The Charismatic Renewal is a move of God, a mighty river of grace for the Church. The Catholic Charismatic Renewal began in 1967, 2 years after the end of Vatican II (1962 – 1965) and 70 years after issuing of the Encyclical Letter on the Holy Spirit by Pope Leo XIII. In 1967, ‘a new spring-time’ in the Church was ushered in by the powerful and transforming experience of a group of students of Duquesne University (run, appropriately enough, by the Holy Ghost Fathers), in Pittsburg, USA from 17 to 19 February, 1967. Called as the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, it began to have an impact on regular parishes and other Catholic institutions. It soon caught the attention of the Church. Cardinal L.J. Suenens, Archbishop of Malines-Brussels recognized it as ‘a current of grace’ and convinced Pope Paul VI of the need for the Church to accept and encourage the Renewal in order that it should not grow in isolation. In the summer of 1975, some 10,000 Catholic charismatics gathered in the Catacombs of St. Callistus in Rome. A special mass was celebrated with singing in tongues and prophecies at the Papal altar in St. Peter’s Basilica followed by the historic special audience with Pope Paul VI at which the Pope called the Charismatic Renewal “a chance for the Church and for the world”.
From a small group of people in a classroom in the Duquesne University in Pittsburg who had the bewildering experience in February 1967, the Catholic Charismatic Renewal has grown to be a world-wide movement that has practically influenced every parish community in all parts of the world. The Catholic Charismatic Renewal has certainly succeeded in ushering in a new springtime during the five decades of its powerful presence in the Church. In the history of the Catholic Church, there has never been a movement that has impacted so deeply the lives of so many Catholics in so short a span of time. Statistically CCR is known to be the largest and fastest growing movement in the Catholic Church and has influenced 125 million Catholics in 235 countries. It has been repeatedly acknowledged that the CCR has been able to influence the life of the Church and give new luster to the lives of millions of individuals, families, religious communities, parish communities and the liturgical life of the Church.
The initiation to the renewal experience normally happens through the Life in the Spirit Seminar (LSS) or initiation retreat leading to a personal encounter with Jesus. The aim of the Life in the Spirit Seminar is to lead the participants to adult Christian commitment through proclamation of the Word of God and prayer for a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The most important gift of the Charismatic Renewal to the Church is the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. To be baptized in the Holy Spirit is an internal experience of the power of the Holy Spirit filling and transforming the person just as it happened to the Apostles on the Pentecost. Besides the inner experience of peace, joy and love, BHS also signifies the reception of some of the charisms, especially the gift of tongues. This spiritual experience is called “Baptism in the Holy Spirit”, the “Outpouring of the Spirit” or the “Release of the Holy Spirit”, which leads to stirring into flame the graces already received at the time of Baptism and Confirmation.
In September 1993, the Vatican had officially recognized the International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services (ICCRS) as a body for the promotion of the Charismatic Renewal worldwide, with a juridical personality. The Catholic Charismatic Renewal came to India in 1972 with a prayer group that started in Mumbai. Later it spread to all parts of the country. In September, 1996 the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI) officially granted recognition to the National Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services (NCCRS) as a National Catholic Organization, with all the privileges and responsibilities of such a body. The National Service Team is the apex body of the National Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services (NCCRS). NCCRS has a special concern for the CCR to remain faithful to the Catholic Church and for its obedience to the Pope and local hierarchy according to the Church’s teaching. It reaches the grass-roots level through the Regional or Local Service Teams or the Diocesan Contact Persons appointed by the Bishops to further its goals and objectives at the local level. At present there are 25 Regional or Diocesan Service Teams which have been constituted in the country. The National Service Team is in contact with 163 Dioceses in India through Regional and Diocesan Service Teams or Diocesan Contact Persons. The National Service Team has its headquarters in Tagore Garden, New Delhi.
Some of the contributions of the Renewal are: a greater awareness of the presence and activity of the Holy Spirit; a deeper commitment to Jesus Christ; a desire to live the Christian calling more fully; an appreciation and acceptance of the charismatic gifts; an increasing desire to read the Scriptures; love of the Eucharist; a commitment to prayer; a thirst for personal holiness; new forms of community life; a commitment to apostolic activity; a willingness to witness faith and to evangelize; a love for one another; a faithfulness to the Church; a desire to serve the local Church – to bloom where they have been planted, etc. Many people who were leading good Christian lives in a quiet way received a new depth and fire in their hearts that they were brought to active life in the parish and in the Renewal. The ‘New Pentecost’ has helped many in the rediscovery of the riches of their faith and Catholic traditions. Today millions will be able to testify on behalf of the Renewal with Mary, “He who is mighty has done great things for me, holy is His name” (Lk 1:49)!
In the year 2017, the world wide Catholic Charismatic Renewal will be celebrating its 50th Anniversary. It is none other than Pope Francis who has invited the whole Church and in a very special way the members of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal to the St. Peter’s Square in Vatican to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal during the Pentecost, 2017. When the Pope met with more than 50,000 Catholic charismatics in Rome’s Olympic Stadium on 1 June, 2014, he told them, “I expect all of you, charismatics from around the world, to celebrate your great jubilee with the Pope at Pentecost 2017 in St. Peter’s Square”. Again when Pope Francis addressed the 38th Italian National Convention at the St. Peter’s Square on 3 July, 2015, he exhorted the participants: “I expect you all together at the meeting of the ICCRS and of Catholic Fraternity, which are already organizing it, all of you and all those who wish to come at Pentecost in 2017 – it is not so far away! – Here in Saint Peter’s Square to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of this current of grace – an opportunity for the Church, as Blessed Paul VI said in Saint Peter’s Basilica in 1975.”
In response to the invitation of Pope Francis, International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services (ICCRS) together with the Catholic Fraternity of Charismatic Covenant Communities and Fellowships (CFCCCF) – both officially recognized as ecclesial movements by the Vatican – will be organizing a World Wide Catholic Charismatic Renewal Conference in Rome from Wednesday 31 May to Pentecostal Sunday, 4 June, 2017. During this time there will be various celebrations happening in several locations in Rome leading to the Pentecost Vigil on Saturday and Eucharistic Celebration on Pentecost Sunday with the Holy Father at the St. Peter’s Square. National Service Teams/ Committees all over the world are planning pilgrimages to Rome and other holy places during this time. This is expected to be one of the largest gatherings in St. Peter’s Square in the recent times. We need to take seriously the invitation of the Holy Father to join him at St. Peter’s for the celebration of the Golden Jubilee. There are many groups that are planning pilgrimage to the Holy Land, Lourdes, Fatima and other holy places in and around Rome as part of the Conference. Start praying that the Great Jubilee year of the CCR may be a time of grace for the Church and that everyone may experience the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in a new way during the jubilee time.
Bishop Francis Kalist, Bishop of Meerut & Episcopal Advisor to the CCR in India