February /March 2017 - Vol. 90
early charismatic praise and worship
Some of the Early Pioneers from Cursillo and the Charismatic Renewal
edited by Don Schwager

Early Cursillo renewal roots at Notre Dame and Duquesne Universities
The impact of the Cursillo movement on lay Catholic leaders in the United States was a key factor for the rapid growth and development of the Catholic charismatic renewal movement in North America and around the world. The charismatic renewal among Catholics began with a group of lay Catholics who were involved in the Cursillo movement at Notre Dame University in South Bend, Indiana and at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.(notes 1, 2, 4, 5 below)

Some of the key Cursillo leaders who received prayer to be baptized in the Holy Spirit in the early stages of its development were Steve Clark, Ralph Martin, Kevin and Dorothy Ranaghan, Bert Ghezzi, Jim Cavnar, and Gerry Rauch.

Cursillo retreat
                          group at Notre Dame led by Steve Clark
Cursillo Retreat group No. 4 at Notre Dame - organized by Steve Clark. 
A number of future nationally known leaders in the renewal can be found in this and other Cursillo photos.

The strategy of the Cursillo founders was to form a body of mature Christian men who would be able to influence their environments, reach out and draw others to Christ, and there­by create a movement which could strengthen and restore vitality in the Church. The founders' method was to draw men to a compelling vision of the Christian ideal during a three-­day weekend and then to sustain and nurture their faith through Christian community afterwards. The three-day weekend was a comprehensive and highly structured presen­tation of a scriptural Christianity using a sophisticated under­standing of group dynamics. The whole strategy was aimed towards the formation of leaders, both in the choice of candidates before the weekend, and in the follow-up after­wards.1

Steve Clark

Steve Clark's role was foundational for developing a close network of relationships among lay Catholic leaders in the Cursillo movement at Notre Dame, Duquesne and other universities.5 Steve had converted to Christianity and became a Catholic during his undergraduate years at Yale University in the early 1960s. In
the autumn of 1963 Steve decided to pursue a doctorate at the University of Notre Dame, in South Bend, Indiana. There, he connected immediately with the Cursillo Movement, a retreat-based renewal movement he had previously encountered as a summer missionary in Latin America. Cursillo seemed like it might be a vehicle for forming mission communities with an evangelical focus.

At that time Cursillo was only beginning in the United States and according to Cursillo’s rules, Steve was still too young to attend or lead a retreat. Nonetheless, he attended one in East Chicago, Indiana. Two months later he organized the very first Cursillo retreat to be held in South Bend. In less than two years he was asked to give the opening address at the National Cursillo Convention in Kansas City and to serve on the National Secretariat in East Lansing.

Steve and the other young leaders of Cursillo were also curious about the apparent spiritual power found in Pentecostalism. They decided to read The Cross and the Switchblade and They Speak with Other Tongues, and so were prepared by the Lord for what he was about to do in pouring out his Spirit anew. 2, 5

Steve has described in his own words both the impact of Cursillo movement and the impact of reading about Pentecostals who were involved in evangelism and social action in New York City. This led to a number of lay Cursillo leaders making direct contact with Pentecostals to understand the "baptism in the Holy Spirit" and the exercise of charismatic gifts of the Spirit. Steve writes:2
My first acquaintance with charismatic things [in 1966] began with reading The Cross and the Switchblade, a very influential book in the beginnings of the Renewal. Paradoxically enough, it was given to me by a Campus Crusade staff member who also worked at Michigan State University. At that time Campus Crusade was negative on 'Pentecostalism' (the word that was used for charismatic movements), but the staff member did not seem to realize that she was in fact promoting Pentecostalism by passing on the book. Like her, I was impressed with what I could read about what happened to people when they were baptized in the Spirit. I was even more impressed, because I had worked with young people in a New York neighborhood like the one described in The Cross and the Switchblade and knew how hard it was to get them to change for the better.

That event has a certain symbolism. It is symbolic first of how many have been impressed with the effects of being baptized in the Spirit. It is also symbolic of the ecumenical origins of the Charismatic Renewal and of the Duquesne Weekend itself. Some have described the Duquesne Weekend as if it was a Catholic devotional experience - a group of Catholics praying to renew their Baptism and Confirmation or a group of Catholics praying before the Blessed Sacrament and experiencing grace. However, those who were there make it clear that the Duquesne Weekend would not have happened without the input of various non- Catholic Pentecostals, and of the Pentecostal movement as a whole, and without the message of baptism in the Spirit, in whatever terminology it was presented. We Catholics should be grateful to the Pentecostals, as Pope Francis recently said.

History also makes something else dear - the Charismatic Renewal and the Duquesne Weekend did not humanly come out of nowhere, but it began with a group of people who were seeking to serve the Lord and who were working together to evangelize and bring renewal to the church. That group had grown out of the Cursillo Movement, at that time somewhat new in the United States. Its origin was at Notre Dame University in the early sixties and many of those involved in it worked on the Antioch Weekend movement, an offshoot of the Cursillo. The first Antioch Weekend held at Duquesne was something of a pre-cursor of the Duquesne Weekend. The group that worked on the Antioch Weekend and in the Cursillo Movement was not a formal organization, but there was a conscious bond among them that came from working together.

Some have said that the Charismatic Renewal did not have a founder as other movements have. That is partly accurate. But it did have a founding group that provided the leadership for the beginnings of the Charismatic Renewal, including the Duquesne Weekend and its follow-up. 2

In the autumn of 1967 Steve, together with Ralph Martin, Gerry Rauch, and Jim Cavnar, moved to Ann Arbor,Michigan where the University of Michigan was located. It was there that the first charismatic covenant community emerged. These four began a charismatic prayer meeting that met on Thursday night in an apartment above Campus Corner Drug Store with a dozen people attending. Within weeks, more than one hundred people were attending, so they moved the prayer meeting to the basement of St. Mary’s Student Chapel. People began coming from all over the American Midwest, some driving four hours each way to learn more about the work of the Holy Spirit.2

Paul Dinolfo, a senior leader in charismatic renewal and ecumenical covenant communities in North America, has worked closely with Steve Clark since the early development of charismatic renewal and covenant communities. Paul sees Steve's contribution to charismatic renewal as foundational for its early development and subsequent growth:

Since his conversion to Christianity, Steve has combined a strong commitment to his own church, the Catholic Church, with an openness to Christians from other church communions. His openness to Pentecostals helped prepare the first Catholics to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. His commitment to the Catholic Church helped shape the Catholic charismatic renewal so that it did not become a divisive movement as it had in so many other church communions prior to 1965. Subsequently the Catholic charismatic renewal became a model for the charismatic renewal. I believe this contributed greatly to the subsequent  success of the charismatic renewal movement. 

As Christians from many different church communions began coming together in Ann Arbor, Steve recognized the hand of God and saw what was happening as an answer to the ecumenical vision of Vatican II. Steve embraced this grass roots, daily-life ecumenism and developed the theological and practical teaching to support it. He developed the main outlines of our understanding of cooperative ecumenism, convergent ecumenism, and our ecumenical approach. Steve pioneered the development of the first ecumenical covenant community. There are currently nine fully-developed ecumenical communities in the Sword of the Spirit. Steve has been directly involved in the formation of seven of them. 

In this regard it is also important to note the ecumenical impact of all of Steve's teaching. It is always deeply grounded in Scripture. Steve has influenced the Sword of the Spirit so that our teaching is likewise grounded in Scripture. This makes the Sword of the Spirit accessible to Christians from all church communions.5

Steve was among those first Catholics to be “baptized in the Holy Spirit.” He became one of the renewal’s leading spokesmen and authors, writing Baptized in the Spirit and Spiritual Gifts, Finding New Life in the Spirit, Growing in Faith, and Knowing God’s Will, Building Christian Communities, Man and Woman in Christ. Steve is past president of the Sword of the Spirit, an international ecumenical association of covenant communities worldwide. He is the founder of the Servants of the Word, an ecumenical international missionary brotherhood of men living single for the Lord.

Ralph Martin
Ralph Martin was one of the first Catholics to be baptized in the Holy Spirit and a key Cursillo leader in the development of the Catholic charismatic renewal movement. Ralph describes his involvement in the Cursillo movement both at Notre Dame and at Duquesne and his experience of being baptized in the Spirit in 1966:
The Cursillo Movement was a significant factor in my own life and in some ways became the seed-bed out of which the Charismatic Renewal blossomed. While a student at Notre Dame in the sixties, despite a solid Catholic upbringing in New Jersey, I got caught up in the intellectual and moral confusion of the times. It wasn't until three months before graduating that things turned around. A friend invited me to make Cursillo No. 2 in South Bend, Indiana, held at Fatima Retreat House on the campus of the University of Notre Dame. Very reluctantly and skeptically; I went.

There I heard impressive presentations that forced me to think about the purpose of life and reconsider the beauty and truth of Christianity. There also I encountered in prayer, in the Word, in the Blessed Sacrament, in the community, and in the silence of my soul, the gentle but clear invitation from Jesus himself to recognize him for who he was and surrender my life to him. It was a struggle, but thanks be to God, I was able to respond to the grace to recommit my life to Christ and make a firm decision to follow him.

At the very end of the Cursillo [retreat], I experienced an overwhelming flood of God's love and mercy entering my soul and igniting in me a fervent desire to love him and help others love him. I got up to testify to that publicly and that is what I have tried to live out to this very day. I think I was actually baptized in the Spirit at that point and a month later I found myself making strange sounds in prayer that worried me, so I stopped. I think that was the beginning of speaking in tongues; although, not having any concepts to understand it at the time, I stopped.

It was relationships through the Cursillo Movement that led to our first visit to Duquesne University in 1966. Steve Clark and I were working together in East Lansing, Michigan, for the National Cursillo Office and also doing campus ministry at St. John's Student Parish at Michigan State University. We received an invitation from some theology professors at Duquesne, who were also involved in the Cursillo Movement, to lead a retreat there, which we did. It was the following year that the famous retreat took place, led also by the same theology professors, that was the start of the Charismatic Renewal in the Catholic Church.

A short time after the Renewal broke out in Pittsburgh, we went to visit to see what was happening. It was there that I met some who have become lifelong friends and companions in the Gospel, Patti Gallagher Mansfield and Dave Mangan. It was there also that I received prayer for more of the Holy Spirit, and recognized that what I had experienced at the end of that Cursillo a few years previously was the same experience that was now becoming widespread through what has come to be known as Charismatic Renewal. The visit to Duquesne also gave me confidence to trust what I had experienced, and provided an environment and theological and scriptural understanding that enabled me to proceed with confidence sharing this great grace with everyone I could.6
Since its inception, Ralph has been a key leader in the development of the Catholic charismatic renewal on the national and international level. He was the founding editor of New Covenant Magazine, as well as the founding director of the International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Office, currently located in Rome. Ralph 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.

Kevin and Dorothy Ranaghan

Kevin and Dorothy Ranaghan were actively involved in the Cursillo movement at Notre Dame and they are among the first group of Cursillo leaders to be baptized in the Holy Spirit in early 1967. Kevin explains his encounter with the baptism in the Holy Spirit:
One snowy day in January 1967, my wife Dorothy and I met our friend, Bert Ghezzi, outside the Notre Dame library. Bert told us the surprising story of some of our mutual friends who were faculty members at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. They had just prayed to receive a Baptism in the Holy Spirit at a home prayer meeting, whose members were, for the most part, Episcopalians and Presbyterians. Prior to that they had been studying and praying about the stories of Pentecostal and charismatic Christians, also baptized in the Spirit, who experienced spiritual gifts such as healing, prophecy, praying in tongues and others. As Bert told us the story, we heard of their increases in faith, the growth in their prayer and understanding of Scripture, and the effectiveness of their witness...

Dorothy and I then embarked on a six week journey of prayer, study and questioning. Could these stories be true? Did they have a basis in Scripture and the tradition of the Church? What, if anything, did the Second Vatican Council have to say on the subject? Could this Pentecostal-charismatic thing be part of the renewal of the Catholic Church? Could it have a place in our own lives? Over the course of these weeks we came to a number of conclusions. Here are some of them.

The New Testament is replete with examples of visions, spiritual dreams, miraculous healings, prophecies, speaking in tongues, casting out of evil spirits, inspired preaching, etc. This is true in the life of Jesus and in the church life recorded in Acts. In fact, Jesus said that the things he did we also would do. These spiritual gifts continued throughout church history at different times and places and with different people. The Church understands that the presence, action and grace of the Holy Spirit is not limited to the sacraments. Pope St. John XXIII had the whole church pray explicitly for a renewal of the wonders of Pentecost in our day. Finally, the Second Vatican Council's dogmatic constitution on the Church taught that the charismatic gifts of the Spirit, ordinary and extraordinary, are to be expected and encouraged as part of the normal life of the Church.

At the same time we were beginning to learn that this pentecostal spirituality was not strictly speaking limited to Pentecostals. Since the early 1960's, hundreds of Episcopalians, Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans and many others had been baptized in the Holy Spirit and had begun using the spiritual gifts. In terms of religious culture and practice, they were much closer to us than the still mysterious Pentecostals. This quelled our fears that we might be moving towards the edge of a spiritual cliff...

Interested in learning more about the charismatic gifts, we contacted the president of the local chapter of the Full Gospel Businessmen and asked to meet him. Ray Bullard invited us to his home where we met him and a number of Pentecostal pastors eager to meet these Catholics who said they were baptized in the Holy Spirit. They would later say they were somewhat sceptical, but after some conversation they began to pray with us with the laying on of hands. Within just a minute of two, almost all of the nine of us there that night were praying in tongues. Some of us prayed loudly, some of us softly. It was just wonderful. And again, the experience that had begun for me the week before, and that had endured, was intensified. Jesus was with me...

Soon our home and campus charismatic prayer meetings began. People came by the tens, scores and hundreds. Within a year Notre Dame had become a major center of the spread of baptism in the Spirit in the Catholic Church worldwide.6
Kevin and Dorothy Ranaghan wrote Catholic Pentecostals in 1969, the first book detailing the history of the Catholic charismatic renewal movement and articulating its theological implications. Kevin was ordained a deacon in 1973. He is a founding leader of the People of Praise, an ecumenical covenant community in South Bend, Indiana. He joined the United States National Service Committee for the Catholic Charismatic Renewal for 15 years, and for 11 years was its executive director. He has been a principal organizer of national and international conferences, especially the 1975 Catholic Leaders Conference in Rome, and the 1977 Ecumenical Conference in Kansas City. Kevin and Dorothy Ranaghan have six children and twelve grandchildren.

Jim Cavnar

In the summer of 1966, Jim Cavnar lived with Steve Clark and Ralph Martin in East Lansing, Michigan. Steve and Ralph were on the staff of the National Cursillo Secretariat headquartered nearby. Jim knew both of them through the Cursillo Movement at Notre Dame. Jim hoped to work with them after graduation from Notre Dame in the spring of 1967. That summer Steve visited with another Notre Dame alumnus and cursillista, Peter Collins. Peter described his remarkable encounter that summer with a small Pentecostal church in Toronto. He excitedly described his visits to the church where he had witnessed lively worship and heard stories of miraculous healings. Peter then gave Jim a copy of an influential book, They Speak with Other Tongues. Jim explains the impact of Peter's visit and then reading the book:
We read the book quickly, our doubt and skepticism restrained by the first-hand accounts of a trusted friend corroborating the tales in the book. Such things had happened in the lives of the saints, I reasoned, why not now? It seemed possible, even likely, that these accounts were real. I was prepared to accept them and hoped that someone (else!) would investigate..

At the national Cursillo convention that August, 1966, Steve and Ralph gave copies of the book to two professors from Duquesne University. They were more daring than we. After reading the book they made contact with a prayer group in Pittsburgh attended by Presbyterians and other mainline Protestants. They attended for a while and then asked to be prayed with to be baptized in the Spirit.

Soon word had filtered back to us at Notre Dame through mutual friends that something dramatic had happened to them through their contact with the group. We got wind of remarkable happenings at a retreat they had led at Duquesne. In a letter, one of them wrote, 'I hope all this doesn't sound too enigmatic, but the whole experience has been rather like having all our suspicions about the truth of Christianity confirmed.' We were intrigued. One of the men was coming to our campus shortly, he said, so he would tell us the whole story then.

When he arrived, about twenty of us gathered in the living room of Kevin and Dorothy Ranaghan, not far from the Notre Dame campus. There we sat in amazement as we heard stories of the extraordinary events of the Duquesne Weekend. Students had been baptized in the Spirit. Some had spoken in tongues. They had prayed for hours, even days, in fervent ardor. Healings had taken place and even miraculous answers to prayer. The man who related these events was obviously himself 'on fire' with the Spirit and bold in faith... At the end of the evening he closed with a prayer for us. As he began I was struck by the power and conviction of his prayer. 'Here/ I thought, 'is a man who speaks with authority. This must have been the quality people saw in Jesus.' I struggled to respond.

As he prayed I repeated each word in my mind slowly and deliberately. He prayed for two things: first, that we would all be free from the influence of Satan, and, second, that we would be filled with the Holy Spirit. It couldn't have taken more than two minutes.

I awoke the next morning feeling like a different person. The strain of the last two months was entirely gone. I felt cheerful and buoyant, full of faith in God. The conflicting feelings of the night before had fled and I was eager to pursue further this experience of the Holy Spirit. Above all, I felt that a change had taken place in me through some action of God. Later that evening I found out what had happened...
With Baptism in the Spirit a revolution took place. Suddenly we were experiencing God's action as the primary dynamic. We were now in the position of trying to cooperate and respond. Steve Clark once compared this shift to the experience of trying to push a car uphill. As long as you kept pushing, the car would keep moving. But as soon as you let up for a moment the car would roll back down to the starting point. Such was much of our experience of Christian ministry. The forward momentum seemed dependent on our own continual effort. Now, it seemed, the car was rolling downhill with a momentum of its own, gathering speed as it moved. We were no longer pushing, we were being carried along at an accelerating pace, hanging on for dear life. The Holy Spirit was now the source of dynamism beyond anything we had experienced before.6
 Jim has served in leadership in the charismatic renewal since its inception in 1967. He wrote Participating in Prayer Meetings in 1974, published by Servant Books in Ann Arbor. He was a worship leader for many years and led the music group for The Word of God community in Ann Arbor for many years. Jim and the Word of God music group produced a series of Songs of Praise music books and audio cassettes (Servant Publications) which circulated widely throughout the charismatic renewal worldwide. Jim is President of Cross International, a Christian ministry that serves the poorest of the poor internationally by channeling aid through existing churches or church-based ministries. Jim and his wife Betsy have five children.

Gerry Rauch

Gerry Rauch joined the Cursillo movement during his academic years at Notre Dame University.  During his senior year, some friends from Duquesne University wrote him about their experiences with the Holy Spirit during the Duquesne Weekend retreat (February 17-19, 1967). Gerry explains the impact the letter had on him and his Cursillo friends at Notre Dame:
 The report was dramatic and riveting: our mysterious and transcendent God again coming to people today, people we knew. As the letter was being read, I remember becoming afraid. In my imagination, this all could mean I should immediately leave School and become a street preacher, standing like some wild eccentric on a Soapbox, haranguing people that Jesus Saves'. I did not want to be like that. In the end, that's not what happened, but I was Sensing Something accurately - that this news meant my life was no longer going to be in my own hands.Those feelings of fear were real, but thankfully short-lived.
A few days later a visitor from the Duquesne weekend retreat came to Notre Dame to meet with Gerry and a few other Cursillo members at Bert Ghezzi's apartment. When they heard the account of the Holy Spirit being poured out on the group of students who attended the Duquesne retreat, they were astounded and eager for the same thing to happen to them. They then asked the visitor to pray with them to be baptized in the Holy Spirit'. Gerry remarked that he did feel any significant change or spiritual experience at that moment. But the next day Gerry and his friends did notice that something spiritually significant did take place. Gerry writes,
Outwardly, it seemed like others present were also unmoved - although later they explained that they were experiencing dramatic interior workings of God. By the next day I was too. The biggest change for me had to do with reading scripture. Every word of the Bible was now full of power. I found it hard to stop reading and pay attention to anything else. Other parts of life also began to unfold in new ways. Visitors came at every time of day and night, wanting to talk about what was going on. Reporters interviewed us, and usually got the story distressingly wrong. Still their reports brought out more people who wanted to hear. And we were experiencing plenty to share: praying in tongues, interpretation of tongues, physical healings, deliverance from evil spirits - true "Acts of the Apostles' scenarios.

My new gift to read the scriptures as words of life and power has remained with me over a lifetime, and turned out to be key to my eventual career - with charismatic covenant communities and Catholic media, with Cardinal Suenens in Belgium and at the Vatican, with three seminaries, teaching future priests how to use the scriptures in ministry. It did turn out to be true that my life was no longer in my own hands, but that meant it was full of marvels, not something odd-ball and eccentric.

Over the years, I have to say growing in Christ came slowly in the ways that matter most. I thank God though, because the Charismatic Renewal also meant that he gave marvellous comrades to me' to help me along the way - from those earliest days of the renewal Steve Clark, Jim Cavnar, Ralph Martin, Fr. Charles Harris, Bruce Yocum, and my eventual wife, Marla Olmsted. She came to the Charismatic Renewal by her own path of the wondrous deeds of God, and wanted to love him in return as much as I did. Over the years, so many others have been dear and supportive friends in Christ...

How could this have happened without God bringing us together first, to be ready to receive these graces of the Holy Spirit? Having ventured out, we saw the Renewal become a worldwide phenomenon with spiritual benefits no one could number. We have continued in it together with the Holy Spirit crying out in our hearts, 'Come, Lord Jesus!6
Gerry Rauch graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 1967. He and his wife Marla live in Ypsilanti, Michigan. They have six children and ten grandchildren. Gerry is a member of the Pauline Holy Family Institute, and works in the formation of future priests at three Catholic seminaries. He is  President of Annunciation Institute, a non-profit organization that provides resources for ministry of the word and for growth in the theological and cardinal virtues.

Sources on early history and development of Catholic Charismatic Renewal:
  1. Before Duquesne: Sources of the Renewal, by Jim Manney: This is a fuller description of the antecedents of the charismatic renewal, written soon after the movement began (1973) and written by someone who knew the chief events and leaders. From New Covenant Magazine, February 1973.
  2. It Was the Time and Place, by Steve Clark: This is a “testimony” requested by Patti Gallagher Mansfield for the second edition of her book As By a New Pentecost. It is perhaps the best place to begin, because it gives an overview in somewhat short form, both of the antecedents and the continuation afterwards.
  3. The Beginnings of the Life in the Spirit Seminars, by Steve Clark: From the fiftieth anniversary issue of Pentecost Today, a short description of the beginnings of the Life in the Spirit Seminars, one of the more important instruments for developing the charismatic renewal from the beginnings.
  4. A Collection of Important Source Documents for the Beginnings of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, including: Early Structure of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, and Comments on the Early History of CCR, by Steve Clark
  5. A Vision for Christian Community, by Michael Shaughnessy, and A Pioneer of Ecumenical Covenant Communities, by Paul Dinolfo, Living Bulwark, May 2009
  6. As By A New Pentecost, by Patti Gallagher Mansfield, Amor Deus Publishing, 1992, 2016.
  7. Trends: Catholic Charismatic Renewal Nears 20-Year Mark, by Fr. Pat Egan, Pastoral Renewal, September 1986, Ann Arbor.

Don Schwager has been actively involved in service for the Catholic Charismatic Renewal since January 1969 and has been a member of the Servants of the Word since 1970. He worked for a few years with Ralph Martin as managing editor for New Covenant Magazine when it began in 1970 until 1973, and also worked with the development of Servant Publications between 1974 and 1990, and with community building work for the Sword of the Spirit since 1980.He is editor for Living Bulwark and author of DailyScripture.net.
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