“I never thought I would know the Lord like I do today,” commented Teresa Brusa, parishioner at Holy Family in Syracuse and secretary of the board for the diocesan Charismatic Renewal movement. She credits her participation in the Charismatic Renewal movement for the profound revitalization of her faith.
The Renewal, which emerged after Vatican II, is a spiritual movement within the Catholic Church that combines aspects of charismatic and Catholic practice. Charismatic Catholicism, like Pentecostalism, emphasizes the Holy Spirit, and it features faith healing and speaking in tongues. The Eucharist and Mary are important components, giving it a strong Catholic identity. The Catholic Charismatic Renewal strictly adheres to the Church and to Catholic doctrine.
“Pope Francis has said that the Renewal brings enthusiasm and joy into the Church,” noted Brusa.
Brusa became involved in the Renewal movement in 1983, just after her first husband died. “I needed spiritual support,” she recalled.
Brusa was inspired by her brother who had joined a prayer group and who later became baptized in the Holy Spirit. Although she was skeptical, Brusa attended a prayer group meeting. She thought she wouldn’t return, but eventually she did. “Through opening myself to the Holy Spirit,” she said, “it opened me to the truth of the Trinity. And, I have seen such miracles in my life since then!”
The first, Brusa said, took place during the second prayer meeting she attended. After reading the parable of the Prodigal Son, she had a life-changing experience. “I prayed, and then I had a vision of my father who had died when I was four months old,” Brusa said. “I saw two silhouettes that were surrounded by light. I knew it was him [her father]. He told me, ‘I want you to know that I’ve always loved you, and I still love you.’ I cried. That was the first example of God’s goodness.”
Father Amedeo Guida, director of the diocesan Charismatic Renewal Office, has experienced first-hand the power of the Holy Spirit.
“I personally have been enriched from my renewal in the faith, which came from my baptism in the Holy Spirit (back in 1986),” said Father Guida. “I received it a year after I was ordained a priest at a Priests/Deacon Conference at Steubenville University in Ohio.
“At first, nothing seemed different, but weeks later, upon my return to parish ministry, everything began to change: a deep desire to spend more time with the Lord in quiet prayer and words and phrases of Scripture jumped out at me with new meaning! People began to approach me for prayers for healing and deliverance. I was now open to them (I was a bit hesitant before). Then, one morning I began to hear ‘strange sounds’ coming out of my mouth when I was praying aloud — the ‘gift of tongues’ that St. Paul speaks about in his letter to the Corinthians emerged. A renewed sense of the presence of God was felt and has never left me. In fact, over the years this presence has deepened!”
The Charismatic Renewal Office offers two monthly Charismatic Masses, one in the Western Region of the diocese and another in the Eastern Region. Every First Friday except for July, it is held at Holy Family Church in Syracuse at 7 p.m. A Healing Service is held afterward.
Every second Monday of the month, the Mass is held at 7 p.m. at Our Lady of the Rosary Church in New Hartford and is followed by a Healing Service. Both celebrations are preceded by a half hour of Praise and Worship by musicians. “We are hoping in the not too distant future to ‘re-activate’ a regular Charismatic Mass in the Southern region as well,” said Father Guida.
Brusa described the uniqueness of the Mass. “It’s longer in length, there’s more praising of the Lord, the praising at the consecration is more spontaneous and the answering of the people is more emphatic,” she said. Attendees may be anointed. “People come to pray for healing,” said Brusa. “Many of the people get touched by the Holy Spirit.”
Father Guida said his ministry sponsors a number of events throughout the year to facilitate the growth and renewal of people’s faith. “We have twice a year set time aside for learning our faith and renewing our gifts and charisms of the Holy Spirit at our Day of Renewal,” he said. The special day features noted speakers, praise and worship, fellowship, prayer, teachings on spiritual gifts and a Healing Service. “In recent years, we have had phenomenal speakers and wonderful experiences that have led people back to the faith and to attend church regularly once again,” said Father Guida.
Brusa said they try to hold two Life in the Spirit Seminars each year. “That’s where we present our joyful experiences — we present what God has given us,” said Brusa. Participants are taught seven principals at the seminar: God’s love, salvation, new life, receiving God’s gifts, baptism in the Holy Spirit, growth and transformation. Those who want to be baptized in the Holy Spirit pray the Prayer of Commitment while others lay their hands on them.
Father Guida emphasized the importance of the Renewal movement. “This so-called ‘movement’ is an interior movement of the Spirit within each of us, received from God! It is an opportunity for each one of us — lay, religious or clergy, to renew the gifts and charisms the Spirit gave us both at Baptism and Confirmation. Without this ‘renewal’ we (individually and as church) run the risk of becoming complacent in our faith and begin to lose that passion and enthusiasm our early Church exhibited for years with that fresh anointing of the first Pentecost.”