50 Years of Charismatic Community
on a Remarkable Work of God
Intro: The 50th
Anniversary of the Catholic Charismatic
Renewal was celebrated in Rome at the
Feast of Pentecost, 4th of June .
The event attracted tens of thousands of
members of the renewal, and many came
early for days of prayer events, talks
Three streams of the
charismatic renewal communities, the
Catholic Fraternity, the European
Network of Communities (the ENC) an
ecumenical network, and the Sword of the
Spirit held a common event for the
Golden Jubilee which took place on
Thursday afternoon, June 1st, in the
Lateran Basilica, the pope’s parish
church. About 2,000 people attended.
Bruce Yocum was chosen by the three
groups to give the main address. The
follow is an adapted transcription of
It was a great
blessing to be gathered in Rome to celebrate the
50th anniversary of the charismatic renewal. And
we have to begin by thanking Pope Francis for
inviting us here and giving us the privilege of
celebrating both the Vigil of Pentecost and the
solemnity of Pentecost together with him.
Looking Back –
Looking Around –
and Looking Ahead
extol you, my God and King, and
bless your name for ever and ever.
Every day I will bless you, and
praise your name for ever and ever.
Great is the LORD,
and greatly to be praised, and his
greatness is unsearchable. One
generation shall laud your works to
another, and shall declare your
mighty acts. On the glorious
splendor of your majesty, and on
your wondrous works, I will
meditate. Men shall proclaim the
might of your terrible acts, and I
will declare your greatness.
We thank Michelle Moran and the International
Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services (ICCRS),
and Gilberto Barbosa and the Catholic Fraternity
for organizing this event for us.
We have had the remarkable blessing of four
successive Popes who have been great supporters
of this renewal – even to the point of Pope
Francis recommending the Life in the Spirit
Seminars to the whole Church.
Fifty years is a good moment to take stock of
where we are. It is long enough that we have a
genuine history to look back on, a history of
great acts of God, but the renewal is young
enough that we can look ahead to even greater
things that God will do.
So I invite us to look back, to look around and
to look ahead.
Jordan from Jerusalem leads worship
Back: Remembering the Works of God
We are here to acknowledge and to give thanks
for the remarkable things God has done in our
midst over the past fifty years.
As the liturgy tells us - or rather, as the
Church proclaims in the liturgy of the
is right and just, our duty and our salvation,
always and everywhere to give you thanks,
Lord, Holy Father, almighty and eternal God,
Through Christ our Lord. (Preface of Sundays
in Ordinary Time, 1)
instructed in the Psalms to
thanks to the LORD, call on his
name, make known his deeds among the peoples!
Sing to him, sing praises to him, tell of all
his wonderful works! (Psalm 105/104:1-2)
the wonderful works that he has done, (Psalm
To proclaim the
great deeds of God, to tell of His saving acts
is to worship Him. We can consider our days here
in Rome, as we remember and recount what God has
done in this outpouring of His Holy Spirit, as
one great act of worship.
But there is more. We have a duty to proclaim
these great deeds of God to our children and our
will not hide from their children, but will
tell to the coming generation the glorious
deeds of the LORD, and his
might, and the wonders which he has
wrought.... that the next generation might
know them, the children yet unborn, and arise
and tell them to their children, so that they
should set their hope in God, and not forget
the works of God, (Psalm 78/77:4, 6-7)
We have a duty
to pass on to coming generations our testimony
to what God has done among us.
Proclaiming the great works of God is an
incitement to faith for all who hear of them.
Here let me publicly thank Patti Mansfield
Gallagher for the remarkable gift she has given
to us and to future generations in her new
edition of As By a New Pentecost. It is
a superb testimony to what God did to bring into
being this work of grace, and an excellent means
for passing on to the next generation the story
of what God has done for us. – And I hope that
it is soon translated into many languages.
Patti has captured the extraordinary ecumenical
dimension of this renewal, detailing the prayer
of a Pope, answered within hours by the
outpouring of the Holy Spirit on a small group
of Protestants Bible school student in Kansas,
We here today are heirs of the Pentecostal
movement. Let us not forget that.
But we have not only to remember, but to remind
ourselves again and again of what God has done
for us so that we do not turn away from or lose
the great gift He has so generously given.
Forgetting led the Israelites to sin:
they soon forgot His works... (Psalm
So let us take
this as an opportunity also to ask the Lord to
keep alive in our minds, hearts and spirits
gratitude for the great gift of this unexpected
and remarkable outpouring of His Holy Spirit.
God their Savior who had done such great
things in Egypt... (Psalm 106/105:21)
Barbara, president of Sword of the Spirit,
addresses the assembly
Around: Getting Perspective on God's
The early exhilaration
I hesitate to confess it, but I am so old that I
was around at the beginning of charismatic
renewal in the Catholic Church. It was an
extraordinary, exhilarating time. When I
attended my first charismatic prayer meeting on
March 8 1968, in the apartment of Steve Clark,
Ralph Martin, Jim Cavnar and Jerry Rauch (who
were all at that time working for St. Mary's
parish at the University of Michigan) there were
perhaps a dozen people attending. By the end of
February - three weeks later - there were 90! By
May there were 300 or more attending every
Thursday night. By 1969, only two years after
the earliest Catholic charismatic prayer groups
began, the Bishops of the United States issued a
statement in support of the movement. This was a
sign and a wonder: bishops never do anything so
The renewal was spreading worldwide with a
rapidity that was head-turning. Within the first
few years the renewal had become a far-flung
international phenomenon, with rapidly growing
centers in Europe, Latin America, Asia, the
South Pacific and Africa. New Covenant
magazine was being mailed throughout the world.
The national conferences in the United States
had become so large there were being held in the
football stadium at the University of Notre
This was wildfire!
Not only was the renewal crossing national
boundaries, it was crossing ecumenical
boundaries, creating a grass roots ecumenical
movement. Under the masterful leadership of Dr.
Kevin Ranaghan, a very broad-based ecumenical
committee prepared and led an ecumenical
conference of over 50,000 in Kansas City,
Misouirie in 1977.
Building a Fire
So what we saw in those years was wildfire.
But God had been at work for years gathering
sticks for this fire, and Patti also tells a
part of that story, showing the importance, for
example, of the Cursillo movement in the
preparation for what God would do in Charismatic
Back in those years I often went camping in the
springtime in the mountains of North Carolina
and Tennessee, where melting late winter snow
and spring showers can turn the many steeply
tumbling mountain rivers into raging torrents.
The current was often so swift and strong that
if one attempted to cross, even where the water
was only waist deep, one could be swept away
downstream. That was often for me an image of
what had happened in the renewal. I, and many
millions of others, had been caught up in the
powerful current of this new work of God and
were swept along in it. The current was so
strong that we were engulfed by it, our lives
being swirled around by it, all of our attention
absorbed by it.
In those early days the current of charismatic
renewal and covenant community had such a strong
hold upon my life that I thought that it was
what God was doing in the Church.
These racing rivers are landscape-changing -
pushing around boulders and breaking down banks,
transforming the landscape.
When a mountain river gets a good ways
down the mountain it becomes deeper, broader,
even more powerful but less violent. You can get
your head up and look around. After the
charismatic renewal had become an accepted and
ubiquitous aspect of the life of the church I
began to notice that it was not the only river
on the mountain! There were in fact, and
literally (not an exaggeration) hundreds of
these powerful currents: Neocatechumenate, the
Focolare, the St. Egidio movement, Communion and
Liberation, Cursillo and many, many more. They
are all new, all products of the work of the
Holy Spirit in the church in the 20th century.
We rightly appreciate the great work of God that
is the charismatic renewal, and for us in
particular charismatic community. But When we
lift up our heads out of the roaring, rushing
waters of the action of God that has formed us
and carried us, we see that we are one of many
powerful currents rushing along, many other new
forms of life in the church which began
contemporaneously with us and are both like us
and quite different from us.
I had the great privilege of attending “Together
for Europe” Stuttgart 2007, a gathering of
leaders of more than 250 new communities and
movements just from Europe, all beginning within
the last 50 years.
Great variety and
diversity of charismatic communities
Even within this great stream of charismatic
communities there is a great variety and a great
As all these rivers of God’s life and action go
crashing and racing along they are transforming
the landscape of the church.
We must be grateful to God for what he done for
us in charismatic renewal and in community, and
we must faithfully live out the call He has
given to us so that it can bear the fruit in the
life of the Church that God intends. At the same
time we have to be aware, as the Lord said
through prophecy to us in our communities in the
Sword of the Spirit many years ago, we are Aa
part and not the whole.”
We need that perspective so that we can look
ahead with clarity of vision to see where God is
What does the future hold? I don’t know much,
but - Days of trial, days of darkness,
But also as that same prophetic word said, a
time of glory for the Church
time of darkness is coming on the world, but a
time of glory is coming for my church, a time
of glory is coming for my people. I will
pour out on you all the gifts of my
Spirit. I will prepare you for spiritual
combat; I will prepare you for a time of
evangelism that the world has never seen.
But in what
form that will take place, and what our role
God will continue to pour
out His Spirit
In 2013 ICCRS sponsored a “prophetic
consultation” in the Holy Land, and on one of
those days we prayed together in what some
believe to be the “upper room” where the
disciples were gathered on the day of Pentecost.
We had an excellent time of prayer, and during
that prayer time we received a prophetic word, a
promise from the Lord that He was not finished
pouring out the Holy Spirit in this renewal. It
was very much like a prophetic word we received
many years ago:
Lord says, “when I poured out my Holy Spirit
upon you how did I pour it upon you? Did
I pour it upon you in small measure? No, I
poured it upon you as the beginning of a river
which I intend to widen and to deepen and to
grow in its strength, its current, its volume.
I am zealous for my people's sake. I am
zealous to save them and to change them, to
restore them. And I will pour out my Holy
Spirit upon you more and more until it is
Three simple points
1. Throughout the history of
the Church, from the very beginning, God has
used renewal communities as a source of
strength and fresh vision. If you ask "Why
has God suddenly raised up so many new
communities in the Church?” the answer surely is
that He is about a work of renewal.
2. Stay clear on and
faithful to your call. God always takes
the initiative to bring renewal and new
life. He gives the call - but we must
respond to the call, we must heed and answer it,
the call that He has given to us.
But why so many new forms of community, so many
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same
Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but
the same Lord; and there are varieties of
working, but it is the same God who inspires
them all in every one. To each is given the
manifestation of the Spirit for the common
good. 1 Corinthians 12:4-7
The members of the body. Not all are the eyes or
the hands or the feet.
3. Live your call
charismatically, with expectant faith,
looking for God's word, God's intervention,
God's miraculous power.
God has given us the great privilege of seeing
His powerful action
• In our individual lives
• In our communities
• In the Church
The Church has encouraged and supported us in a
Let us celebrate these blessings, remember them
and look with great expectation to the future.
Yocum is a former President of Christ the King
Association and a founding leader of the Sword
of the Spirit. .l