National Catholic Charismatic Conference Returns to Notre Dame

NOTRE DAME, Ind.—In far smaller numbers than they once did, but with a familiar and contagious enthusiasm, 3,000 Charismatics returned to the National Catholic Charismatic Conference at the University of Notre Dame from June 12 to 14.

During this year officially designated by Pope John Paul II as the “year of the Holy Spirit,” conference organizers had registered the gathering as an official Jubilee 2000 event. The conference theme was “The Holy Spirit: Hope for the New Millennium.”

Ralph Martin, a veteran Charismatic Renewal leader, gave the keynote address, challenging his audience to prepare wholeheartedly for the Jubilee in a spirit of expectation.

“This is an extended time of Advent,” Martin said.

In traveling around the world, Martin said he has seen fantastic outbursts of the Holy Spirit's work. In India last year for the 25th anniversary of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal there, Martin told of a massive gathering of 25,000 in Bombay.

“Hundreds of people experienced physical healings and thousands of people turned their lives over to Jesus, including Moslems and Hindus who were just attracted by the music and came off the street,” Martin told the group, listing many other examples of the Holy Spirit's work.

Father Benedict Groeschel CFR, who leads the Office of Spiritual Development for the Archdiocese of New York, gave a talk on Church unity, urging the audience to pray to the Holy Spirit to bring it about.

Bishop Joseph McKinney, of the Diocese of Grand Rapids, Mich., was the main celebrant at the concluding conference Mass.

In the movement's peak years in the late 1960s and early '70s, as many as 20,000 to 30,000 charismatics had gathered in the Notre Dame stadium. In those years, they poured in conspicuously advertising that “Jesus Christ is Lord” on bumper stickers, banners, and T-shirts.

In 1998, 31 years after its unexpected outbreak on the campus of Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, the movement is more quiet, but Kevin Ranaghan, an authority on the Renewal, maintains that the Catholic charismatic movement must not be seen as “spent.”

The Catholic Charismatic Renewal has “prayed over 80 million people for the Baptism of the Holy Spirit worldwide in the last 30 years,” Ranaghan said. And at a recent gathering of renewal movements invited by the Pope to Rome on Pentecost Sunday, the Catholic Charismatic Renewal was well represented.

“I would say that as many as 40,000 of the 250,000 there were explicitly from the Catholic Charismatic Renewal,” he said. But many more than that had been touched by the Catholic Charismatic Renewal before entering other ministries in the Church. (Catherine Odell)