A Charismatic Movement Flowers

Movement Series

TEMPE, Ariz. — Pope Benedict is calling members of the Church’s new ecclesial movements to meet in Rome for Pentecost.

The day is appropriate to Victoria and Rob Bonura. They say their faith was transformed by the Holy Spirit.

It all started at Our Lady of Mount Carmel parish in Tempe, Ariz. The church, located on a busy street next to a strip mall, looks modern and suburban.

Inside, it’s anything but mundane.

All the weekend Masses here are standing-room only and the congregational singing of hymns hits a visitor like a blast of air conditioning for one coming in from the Arizona heat.

“It’s the Holy Spirit,” said parishioner Victoria Bonura. “The parish is vibrant, pulsating with life. Our last parish had a lot of activity, but Mount Carmel is different. There’s a sense of community here — and reverence.”

Bonura credits the pastor, Father John Bonavitacola. “It’s because of his reverence, because his deep love of the faith comes through in everything he does,” she said.

The Bonuras came to the parish, a few miles from Arizona State University, because of the junior high school program headed by Bill Marcotte, previous director of youth and young adult ministry for the parish.

“Our son came back from one of Bill’s retreats on fire for the faith, so we thought, ‘We’ve got to look into this,’” Victoria said. They began helping with the Life Teen program, and went to one of Marcotte’s adult retreats. Rob went as a chaperone to World Youth Day in Rome in 2000; Victoria went to Toronto in 2002. Their involvement with Mount Carmel was, in their own words, “life-changing.”

They began “attending daily Mass and trying to figure out who we are in God’s plan,” she said.

Marcotte is now director of youth and young adult ministry for the Diocese of Phoenix. He has been a member of Our Lady of Mount Carmel since 1983, and he and his wife, Beth, were married at the parish. They also are members of City of the Lord, a charismatic group, as are some hundred other Mount Carmel families.

“God has a sense of humor,” Bonura said, “because we used to make fun of charismatics. Now many of our good friends are from City of the Lord.”

City of the Lord began when people who had gone through a conversion in the charismatic renewal felt a hunger for something more than weekly prayer meetings. They knew that the life of faith was more than the mountaintop experience of the prayer meetings, and they began seeking stability and accountability.

From that desire they outlined 10 “covenants” which concern prayer, service and relationships. One of the covenants regards the obligation to seek and to give forgiveness; another urges people to think the best of one another. Members also agree to be active in their parishes, to pray daily and to tithe faithfully.

Over time, many of the members of the community have moved near Mount Carmel to foster a more communal life. Today, the community has about 200 adult members and about 170 children — more than half of whom are parishioners.

In the early years, that presented some challenges. The church’s first pastor, from 1957 until his retirement in 1992, was Father Daniel McCready. Father McCready, who died in 2003, was “a very gentle Irish priest,” according to Father Timothy Davern, the second pastor.

“When City of the Lord first started, they would probably be described as wild-eyed charismatics — and that’s not a very Irish thing,” Father Davern said. “The community members spoke a language he wasn’t used to, such as ‘being baptized in the Spirit.’

“At first, he was naturally a little nervous about them,” the priest recalled. “Later, he came to appreciate the gifts the community brought to the parish.”

The improved relationship involved growth on both sides.

“The community has changed over time,” said Father Davern, who is now diocesan judicial vicar. “It retains its charismatic roots, but it has become much more steeped in the teaching of the Church and Catholic tradition.”

Marcotte agreed.

“In the early years, we were influenced by the evangelical tradition, and our teachings reflected that,” he said. “That was characteristic of the charismatic movement as a whole in the early days. There simply weren’t any Catholic sources to turn to, to help explain the charismatic experience — at least, that’s what we thought at the time. We’ve since discovered the riches in the Catholic tradition.”

In those early years, the community had both Catholic and Protestant members, and there was a strong sense of ecumenical calling.

“But in reality, we never discussed our differences, and Catholics were very timid about expressing their Catholicism,” Marcotte said.

It was natural, Marcotte said, that then-Bishop Thomas O’Brien and Father McCready had concerns. They had pastoral responsibility, after all.

“Over the years, however, they saw the fruit, and relations improved,” he added. “Father Davern, on the other hand, understood the vision right away, and he also knew what was going on in Rome.”

What was going on in Rome was that Pope John Paul II had taken an interest.

“The Pope sensed the movement of the Holy Spirit in the communities, and he wanted them brought under the protection of the Church to protect their charism, so he sent Bishop [now Archbishop Paul] Cordes to meet with the predominantly Catholic charismatic communities around the world,” Marcotte said. “He invited 12 of those communities to begin the fraternity.”

The Fraternity of Catholic Charismatic Communities is a Pontifical Association of the Christian Faithful, meaning its members enjoy a special relationship with the Vatican and have certain rights in canon law.

It is one of several new ecclesial movements in the Church that have been invited to participate in a meeting with Pope Benedict XVI in St. Peter’s Square June 3, the vigil of Pentecost.

In a continuing series, the Register is profiling various ecclesial movements and how they operate in parishes.

City of the Lord was chosen to be one of the charter members of the fraternity, and it began in the early ’90s a sometimes painful process of becoming officially Catholic — revamping its teachings with the help of Bishop Cordes, doing some soul-searching, and saying goodbye to the handful of Protestant brothers and sisters who had shared their life for many years.

Father Davern helped in that process. At the bishop’s encouragement, the canon lawyer also helped the group achieve status as a Diocesan Private Association of the Christian Faithful.

“They found their genuine roots when as a community they did an in-depth study of the documents of Vatican II,” Father Davern said. “They also have a lot more Eucharistic adoration and Marian devotion than in the early years.”

The current pastor, Father Bonavitacola, said, “They were challenged by the Church to put their gifts at the service of the wider community, and they’ve done that.”

A lot of the children who grew up in the community and in Marcotte’s youth group now serve the youth group themselves. Many community members serve as catechists, in marriage preparation, as musicians and nearly every other ministry.

Having a community within a community can present challenges, Father Bonavitacola said, but that would be the same with any renewal group. The challenges are worth it, however.

“Let’s face it,” he said. “They’re the kind of Catholics a pastor wants. I don’t need to remind them to tithe or go to church. They make it easy. They get it. They’re well formed. They serve.”

So, is there any downside to this marriage of a community and a parish?

“Well,” said Marcotte, putting on an air of exasperation, “we have the longest confession lines in the world.”

Cherie Peacock is based in

San Diego, where she is editor of This Rock magazine.

About This Series

The Register is looking at various new ecclesial movements and how they operate in parishes.

The charismatic renewal, the focus of this article, traces its origin to Pope John XXIII’s prayer before the opening of the Second Vatican Council: “Renew your wonders in our time as though for a new Pentecost.”

Founding: In 1967, as Vatican II drew to a close, a group of students and staff on retreat at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pa., experienced an extraordinary outpouring of the gifts of the Holy Spirit — such as speaking in tongues and prophecy. The renewal spread quickly.

Character: At the heart of the charismatic renewal is “baptism in the Holy Spirit,” which is a prayer of dedication to Christ and for an outpouring of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Devotees frequently meet in prayer groups where they hear witness talks and sing moving spiritual hymns.

How it fits in: Overall support and coordination of the charismatic movement in the Catholic Church is provided by organizations such as the International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Office in Rome and the U.S.-based National Service Committee of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal.

Notable quote: “I am convinced that this movement is a very important component of the entire renewal of the Church,” said Pope John Paul II at a meeting of international leaders of the renewal on Dec. 11, 1979.