Catholic Charismatic Renewal: an answer to prayers from Popes


This is the first installment of a two-part article on the Catholic Charismatic Renewal in the Jefferson City diocese:

Just as Pope Leo XIII prayed for a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit in 1901, Pope St. John XXIII prayed in 1962 for “a new Pentecost.”

In preparation for the Second Vatican Council, he prayed for God to “renew Your wonders in this our day, as by a new Pentecost.”

An answer to this prayer happened in this country as a retreat for college students from Duquesne University at The Ark and The Dove Retreat Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in February 1967.

The students had spent much of the weekend in prayer, asking God to allow them to experience the grace they had received both in baptism and confirmation.

They did not plan for what God would do during their retreat, but one evening while praying before the Blessed Sacrament, God simply sent them the gift of Baptism in the Holy Spirit.

That is to say, they experienced a personal outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

That event has become known as the Duquesne Weekend. Those students had a powerful and transforming experience of God, which came to be known as “baptism in the Spirit.”

The account of the weekend and the experience of the Spirit quickly spread across the campus, then to other colleges throughout the country.

The Spirit at work

The Charismatic experience soon moved beyond colleges and began to have an impact on parishes and other Catholic institutions.

Loose organizations and networks were formed. Catholic Charismatic conferences began to be held, drawing more than 30,000 at The University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, in the mid-1970s.

Earlier in that decade, the Renewal arrived in the Jefferson City diocese, when Father William Forst, now deceased, established the first Charismatic prayer group at the Cathedral of St. Joseph.

Other leaders, including Dr. Loraine Piesner, aided in the spread of the Renewal.

A group from this diocese attended the 1972 conference at the University of Norte Dame.

By the mid-1970s, Charismatic prayer groups were being established at various parishes throughout the diocese.

Growth and milestones

In 1975, the president of what is now the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops established the bishops’ ad-hoc committee on the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, under the chairmanship of the bishop of Lafayette, Louisiana.

A member of that committee suggested that it would be helpful for each bishop to appoint someone in his diocese to serve as his representative to the Charismatic Renewal movement.

Deacon Kenneth Berry has been serving in that role for this diocese since 1999.

As prayer groups began to spring up in the diocese, a Charismatic Service Team was formed. Each parish Prayer Group was asked to send a representative to serve on the Service Team.

Over the years, the Service Team has planned and sponsored an Annual Day of Renewal, featuring nationally known speakers, Charismatic Masses, diocesan-wide Prayer Meetings, and Life in the Spirit Seminars.

In September of 2017, a large weekend Conference celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Renewal was held in Marshall in partnership with the Hispanic stream of the Renewal.

It is now estimated that more than 130 million individuals worldwide have received the grace of being baptized in the Holy Spirit since the Duquesne Weekend.

The Pope’s desire

Four years ago, in June 2015, Pope Francis wrote to the presidents of the International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services and the Catholic Fraternity, asking them to work to form a single service for the current of grace of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal.

After four years of working with those that Pope Francis had appointed, and with the support of the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, the Catholic Charismatic Renewal International Service, (CHARIS), was formed.

CHARIS’s main purpose is communion, formation, and advice. It also has a doctrinal and canonical commission, which can study and give information on things such as baptism in the Holy Spirit.

Several thousand Catholics belonging to the Charismatic Renewal gathered in Rome the weekend of Pentecost Sunday in 2018. At that time, the Vatican officially launched a new international service to aid the ministry in its commitment to communion and service.

One of the reasons Pope Francis called for the creation of CHARIS was his desire for the whole Church to come experience the baptism in the Holy Spirit.

He has always expressed very clearly this desire for a new Pentecost for the Church and the world.

Deacon Berry assists the pastor of St. Joseph parish in Edina and is the diocesan representative and liaison to the Catholic Charismatic Renewal.

The second part of this series will focus on the experience of the Charismatic Renewal among Hispanic Catholics in this diocese.