Who We Are
The Catholic Charismatic Renewal is a movement of the Holy Spirit in the Church. As charismatic Catholics we believe that the gifts of the Holy Spirit, as found in Acts chapter 2, I Corinthians chapter 7, and throughout the New Testament, did not die out in Apostolic times. Instead, they remain valid and active today. These gifts include not only high-profile manifestations like tongues, prophecy and healing, but also the Spirit’s guidance and power for the entire spectrum of Christian life.
We don’t claim to be the only Catholics who are filled with the Holy Spirit. All Christians have the Holy Spirit, and everything of value that has been accomplished by the Church or individual Christians on any level for the past 2,000 years has been guided and empowered by the Spirit. But the renewal has recovered a conscious focus on the Spirit that had largely been lost, and helps Catholics be fully open to all that the Spirit can offer.
History: The Charismatic Renewal has its roots in outpourings of the Holy Spirit in the earliest years of the 20th century in what are now known as the Pentecostal churches. It reached more mainstream Protestant churches about 1960, and the Catholic Church in February 1967, when a group of students at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh held a weekend retreat to pray for just such an outpouring.
The renewal spread rapidly among Catholics after that, through many routes and with no central organization. The first Canadian Catholics involved were probably Windsor, Ont., residents who crossed the border in 1967 to attend prayer meetings in Detroit and Ann Arbor, Michigan. The first recorded Catholic charismatic prayer meeting in Canada took place at Madonna House in Combermere, Ont., in August 1968. The first recorded meeting in B.C. took place after hours in a Catholic bookstore in Vancouver in about 1969; Father Don Wilson, a priest on loan from the Diocese of Nelson, was present, and helped spread the renewal in Vancouver and later in his home diocese.
Organization: The Catholic Charismatic Renewal has always been very loosely organized. Rather than “governing bodies,” we have “service committees,” and their mandate, in the words of the constitution of the former international committee, has been that of “a servant offering help rather than an authority expecting compliance.” A restructuring is currently under way, following the establishment of a new body called CHARIS by Pope Francis in 2019, but the principle is the same: CHARIS (Charismatic Renewal International Service) is called a “service of communion,” and the various national bodies, currently being formed, will also be known as services of communion.
Relationship to the institutional Church: While the renewal came as a surprise to most Catholics in the early days, it got a cautious but generally friendly reception from the Church, and has received many encouraging statements from the Popes over the years. These include a 1975 address to charismatic leaders by Pope Paul VI calling the renewal “a blessing for the Church and for the world”; a 1998 Pentecost vigil address by Pope John Paul II describing the Church’s institutional and charismatic aspects as “co-essential”; and a message of thanks to the international service committee from Pope Benedict XVI “for the many gifts bestowed upon the Church the past four decades,” delivered on the Catholic Charismatic Renewal’s 40th anniversary in 2007. Pope Francis has called the renewal “a current of grace for the whole Church.” Pope Francis also invited the world’s charismatic Catholics to join him in Rome to celebrate the golden jubilee of the renewal at Pentecosgt 2017, and 30,000 people from around the world attended; the Pope himself took part in three of the jubilee events.
At all levels, Catholic charismatic leaders are answerable to the Church. CHARIS is part of the Dicastery of Laity, Family and Life, based in the Vatican, and at the local level, all charismatic groups are under obedience to their bishops and pastors.
More generally, it must be admitted that early in the days of the renewal, some Catholic participants abused what they saw as freedom under the Spirit to violate Church discipline or moral teachings, and some moved on to other churches, especially Pentecostal congregations. But those days are long gone. For many years the Catholic Charismatic Renewal has been a stronghold of loyal and obedient Catholics, faithful to the Magisterium and active in parish life. Many charismatic Catholic are also active in more traditional Catholic devotions as well as charismatic prayer.
Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services of B.C.
Richard Dunstan, Victoria diocese, chair,
Nitz Baylon, Vancouver diocese
David MacIntyre, Victoria diocese
Loree Renwick, Nelson diocese
Janet Tng, Vancouver archdiocese
Frans van der Woning, Kamloops diocese
Lynne Williams, Nelson diocese