April / May 2017 - Vol. 91

Holy Spirit 
Establishing an International Office for the Catholic Charismatic Renewal

by Ralph Martin

Somehow these somewhat obscure, smaller sized towns, South Bend, Indiana and Ann Arbor, Michigan found themselves in the middle of a worldwide movement that was significantly impacting the Catholic Church.

Friends of ours on the Duquesne weekend soon told us about what had happened to them on that famous weekend in February of 1967 and several years later Ann Arbor had become something of a center holding annual leaders’ conferences and publishing New Covenant magazine, and South Bend became known for its Communication Center making products available and for the annual Notre Dame conferences.

Both cities began receiving visitors from all over the world and probably because of New Covenant magazine a lot of international visitors wrote to us and visited as well. I had a shoebox filled with letters from many different countries in my basement office when one day, in April of 1971, Gary Seromik, a grad student in French at the University of Michigan, walked into my office and offered to help. When I found out that he could speak Russian, Polish, Spanish, Italian and French I eagerly accepted his offer and he is with me to this day now as our office manager at Renewal Ministries.

In January of 1973 the International Communication Office (ICO) was officially established by the National Service Committee recognizing the work that Gary and I were doing in our basement office.
In March of 1973 Cardinal Suenens visited Ann Arbor and after he revealed his identity — he came at first as “Fr. Michel Dubois” living in our household! — offered to help us in any way he could. He gave a wonderful interview to New Covenant magazine where he declared his support for the renewal. He then suggested we have our next leaders’ conference in Rome — which was a big step for us—and so we did.

In October of 1973 the First International Leaders’ Conference was held in Grottaferrata, a suburb of Rome, which 126 leaders from 34 countries attended. Cardinal Suenens arranged for 13 of us to be received by Pope Paul VI which was the first papal recognition that the renewal had received.

The surprises continued and in 1976 we moved the international office (along with us!) to Brussels at the Cardinal’s invitation and then in 1978 Fr. Tom Forrest took over as Director while I served as Chairman of the International Council that oversaw the office. And in 1980 ICO moved to Rome and eventually was granted pontifical recognition under its current name, ICCRS, International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services.

When my wife Anne and I were in Rome for the big conference at Olympic Stadium with Pope Francis in 2014 we visited the current offices and marveled to think of the journey from a basement in Ann Arbor to a Vatican Palace — Palazzo San Callisto! The amazing works of God, and the continuing surprises of the Holy Spirit.

[This article © 2017 by Ralph Martin originally appeared  in PENTECOST Today Magazine, Volume 42 Number 1 Winter 2017. Used with permission.]

Ralph Martin is president of Renewal Ministries, an organization devoted to Catholic renewal and evangelization. Ralph also hosts The Choices We Face, a widely viewed weekly Catholic television and radio program distributed throughout the world. Renewal Ministries is also actively involved in assisting the Church in more than 30 different countries through leadership training, evangelistic conferences and retreats, and the publication and distribution of Catholic resources.

Ralph is the author of a number of books, including A Crisis of Truth, Hungry for God, Fire on the Earth, Will Many Be Saved?, and more recently, The Urgency of the New Evangelization: Answering the Call, What Vatican II Actually Teaches and Its Implications for the New Evangelization. He and his wife Anne have six children and sixteen grandchildren and reside in Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA.

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