“The family is alive in the power of the Holy Spirit!” This was the theme of the Gathering of the Renewal for the New Evangelization of the Family that was held on September 26, in collaboration with the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. For 3000-4000 participants who gathered at the Wells Fargo Center that morning, the power of the Holy Spirit was evident as we became a “family of families” worshiping together in English, Spanish, and French. Though the event lasted only about 4 1/2 hours, it was packed with prayer and preaching.
Walter Matthews, Executive Director for the NSC, and Andres Arango, Chairman of the Comite Nacional de Hispano (CNSH), both welcomed us and led us through the day as Msgr. Joe Malagreca provided translation in both Spanish and English.
Bishop Jean Laffitte, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Family greeted the attendees, encouraging everyone not to leave what they had experienced at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia but that “every ending is the beginning of another journey that commences.” He said, “The ministries that await us may be the same, but as we confront them we confront them with new insights and learnings we got from the Holy Spirit during this time.” He continued by reminding all to embrace Jesus and answer the call “to suffer together with him for the world’s salvation.” He concluded with a focus on having the Eucharist at the center of all family life, which will help each family member grow.
The theme for the day was broken open by two presentations. Msgr. Malagreca began by presenting that “The Family is Alive.” As each person echoed, in their own language, that “God loves my family,” Msgr. Malagreca helped us to understand that “whether they’re related by blood or not, if they live in the heart of your family, they are members of your family. And Jesus loves everyone who lives there and he loves that you’re related to each other.” He outlined the four characteristics that our relationships should have: love, Jesus, spiritual help, and unity. And that “God desired family relationships to help us grow in the Holy Spirit.”
Michelle Moran, Chairman of the International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services (ICCRS) in the Vatican, continued unpacking the theme by focusing on the family “in the Power of the Spirit.” She shared that “no matter what our earthly experience of family is (wounded, broken, inadequate), we belong to a much bigger family, we belong to the family of God, we’ve got brothers and sisters in abundance, we’ve got children more than we can count, we’ve got elders and seniors to guide us. Whatever the story of our human family, we are all richly blessed.” She encouraged all to recognize that “it’s not always easy but with the Lord nothing is impossible. Crown Jesus as the head of your family, submit your lives to Jesus.”
We heard testimonies by Johnny and Leslie Bertucci, and Darling Previl. Andres Arango led us in a prayer seeking the transformation of our lives by the Holy Spirit during the time of praise by reminding us that “if we believe God, God is here and he can transform our family here and wherever they are in this moment.” Kathleen McCarthy led a prayer of intercession for healing in family relations.
Salvatore Martinez, the president of the Vatican Foundation International Center for the Family of Nazareth, shared the call of the Renewal to the work of the “re-evangelization of the Christian family,” which can only become alive through the power of the Holy Spirit. He presented the mandate received by the Renewal in the Holy Spirit in Italy through the Vatican Foundation International Center Family of Nazareth. He concluded by inviting all to help “build this dream of love. Help us to shout out that the family is alive! Let us help make our Renewal a sign of love for the whole world.”
Our event concluded with the celebration of the Eucharist with Cardinal Peter Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, with 11 priests concelebrating and two deacons also serving. We were reminded that in our experience of family we are invited to “strip away the old self and put on the new life in Christ.”
It was a very full morning, filled with abundant grace. There were so many groups that came together to sponsor this event: the Archdiocese of Philadelphia Catholic Charismatic Renewal, Fondazione Vaticana Centro Internazionale Famiglia di Nazareth and many other realities of CCR including the NSC, the Haitian Council, CNSH, Filipino Alliance, ICCRS and the Catholic Fraternity of Charismatic Covenant Communities and Fellowship. (A full list can be seen on the WMOFcharismatic.org website). Most of all there was an experience of being the family of God. The Holy Spirit was present and regardless of our language or culture, we were one in the Lord!
Tammie Stevens is a member of the National Service Committee and works at Western Washington Catholic Charismatic Renewal in Seattle.