PAUL A. BARRA
COLUMBIA — St. John Neumann School was filled with “gladness, joy, falling down and healing” during the weekend of Oct. 25-27. The occasion was the annual S.C. Charismatic Conference. Guest speaker Jesuit Father Robert Faricy said that “the great gifts of revival” are available to anyone with the right attitude.
“You can think, as I did, that these people are crazy; get me out of here,” the Jesuit spiritual theologian said. “But we want to be empty to the Lord, to let him work through us. Don’t second guess the Lord; take what he gives you. Take the money and run, as they say.”
Father Faricy knows what he’s talking about. According to Bishop Robert J. Baker, who celebrated the closing liturgy with the 200 charismatics, the Jesuit was a major figure at the bishop’s Italian graduate school.
“Father Bob Faricy was one of the top professors at the (Pontifical) Gregorian University in Rome. Our diocese is honored by his presence and blessed,” Bishop Baker said.
In his homily, the bishop linked Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians, which praised the Thessalonans for their fidelity to the way of Christ while being persecuted, to the sex abuse scandal plaguing the Catholic Church in the United States today. He prayed that the charismatic movement might be a force for renewal and reform in the U.S. church.
“You in the charismatic renewal of South Carolina [like the Thessalonians] are indeed imitators of the Lord and of St. Paul and have become models for Christians here and wherever you witness,” he said. “We pray that all may be open to the fruits of the Holy Spirit.”
That openness to the Spirit is the hallmark of the charismatic movement. Joe Balazs of St. Anne in Sumter and the bishop’s liaison to the movement said: “The movement raises our awareness of God, and it’s fun.”
Rose Mary Dannelly of St. Anne said that the fun part was a natural consequence of the blessings that charismatic worship brings. “We’re just participating in the gifts of the Lord, that he left for us,” Dannelly said.
Mike Culbertson of St. Peter in Columbia said that it would be remarkable for it to be otherwise: “The whole thing is, God has changed our lives; you can’t help but be grateful for that.”
Culbertson said that charismatic worship is having a major impact among Catholic youth. He cited both the growing popularity of youth conferences run by the University of Steubenville and Life Teen movements in parishes. Yet there were fewer than 30 youths at the weekend in Columbia. Culbertson’s daughter, Maria, 14, who sang a moving Communion hymn at the closing mass, said that the style of celebration was the problem, not the spirituality of it.
“If they directed it toward us, the conference would draw kids,” Maria said. “Still, I like it, it’s not bad at all. These people are practically my family. They all pray for me and love me.”
Kevin Waters, 14, agreed that “it’s kind of fun.” He said that he was honored to serve at the altar with Bishop Baker but also enjoys the charismatic sessions.
“It’s like you have a tingling feeling when people pray over you. It’s really cool,” Waters said.
In the middle of all the laughter and hugs, it was obvious that participants of all ages also thought that the charismatic weekend was really cool.
Besides the general session run by Father Faricy, others were by George Lourigan (“Life in the Spirit”), Sister Donna Lareau, Culbertson and Alan Waters, and Father Joseph Wahl (“Jesus – the way, the truth and the life”).