Catholic Charismatic Renewal
The genesis of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal dates back to 1959 when Pope John XXIII gathered all his Bishops in the world to pray for the “new Pentecost.” The four sessions of Vatican II (1962-1965) were indeed marked by the power of the Holy Spirit as the Bishops prayerfully outlined a vision of renewal in all areas of Catholic life. The Bishops completed the last session in December 1965 and returned home to begin to make this “new Pentecost” work in their dioceses.
To this “official” renewal of the Catholic Church was added a powerful breath of the Holy Spirit when the Catholic Charismatic Renewal Movement began in the United States of America in February 1967. A group of University students and their lecturers at Duquesne University in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, made a retreat in which each experienced a deep infilling of the Holy Spirit which they later named the “Baptism of the Holy Spirit” (or in Ghanaian parlance, a “greater outpouring of the Holy Spirit”). Their lives were transformed: Jesus became real to them; Scripture became a living Word; the Sacraments became powerful times of the Lord’s presence. They found they had new zeal in preaching the Gospel and serving others in love. In 1975 Pope Paul VI called the charismatic renewal “the last chance to renew the Church.”
In 1971-72 streams of prayer groups began in Koforidua and Kumasi with the active involvement of some Holy Spirit Sisters and Dominican Brothers in Ghana. Slowly “small fires of the Spirit” spread to many parts of Ghana. For example, the Techiman Holy Family Hospital Prayer Group began in 1974.
The Prayer Group of the Corpus Christi Church was formed at the time the Church came into being in February 1991. Mr. Francis Azambiok, a founding member of the Church, was instrumental in forming the Prayer Group. The very early members included the late Mrs. Dadzie, the Fiakas, Mr. Karikari, Anastasia Ako-Hayford, Mrs. Vermowor, the Dakpallahs, the Atsiatormes, Awem, Effah, Capt. Adarkwa, Dorothy Asafo, Selorm Asafo and, of course, Francis Azambiok. The Addais, Boamahs, Agnes Wullar and others joined the Group later. George Dakpallah was the Local Coordinator who also doubled as the Group’s Diocesan Service Team (DST) representative and as well as the Zonal Coordinator for Zone 7 (Tema) and later Zone 4 Coordinator. Azambiok was the Secretary of the Corpus Christi prayer group.
It is significant to point out that there was no Choir at the time of the first Holy Mass. This non-existence of the choir led to the decision to conscript EVERY member of the Renewal into the Choir which was just being formed under the able leadership of Hannah Dankwa-Smith. The then Church Council Chairman, Emmanuel Otabil, was instrumental in encouraging Renewal members to sing at Mass every Sunday, and that was how also the Music Ministry (Sanctified Voices) was formed and developed. The Renewal held the fort as choir until the Church Choir was on its feet. This explains why many Charismatic Renewal members were in the Choir especially in the mid-1990s. The Renewal’s instrumentality and zeal led to the invitation of the City Music Ministry to grace the very first Church Harvest at the Bethel Nursery School.
Charismatic Renewal Prayer meetings started at the Bethel Nursery School, moved to the Otabils’ home when we were locked out of Bethel, and when Bethel was officially commissioned, the meetings moved back there, and later to the Holy Child Nursery, Holy Child Primary and finally to the Church. The initial Ministries were Teaching and Music; others were formed in due course.
Rev. Fr. Francis Asagba who was Charismatic-inclined greatly assisted in promoting the Renewal in its early years of formation. Rev. Fr. Andrew Campbell who also came later as Parish Priest was the Archdiocesan Chaplain of the Renewal.
The vision of the Renewal is to prepare God’s people for work of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God, and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:12-13).
- To foster mature and continuous personal conversion to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
- To foster a decisive personal receptivity to the person, active presence and power of the Holy Spirit.
- To foster the reception and use of the spiritual gifts (charismata) not only in the Charismatic Renewal but also in the broader Church.
- To foster the work of evangelization in the power of the Holy Spirit, including the evangelization of the unchurched, the re-evangelization of nominal Christians, and the evangelization of the culture and social structure.
- To foster the ongoing growth in holiness through the proper integration of the charismatic emphasis with the full life of the Church and her Sacraments.
Role of the Renewal in the Church
The Catholic Charismatic Renewal is a Movement to renew the Universal Church under the active presence and power of the Holy Spirit of God. The movement is called ‘Charismatic’ to emphasize the charisms or personal gifts of grace from the Holy Spirit as described in 1 Corinthians 12. As a ‘Renewal’ it is a rediscovering of the way the early Christians experienced the power of the Holy Spirit. However, the heart of the Renewal is not so much the experience of the charisms or expressive prayer but a personal and loving relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.
The primary role of the Church is to acknowledge Jesus as one’s personal Lord and Saviour. The Renewal has a duty to let members of the Church realize that it is possible to have a personal and deeper relationship with the risen Christ. In reality, Christianity is having a love and personal relationship with the Creator, the Saviour and the Comforter. This is what the writer of Song of Songs portrays in his imagery, for example, in Ss 3:1-6. Living a transformed (renewed) life, a life that is characteristic of the Pentecost experience, a life that would lead us to heaven, is also what the Renewal seeks to impact on the Church.
It can be seen that over the years the activity of the Renewal has affected positively the prayer and worship life of the Church. The Renewal stands to impact the Church into going back to its great tradition of prayer in all its forms. The love for Scripture cannot be left out, for St. Jerome says, “Ignorance of the scripture is ignorance of Christ.” Thus, the Renewal should continue to engage in more and more solid Bible study groups. On evangelization, the Renewal continues with its noble task of stirring in the lives of everyone the imperative need of witnessing about the risen Christ through the Word and one’s lifestyle. We need to motivate the Church to dynamic action by placing evangelization in the conscience of all Catholics in the Church. In Mark 1:38 Jesus says: “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. FOR THIS REASON HAVE I COME” (emphasis laid).
Experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit and his gifts for the Church, living a Community life as exemplified in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, living a life of service as portrayed by Mother Mary in Luke 1:39-56, living a full Sacramental life, teaching the children, and reviving the interest, joy and zeal of the youth in the Church are all visible signs of the extent of the Renewal’s ongoing active role in renewing the Church.
“The Catholic Charismatic Renewal Movement is one of the many fruits of the Second Vatican Council, which, like a new Pentecost, led to an extraordinary flourishing in the Church’s life of groups and movements particularly sensitive to the action of the Spirit. How can we not give thanks for the precious spiritual fruits that the Renewal has produced in the life of the Church and in the lives of so many people? How many lay faithful have been able to experience in their own lives the amazing power of the Spirit and his gifts? How many people have rediscovered faith, the joy of prayer, the power and beauty of the Word of God? How many lives have been profoundly changed? For all this today, together with you, I wish to praise and thank the Holy Spirit.” (Audience of Pope John Paul II with the National Service Committee of the Italian “Renewal in the Spirit,” Rome, 4th April, 1999.)