By Emmaline Jurgena
For The Catholic Messenger
Catholics and Christians from other faiths gathered together to celebrate a charismatic renewal of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, prompting comparisons to a “new Pentecost.”
Individuals who attended a conference on May 24 at Ss. Philip & James Church in Grand Mound focused on the Holy Spirit’s role in everyday life. The event attracted individuals who are interested in the charismatic Catholic renewal movement. It featured speakers Leo Vitangcol, who is the associate liaison to the Catholic Charismatic Renewal of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, his wife, Mina Vitangcol, and Father Bill Kneemiller, pastor of Ss. Philip & James Parish.
Charismatic Catholicism emphasizes the Holy Spirit, and followers may participate in faith healing, discern the gifts (called charisms) bestowed on them by the Holy Spirit, and engage in evangelization. While it is sometimes compared to Pentecostalism, the important roles of Mary and the Eucharist help establish a separate Catholic identity for the movement.
There are seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel, fortitude, piety and fear of the Lord. In addition, Fr. Kneemiller explained, some people experience the Holy Spirit through special gifts. They discern these charisms through programs such as Called and Gifted.
Many people, Fr. Kneemiller said, invoke the gifts or charisms of the Holy Spirit by participating in physical and spiritual healing exercises. This can come in many forms: the diocese holds healing Masses, primarily at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport; healing prayer groups meet throughout the diocese; and occasionally opportunities such as the conference in Grand Mound arise. These opportunities offer healing with the assistance of “prayer teams,” groups of people who pray over individuals with the intention of healing them through the Holy Spirit.
“The experience of [the prayer teams] is particular warmth; you can really feel the Holy Spirit within that …. People have a huge need for [spiritual and physical] healing,” Fr. Kneemiller said.
The lecture-based conference in Grand Mound included speakers and incorporated some components common to the charismatic renewal movement such as praise music (music that invites the Holy Spirit) and prayer teams. The Vitangcols offered advice, guidance and personal experiences on the topic of the Holy Spirit.
First, Leo Vitangcol spoke about the importance of a relationship with God through prayer and conversations. He gave suggestions such as remembering that prayer is a two-way conversation with God, and that it is a must that you come before the Lord in silence to better hear him speak.
Mina Vitangcol ruminated on the basis for the Holy Spirit in Scripture, explaining the biblical foundation in the Book of Acts, and the purpose of each of the Holy Spirit’s seven gifts.
“The gifts of the Holy Spirit lead us to Jesus and Jesus in turn points us toward the Father who gave us life and offers us eternal life in heaven,” Mina Vitangcol said.
Lastly, her husband offered personal anecdotes, stories and experiences that demonstrated practical ways to live the Holy Spirit.
“I truly believe God is saying to each and every one of us, ‘my people, start believing and doing something about [your faith],’” Leo Vitangcol said while speaking about the utilization of the Holy Spirit in everyday life.
Those who attended the conference were invited to share their own experiences with the Holy Spirit. Many expressed their experiences as joyful and lasting. One attendee, Madonna Berry, recently discerned that healing was among her special charisms. She wishes that others had more of an opportunity to discern their own charisms.
“I’m still kind of in awe that God chose me for this charism …. We all have special charisms from God, we just don’t always realize what they are … I just think there needs to be more information readily available to people,” Berry said.
Her sentiments about the value of the gifts of the Holy Spirit were echoed by others who attended the conference, including Pat Nichols, Grand Mound parishioner and longtime member of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal movement.
“When you receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, you know … that it’s real,” Nichols said.