not be “a chance” for the church and for the world? And how, in this case, could one not take all the means to ensure that it remains so? […] Nothing is more necessary for such a world, more and more secularized, than the testimony of this “spiritual renewal”, which we see the Holy Spirit bring about today in the most diverse regions and environments. Its manifestations are varied: deep communion of souls, close contact with God in faithfulness to the commitments undertaken at Baptism, in prayer that is often community prayer, in which each one, expressing himself freely, helps, supports and nourishes the prayer of others, and, at the basis of everything, a personal conviction. This conviction has its source not only in instruction received by faith but also in a certain experience of real life, namely, that without God, man can do nothing, that with him, on the contrary, everything becomes possible.”
Saint John Paul II, Pope
“The Catholic charismatic movement is one of the many fruits of the Second Vatican Council, which, like a new Pentecost, led to an extraordinary flourishing in the Church’s life of groups and movements particularly sensitive to the action of the Spirit. How can we not give thanks for the precious spirituals fruits that the Renewal has produced in the life of the Church and in the lives of so many people? How many lay faithful—men, women, young people, adults and elderly—have been able to experience in their own lives the amazing power of the Spirit and his gifts! How many people have rediscovered faith, the joy of prayer, the power and beauty of the Word of God, translating all this into generous service in the Church’s mission! How many lives have been profoundly changed! For all this today, together with you, I wish to praise and thank the Holy Spirit.”
Pope Benedict XVI
“What we learn in the New Testament on charism, which appeared as visible signs of the coming of the Holy Spirit, is not a historical event of the past, but a reality ever alive. It is the same divine Spirit, soul of the Church, that acts in every age and those mysterious and effective interventions of the Spirit are manifest in our time in a providential way. The Movements and New Communities are like an outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the Church and in contemporary society. We can, therefore, rightly say that one of the positive elements and aspects of the Community of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal is precisely their emphasis on the charisms or gifts of the Holy Spirit and their merit lies in having recalled their topicality in the Church.”
“You, the charismatic Renewal, have received a great gift from the Lord. Your movement’s birth was willed by the Holy Spirit to be ‘a current of grace in the Church and for the Church’. This is your identity: to be a current of grace. […] You have received the great gift of diversity of charisms, the diversity which becomes harmony in the Holy Spirit, and in service to the Church. […] The Charismatic Renewal is a great force meant to serve the preaching of the Gospel in the joy of the Holy Spirit. […] You, the people of God, the people of the Charismatic Renewal, must be careful not to lose the freedom which the Holy Spirit has given you! […] I expect you to share with everyone in the Church the grace of baptism in the Holy Spirit (a phrase we find in the Acts of the Apostles).