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Bishop Witnesses Conversion in Ethiopia

This article originally appeared in Renewal Ministries’ August 2019 newsletter.

By Heather Schultz, Renewal Ministries’ Editor

Bishop Lesanu-Christos Matheos, of the Eparchy of Bahir Dar-Dessir in Ethiopia, recently visited the Renewal Ministries’ offices. He was in the United States to attend the ordination of an Ethiopian priest in Chicago and to visit Ethiopian priests and communities.

Bishop Lesanu has seen amazing stories of conversion in his diocese over the past couple of years, especially in the Gumuz tribe. The Gumuz are very isolated, but two young men from the tribe who had encountered Jesus at school worked with the bishop to bring a priest to their people. Last year, 280 people were baptized!

And this year, Bishop Lesanu helped baptize 405 Gumuz people! He said the Gospel is bringing about tremendous change in the Gumuz culture. He said there are two things the Gumuz people value: not lying and not stealing. He said that even if a member of the Gumuz tribe were to kill someone, they would never lie about it.

He added, however, that the Gumuz also have a habit of killing people if they are annoyed with them. He said they don’t place much value on human life.

He explained that if a person’s family saw their loved one about to be killed, their typical response would be to simply kill the person themselves. By killing you before the enemy, he said, “they think they saved you.”

This “killing culture,” as Bishop Lesanu described it, has been reduced since the Gumuz have come to know Christ.

He shared a story about a mother who asked her sons to seek revenge on their father’s killer. All four sons refused, because “the Lord says not to kill.”

“This was a shock for the society,” said Bishop Lesanu.

Bishop Lesanu added that the Gumuz people are independent; they don’t want to beg. He once received $1 from a woman—“and, with the heart of the lady who gave it to me, that $1 is worth more to me than $1 million.”

“The Gumuz are unique because they are innocent,” he continued. “I tell them to keep that value and tradition. They give back if they are given any more than they need.”

He said he doesn’t like to make the Gumuz people wait too long to be baptized, because “it is a matter of salvation. We don’t need them to be theologians; we want them to be baptized.”

The faithful receive additional teaching before receiving their First Communions.

He described the beauty of the Gumuz people’s faith: “They kiss the cross every time they come to the priest. They love the cross. They will run up to a priest of they see him on the street and say, ‘Bless me, Father’ and ask for absolution.”

Bishop Lesanu’s diocese is both new and very big—more than two-thirds the size of Italy. Yet he only has a very small number of priests and religious to assist him in serving the faithful.

He became acquainted with Renewal Ministries after doing an interview with Church in Need. At the time, he was a chaplain for the Charismatic Catholics, who “looked very Protestant.”

“This was a big load for me,” he explained. “I was given the big responsibility just to be an umbrella over them. I knew no one else. They published the interview, and many Catholics from around the world reached out to me. Michelle Moran, who at that time was president of ICCRS (International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services), contacted me.”

Through that connection, Renewal Ministries’ Country Coordinators Lloyd and Nancy Greenhaw came to serve in Ethiopia. One way the Greenhaws have served is by teaching university students. “We have more than eleven big government universities in our area,” said Bishop Lesanu. “Each university has 40,000-50,000 students, with just one percent who are Catholic. We have to take care of them and give them good formation.”

Bishop Lesanu added, “In 2016, one year after my installation as bishop, I had a lot of problems directed to me. I questioned, ‘Is it really the will of God that I am a bishop?’ I had a car accident, there was division among my priests, and some of the faithful changed religions. It caused me to question myself. I was in contact with Ralph Martin and Sr. Ann Shields, and Sr. Ann told me to prostrate myself in front of the Eucharist very often. In one year, everything changed.”

Additionally, a priest who travelled with the Greenhaws last year saw the bishop’s living conditions—he had no office and worked out of his bedroom—and offered to pay the rent on a bigger house for a year. Now, the bishop has an office space and the Dominican Sisters of Catherine of Siena work there as well, doing pastoral education.

“I can see the Lord put me in that place and is following me, assisting me,” said Bishop Lesanu. “I can see that it is His will that this work be given to me.”

Walking with God’s Word

Peter Herbeck heard the call to serve God full-time when he was in college. At first he thought this likely meant a vocation to the priesthood. After some discernment, however, he discovered that was not the case: He was called to marry and have a family.

But how could he evangelize full time as a layman with a wife and kids? Herbeck quickly found the answer: By trusting in God’s promise that he read in the Bible.

Today, Herbeck is the vice president and director for missions at Renewal Ministries, an organization founded by Ralph Martin in 1980 to evangelize in the Catholic Church through parish missions, conferences and various media initiatives. He’s also an author, in-demand speaker, and co-host of two weekly TV programs on EWTN and one daily show on Ave Maria Radio.

On Sept. 7 Herbeck and Father John Riccardo, a priest of the Archdiocese of Detroit and host of the Ave Maria Radio program “Christ is the Answer,” will speak in La Vista at the 10 Year Anniversary Conference of Seeking Truth, an Omaha-based biblical formation apostolate.

Herbeck spoke with the Catholic Voice about the impact Scripture should play in the lives of Catholics. 

Q: Tell us about your talk at the upcoming Seeking Truth conference.

What I’d like to do is talk a little bit about the times we’re living in to give people a spiritual perspective. You know, St. John Paul II used to say that one of the fundamental calls of the Vicar of Christ is to help the church read the signs of the times and to interpret for the church, to see what the Spirit is saying in response to the signs of the times. And I think it’s very important to just see spiritually what we’re living through right now in the church. It’s significant. 

And then in that context to see how important it is to do what people like Sharon and Steve (Doran) are doing in Seeking Truth, the Bible study, and how crucial it is for us right now. Because the Word of God has a unique capacity to clear up our thinking, give us clear minds, to give us a fresh spirit, a new way of thinking. … It gives us a deep-rooted, strong identity, to be able to see the Lord, understand him, understand his teaching. It gives people an unshakable grounding. And that’s exactly what people need right now. 

The Second Vatican Council talked so much about the core responsibility of the clergy and the laity in the mission of the church. We still have a long way to go for the laity to be awakened to that core responsibility and what that means. And it’s important. It’s serious. It’s what we’ve been baptized and confirmed for. It’s having people like Steve and Sharon and various kinds of lay leaders who are really responding to God’s call in their lives. Now he’s deploying them and they’re going forward, and bearing fruit. It is such an important sign, such an encouraging sign to know. It’s really a work of God.

Q: Could you share with us an experience from your own life in which you were enriched by your study of the Bible?

When I was 20, I had been encouraged by friends and mentors to make sure to take up the Bible each day and to read it. And I was in my dorm in college and I was reading through Matthew 6, that beautiful passage where Jesus said, “Don’t be anxious about anything. What you’re going to eat, what you’re going to drink, what you’re going to wear.”

It’s so counterintuitive. Reading, I’m thinking, “Everybody’s anxious about everything. How can we not be anxious about anything, about the very things you’re talking about, Lord?” But he’s talking about our need to trust him. And the last line there said, “Seek first the Kingdom of God,” instead of being anxious. Seek first the Kingdom of God and his way of holiness and everything else will be added unto you. He’ll heal everything. He’ll provide, maybe not everything we want, but everything we need he will provide. 

And I felt like in that moment, that passage, (it was) the first time really in my life probably where a passage just kind of jumped off the page at me. And I felt as though the Lord was saying to me in my dorm room, “Peter, if you internalize this, you take this into your heart, if you accept this and believe it and live it, I will make something beautiful out of your life. I will show you that this is absolutely true.” And it’s absolutely true for anyone who believes it and lives in accord with it. I’m 61 years old. I was like 20, that was 41 years ago when I read that passage, and it’s absolutely true. And all I can say is God is faithful, completely faithful.

Continue reading here.

Ethiopia Mission Reaches University Students, Gumuz Tribe

Members of the Gumuz tribe listened attentively as Lloyd Greenhaw shares his “Genesis to Jesus” story.

This article originally appeared in Renewal Ministries’ August 2019 newsletter.

By Nancy Greenhaw, Renewal Ministries’ Country Coordinator

The bishop has been so happy with the results of our visits with his university students that he asked us to give them another weekend session. Each year, we have some returnees and newly enrolled students as well.

Eighty students attended; the bishop was happy. Lloyd began his talks on knowing and defending the faith with an in-depth talk on Mary, going through biblical typology and that the Ark of the Covenant is Mary. He taught all day, going through talks on the Eucharist, confession, idols, and more. The youth were amazed by everything the Church teaches and believes is in the Bible!

The next day, I taught on “Growing in Prayer” and on St. Therese of Lisieux and the “Audacity of Faith.” Bishop Lesanu interpreted for us. He greatly enjoys being with the young people. He explained that these kids experience many problems and hopelessness. Choosing to stay Catholic means choosing the more difficult path—including less education and fewer job opportunities. He said our time with the students always strengthens their faith. One young man chose this university based on reports he had heard about us from prior students. After the session, he said he was not disappointed in his decision!

Lloyd answered the young people’s many questions on faith, marriage, and what being a true Christian means in their lives. I then taught them how to share their testimonies—which they had never done before. Then they practiced giving their testimonies. One young man stood up and said that in his church, a thief stole the Blessed Sacrament and threw the hosts on the floor. Suddenly, the thief was paralyzed. He remained that way all night until morning Mass-goers found him and the police were called; he then was set free of the paralysis, and they took him to jail!

The next day, we drove for about three hours to the small town of Dibate, which was our base for the next few days. We stayed with Fr. Desalegn, who teaches and preaches to the Gumuz Tribe.  He also runs a “hostel” for the Gumuz boys who are getting an education from the government. (Apparently the Church feeds and houses and the government educates them.) We were privileged to speak to nearly thirty of the boys.

Fr. Desalegn says Mass for the Gumuz every Thursday, even though no one has received their First Holy Communion. Lloyd, Fr. Desalegn, our interpreter, Franciscan Seminarian Senay Mesfin, the driver Dagnachaw, the Communication Officer of the Diocese Tegelemma Lemma, and I drove about ninety minutes on a very rough road through the hills around the Gumuz. When we could drive no longer, we got out to walk. It’s a beautiful area, but the young Ethiopians walk faster us up the hills than us flatlanders. When Lloyd and I got too winded, we slowed and loudly told each other, “Let’s stop and look at the view!” The guys laughed at us. We did finally reach the new Gumuz church! This is the only structure for miles that is not made of mud. With the help of the Gumuz, Italians brought in a corrugated aluminum ceiling and walls on poles as their church. It is a step up from the old blue tarp over poles.

The Gumuz had kept in contact with our progress through cell phones, and they were singing loudly for us as we walked in, happy that we were there. After singing, Lloyd began to preach the Gospel, going from Genesis to Jesus. Lloyd spoke in English, which was interpreted into Amharic by the Seminarian and then interpreted to Gumuzegina (the name given to us by the seminarian) by a local young man. Then Father said the short (only one hour) Ethiopian Mass, and then Lloyd led them in a prayer to accept Jesus. Then, Father, Lloyd, and I asked everyone interested to come forward for prayer. All responded. We laid hands on several hundred people, children included, and asked for God’s blessing and healing. Lloyd, with Father’s blessing, blessed them with a large Benedictine Cross. The people couldn’t take their eyes off Jesus!

Afterward, we were invited to the chief’s hut. The wide-eyed children rarely see “Fraenges,” know as whites, and they stared and pressed around me as I took photos. So cute! It was around noon and very hot. We walked several miles back to the truck, and many kids walked with us. We drove back to Father’s house, and we all ate and rested. Then, around 4 p.m., Father took us on another adventure.

He took us to another Gumuz village about thirty minutes away. None of these people have been baptized, and few have heard the Gospel. They practice traditional religion, and Father has gained their trust. Father thought that Lloyd’s “Genesis to Jesus” story was perfect to share with them. Again, we drove as far as we could. This time, we only had to walk uphill about a half mile to a set of mud huts with people sitting on logs in a half circle, with men on the right and women and most children on the left. The people were in no hurry and sat very attentively as Lloyd preached. Afterward, as in the other camp, he asked if they wanted to ask Jesus into their hearts. They did. It was a beautiful experience. Coming from America, it is still amazing that there are places where the Gospel has not been preached. What a fantastic privilege!

At dark, we started back. Many young boys ran after us. They ran faster than we could drive and tried to grab hold of our vehicle. The driver finally stopped and sent them away, but they still followed a long distance, waving and laughing.

. . .

Below are two of the many testimonies we collected from the university students:

When I was in grade eleven, I heard Americans brought teaching and told us what was wrong about masturbation. I longed for an opportunity to listen to these people. I chose the Bahir Dar University so that I could meet you. I knew that such an opportunity from Lloyd and Nancy could only be found in the Bahir Dar diocese.

I learned from the teaching that I was talking bad to myself. I would think things like I was not useful, I was not important. I also had no courage to speak to people. I could not express myself. Lloyd and Nancy taught me, “You’re very important. Jesus gave you the power so you can do great things!” Now I see that I can do great things as the son of God. I will exercise my faith. Now my life is completely changed.

All of you first-year students, you’re very lucky to hear about pornography and to be liberated and how our body is holy. I don’t say that I’m really holy. But I can say at this moment I am far away from pornography and masturbation. You cannot hide yourself from God.

When you spoke about Mary, I had never thought about this before. I am now fully convinced that Mary intercedes for us. During my final exam, I prayed to Mary to help me to pass the exam. I made an “F.” I had already prepared my luggage to move back home. But the teacher called me and offered to help, and he helped me bring my grade up. So, it was a chance for me! I realized Mary really is an intercessor, and when you pray to her, she responds.

Also, I was surprised that abortions are not allowed. I thought, how are you going to keep the population from becoming too big, it will be difficult. I now know that God has us for a purpose. Your teachings opened my eyes. We cannot be against the will of God. Only the Catholic Church is against divorce. It makes me love my Catholicism, because Catholicism is still firm in the teaching and continues its mission.

. . .

I have received many things in my life from the beginning of last year, when Bishop Scott McCaig taught us about Mass. I was converted by the teaching of Bishop Scott. Most of the time, even if you’re a singer in the choir, after Mass, you begin to look at bad photos on your phone. After hearing Bishop Scott, I completely stopped. I started to read the Bible, and I learned how to pray and to read the Bible and understand it.

In Lloyd and Nancy’s testimony, they had been rich and they had many things, but they had to leave that for Christ, for the service of the Lord. Now, I don’t think I will go into government work. I want to do what Lloyd and Nancy are doing. I will do that next year. I have to pay back. I have to do something for the Lord, because I learned from them, from you. After finishing the University, I would like to do evangelization work for the diocese.

‘The Choices We Face’ Continues Inspiring Viewers

Ralph Martin and Dr. Tom Graves on “The Choice We Face.” You can view this episode here.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Greetings in Christ Jesus!

Our staff recently watched what will be the final episode for the 2018 The Choices We Face programs. I’m so glad we did! On the program, Ralph interviewed Dr. Tom Graves from St. Paul on the Lake Parish in Grosse Pointe, Michigan. Dr. Tom spoke about his story of coming to meet Jesus and the difference it made in his marriage, family, and work.

Our whole staff was moved—I was moved to tears a couple of times—at the beautiful and amazing ways Jesus has worked through Tom, in the ordinary circumstances of life and work as a physician, to help people come to experience the transforming love of Jesus. Tom’s simple, humble, and honest way of speaking reminded us that Jesus wants all of His children to be His hands and feet, to be conduits of His mercy and power.

You can view the program by clicking the link here. I know it will be a blessing to you. You also can also watch it this week on EWTN or in the weeks ahead at www.RenewalMinistries.net/tcwf. (Click on “View show archives.”)

In two weeks, the 2019 episodes of The Choices We Face‘s will begin! We’re very happy and grateful to the Lord for what we believe is another power-packed season. You’ll hear from some of our favorite guests, including Patti Mansfield, Fr. John Riccardo, and Sr. Ann Shields, as well as Sr. Miriam James Heidland, Dr. Bob Schuchts, Fr. Burke Masters, and others.

Please pray that this new season of programs will reach those who most need to know the transforming love of Jesus.

In Christ Jesus,

 

Peter Herbeck

Vice President

Renewal Ministries

 

P.S. Please consider joining us for this year’s Renewal Ministries Gathering from April 5-7. You can find details by clicking here.

Introducing the St. Catherine of Siena Society

Image credit

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

Last month, I gave an overview of all the amazing work the Lord has allowed us to accomplish over the past year and what we hope to continue to accomplish in the new year. This month, I want to announce a new initiative that could significantly contribute to our ability to continue being a clear voice for the Gospel for years to come.

We are launching the St. Catherine of Siena Legacy Society, which will enable our loyal supporters to continue their support after their deaths. Each year, a fair number of our supporters “move on” to the next stage of the mission, and when we are notified, we have a Mass said for each one of them. Periodically, we are notified also that a longtime supporter has remembered us in their will, and when that bequest arrives it always is experienced as an especially wonderful blessing. We want to extend this opportunity to everyone and so are establishing the St. Catherine of Siena Legacy Society for those who have decided to remember the mission of Renewal Ministries in their will or trust.

Why St. Catherine of Siena? She embodies our mission in many ways. She was deeply contemplative and deeply Charismatic. She communed continually with God in prayer and received amazing wisdom and insight from Him, and at the same time prophesied to the pope, cast out demons, healed the sick, and called many to repentance and a life of holiness.

She lived at a time of great crisis for the Church—with competing claimants to the papacy and the legitimate pope living in fear and subservient to the French political powers in Avignon, France. When she arrived in the papal court, she smelled the “stench of sin.” She even wrote passionately about the horror of homosexuality among the clergy and cowardly bishops who transferred offending clerics to other assignments without appropriate discipline. Her passion for the Lord and the renewal of the Church, combined with her deeply contemplative and Charismatic ministry, is inspiring to us. And so the name!

I would like to ask all of you, particularly those who are approaching—or in—retirement to consider naming Renewal Ministries in your final plans. You can leave a specific dollar amount, a percentage of your estate, or a percentage of what remains after your loved ones are taken care of. This can easily be arranged by adding a codicil to your will or an amendment to your trust. You may also wish to add Renewal Ministries as a charitable beneficiary when you update your will or trust, or by updating a beneficiary form for a life insurance policy, commercial annuity, retirement plan, etc. We have some good Catholic estate lawyers here in Ann Arbor who are friends of Renewal Ministries who can advise you how to do this if you need such help. All you need to do is include wording like this in your will:

If you live in the United States: I give and bequeath to Renewal Ministries Inc., 230 Collingwood, Suite 250, Ann Arbor, MI 48103, Tax ID 38-2385975, the sum of $__________  (or % of residual estate) for its general uses and purposes.

If you live in Canada: I give and bequeath to Catholic Renewal Ministries Inc., 331 Evans Avenue, Toronto, Ontario M8Z 1K2, Registration No. 12374-0243-RR0001, the sum of $__________  (or % of residual estate) for its general uses and purposes.

When you name Renewal Ministries, you should include either our US or Canadian address, legal name, and Tax ID number (depending on where you live) so there won’t be confusion with other similar non-profit organizations.

When considering such donations, people sometimes ask me about Renewal Ministries’ longevity. Our goal isn’t to go on forever, but to go on as long as the Lord gives us strength, capable colleagues, and sufficient financial support. In that regard, things are looking very promising.

The Lord has provided us with a good range of ages in the leadership of Renewal Ministries, and even if one of us was no longer here, the remaining team and new people the Lord may add to it would be able to carry on quite effectively. My own father lived until he was ninety two—active and alert to the day he died—and I have no plans to retire, as I don’t consider this a job, but a mission, and I have as much energy and zeal for the Gospel as ever. Peter Herbeck is sixteen years younger than me, and Pete Burak is considerably younger than Peter—so succession is looking good as well.

Plus, we have two excellent boards, one for the US and one for Canada, with very capable people and truly excellent Episcopal advisors, Archbishop Robert Carlson, of St. Louis, and Cardinal Thomas Collins, of Toronto. In the extreme eventuality that Renewal Ministries didn’t have the leadership to continue, the board would transfer any assets to similar ministries that would clearly fulfill important aspects of Renewal Ministries’ mission.

If you have any questions about signing up for the St. Catherine of Siena Legacy Society, feel free to contact our Director of Mission Advancement John Recznik, at 734-662-1730 or jrecznik@renewalministries.net. You can also visit our website, at www.RenewalMinistries.net/plannedgiving.

Anyone who decides to remember us in their will or trust will receive a plaque of recognition and gratitude, as well as a picture of St. Catherine and a complimentary set of my CD album on St. Catherine’s life and teaching.

Thank you for considering this important new initiative as we enter 2019.

Your brother in Christ,

Ralph