CATHOLIC HERALD STAFF
Joy and prayer are staples of any charismatic meeting, and this weekend’s conference was no exception.
Extended hands claimed postures of praise and talks proclaimed the transformative power of God in the Sacraments at the “Empowered: Refreshed, Renewed, Restored” Charismatic Conference held at Mary Mother of the Church Pastoral Center on Aug. 2-3.
The gathering was a “family affair,” according to many participants. Individuals involved locally with the Catholic Charismatic Renewal attended, and some traveled from out of state to reunite with old friends from their previous prayer groups in the archdiocese.
Four headliners gave powerful talks, invoking many wow’s, Amen’s, and “Praise the Lord” exclamations from the crowd throughout the Friday and Saturday sessions.
Even technical difficulties did not sweep away the joy. When the projector failed during the opening session of praise and worship, the conference director and diocesan liaison Marianne Skrobiak reminded the 130 attendees, “We know when we are moving in the Spirit, moving where God calls us to go, we will run into tribulation. Amen?” Amen, the crowd resounded.
The theme of saying yes to God and following the promptings of the Holy Spirit ran through the sessions delivered by Fr. Dave Pivonka, Dr. Mark Nimo, Caroline Dirkes and Judy Hehr.
Their testimonies of conversion, intertwined with their encounter with the Charismatic Renewal, resonated with the people who came to be refreshed, renewed and restored. One participant described it, saying, “Today, I was touched by the Lord.”
During the opening session, Nimo said, “We never get enough of the Spirit — one pastor says that is because we leak.” And this conference was a prime fill-up time.
“The Lord set you up for this weekend because he wants you to be redeemed,” he said.
The next day, Fr. Pivonka, the newly appointed President of Franciscan University of Steubenville, said during his keynote address the Lord wants to refresh us with his hope, renew us with his Spirit and restore us through his mercy. Though the crowd skewed older, he reminded the faithful that the Lord always has something to give us.
“The Lord wants to do something new today.” As a priest ministering the Sacrament of Reconciliation, “I have seen people come to life when they are dead,” he said.
God making all things new, and turning brokenness into beauty and hurt into forgiveness, is nothing new for those who are a part of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal.
Trauma brought Skrobiak to the renewal back in the 1970s. “I was married to an alcoholic, my life was crap. I was in pain and I didn’t know where to go, and I was this good Catholic girl,” she said.
After attending Al-Anon meetings, she came to a charismatic prayer group, where a group of Dominican nuns held her hand as she cried, and prayed for her. Though hearing the nuns pray in tongues “freaked me out,” she said, “I was so desperate, I stayed.”
She kept coming, and the Lord “filled a hole in my soul that was broken,” she said. God kept healing her and empowering her with spiritual gifts given at Confirmation that were dormant until she became involved with the charismatic movement.
“The Charismatic Renewal saved my life. It really did … because this good Catholic girl, was brought to a place of personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Which is what I think is the hallmark of the Charismatic renewal. It really calls people to personal relationship to Jesus.”
Once “I got a taste of the Lord, I wanted more,” Skrobiak said.
Skrobiak’s story is unique, but her experience of healing and growing in relationship with the Lord through Baptism in the Spirit is shared by those who attended the conference.
Experiencing the Baptism in the Spirit is a “life-transforming experience of the love of God the Father poured into one’s heart by the Holy Spirit … [and] brings alive sacramental baptism and confirmation,” according to the Baptism in the Holy Spirit document by ICCRS.
This “current of grace” within the Church, which Pope Francis calls the Charismatic Renewal, empowers Catholics to dive deeper into their faith and a life of intimacy with God.
It is a particular path to a universal Christian goal: a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
The conference culminated with Mass Saturday evening, celebrated by Fr. Pivonka. As she welcomed the attendees to the celebration, Skrobiak said that in their final moments of prayer together and through the power of the Holy Spirit, “let’s blow the roof off this place.”