Organized and sponsored by Catholic Charismatic Renewal (CCR), the two-day event, June 19 and 20, drew about 300 people, and featured ecumenical praise and worship, live music, and presentations by four evangelists who shared their conversion experiences.
Speaking Friday evening to a wet but enthusiastic crowd was Jim Murphy, a Catholic from Spring Lake Mich., who journeyed 4,200 miles in 1992 from Florida to California carrying with him a six-foot cross. The image of the cross also marked his personal conversion experience during high school, said Murphy in an interview with your Catholic Herald.
“I was born and raised Catholic, and always loved the church and loved God,” Murphy recalled. “But I still felt God was distant, ‘out there.’
“It was Holy Saturday evening in 1970, and I had been feeling very discouraged with my grades, and I was in my room when I felt the distinct presence of God. I had this vision of Christ on the cross – not like you would think of in a painting, but a real image. Jesus looked at me and said, ‘I died on this cross so I could become a part of your life and be your friend.’ At that point my entire view of Christianity changed,” he explained.
Shifting from the “to-do” list of attending Masses regularly as the only requirement of practicing his faith, Murphy felt called to form a more personal and holy relationship with God.
He now carries his message by giving parish missions, and speaking at retreats and conferences worldwide.
“What I see in many Catholics is the idea that a personal relationship with God doesn’t seem possible, and my mission is to change that perception. He is calling every one of us into a deeper relationship, and I hope people accept that calling,” said Murphy.
The revival was a dream of one of the CCR core team member’s for many years, and team member Thomas Stano said the time was right for the event.
“People are hungry – they are looking for something that fits their needs spiritually. We wanted to make the event free and ecumenical to call all people to take a step toward Jesus on a more personal level,” he explained, adding, “I feel that taking this step will then also result in solving some of the problems we have in our city, as we look to the Lord in a more personal and relational way.”
Deacon Pat Frye, archdiocesan liaison for CCR, has also seen a turn among Catholics to charismatic worship.
“While the heyday of the charismatic movement was in the late 1970s to the early 1980s, we’re now seeing a turn again to this form of worship. There seems to be a groundswell among teens, where they are looking for a way to express themselves more enthusiastically for the Lord,” Deacon Frye said, adding that the Hispanic community is showing growth in the formation of prayer groups within CCR.
The tent revival drew people from various ethnic backgrounds, noted Deacon Frye.
“There were Anglos, Hispanics, African Americans, the leader of one of the bands was Filipino,” he said, adding there was a general feeling of unity. “There was the sense that we are all God’s children and nothing else mattered.”
Speaker Armando Briseno gave his testimony in Spanish to illustrate this point. Born in Mexico, Briseno gave his life to Christ in 1995 and although he holds degrees in computer systems, business and education, he enjoys teaching the most. He is a first grade teacher with an emphasis on literacy and language skills.
Saturday’s events – which began indoors due to wet grounds – opened with a praise and worship service, and again the enthusiasm of those in attendance was evident in their raised hands and voices, some waving banners.
Mark Nimo, from Ghana, West Africa, followed the service with his personal testimony. The missionary who has served HIV/AIDS patients in Rwanda is a far cry from the scared 21-year-old who faced a personal crisis. Nimo explained how he heard the Lord’s call.
“I had a child out of wedlock, and the mother wanted to abort the child at first,” Nimo said. “I didn’t know what to do, and I was contemplating suicide, when a woman from the church invited me to a prayer group. There I heard the message of God’s love, and I realized how far he was willing to go for me to understand that love; it was so powerful – it changed everything.”
Nimo also served as a missionary in Uganda and is a representative for the English and Portugese-speaking Africans for International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services at the Vatican. Now at 45, he is in the United States working toward his doctorate as a Cardinal Bernardin Scholar in ecumenical ministry.
Nimo’s message continues to be a driving passion.
“It is not enough to have faith. I have to give witness, as we all do in the evangelistic calling we have, through the sacraments,” Nimo explained. “Baptism, Eucharist, confirmation – all of these have a missionary aspect calling us to go out into the world. Even at the end of every Mass we hear, ‘Go forth to serve God and one another.’”
Also speaking at the event was Julie Braun, who coordinated the children’s program. She previously coordinated the children’s programs at the Wisconsin Catholic Charismatic conference in 2004 and 2007.
Associate liaison to CCR, Marianne Skrobiak, felt the vision for the event was driven by the Holy Spirit and while taking years to come to fruition, looked forward to future events.
“This vision has been about Milwaukee coming alive for the Lord, and it’s been a groundswell of the Holy Spirit, to add to what Deacon Frye has said. It’s a new movement for all of the area churches, not just the Catholic Church,” she said, adding they have already begun to refer to the tent revival as the “first annual,” with hopes for another event next summer.