Author: Renewal Ministries Staff

Tanzania Outreach Bears Much Fruit

A member of our mission team ministers to people during a time of prayer.

By Tom Edwards, Renewal Ministries’ Country Coordinator

Renewal Ministries has made twenty mission forays in seventeen dioceses into the vast country of Tanzania. We have introduced renewal events with several days of outdoor Catholic rallies every time. We also have visited some of the dioceses multiple times.

Bishop Beatus Christian Urassa invited us to serve in Sumbawanga, a town (and diocese) in the far-western reaches of Tanzania. Our team included brothers and sisters from across the US and the world, including Nairobi, Slovakia, Kenya, and Tanzania.

The name of the town “Sumbawanga” literally translates as “throw away your witchcraft.” This originated with local spiritual healers who wanted to keep away intruding witch doctors. Superstition and the practice of the “dark arts” are still prevalent in the area. The town is famous for the practice of witchcraft; to be a witchdoctor from Sumbawanga is a claim to fame, a boast that appears in Internet ads.

Our schedule included ten days of intense ministry in outdoor Catholic preaching rallies, and daily workshops on Catholic faith, youth, and young adult ministry. Our family life workshop was of special interest to Bishop Beatus and the vicar general. It featured intense teaching on the evils of abortion, the consequences of contraceptives, Natural Family Planning, and the basic principles of Theology of the Body.

When we arrived, we learned that the retreats we had planned for religious sisters and priests had been cancelled due to opposition. There are two large orders of sisters in the diocese who had been told by their superiors that any sister attending our events would immediately “lose their veil.”

Although disappointed, we immediately put the matter to prayer and the Lord’s providence. Our team moved into “Plan B” mode. The Lord did not disappoint. The people of Sumbawanga and far-reaching areas were like dry sponges thirsting for God. People from surrounding towns came with their families and slept on the grounds of the two local parishes, caring for their children and cooking on open fires. The response to all of our events was beyond anything we had imagined for a first-time effort like this.

I want to share with you our team members’ responses regarding this mission:

“God´s presence was overwhelming. People were touched by Jesus in a powerful way. About 2000 people were present on Sunday. Every day, more and more people listened to God´s Word. On Wednesday, there were about 4000 people; on Friday, many more; and on Saturday, more than 5000 people attended, hungry for the living God. Every day, people gave testimonies of physical healing. They spoke of being filled with God’s presence and love. Many were delivered from evil spirits as God poured out grace like waves into their dry hearts. How hungry they were! His Word was like an oasis in the desert. You could see smiles and joy on their faces. Many sat in the dust, some under trees, and some up in trees. I met young people hungry for God´s love. They had so many questions about forgiveness. God touched their hearts incredibly and led them to forgive.” —Bohdan Novak

“One thing that moved me was the openness of school children we visited. They discovered they could love because God had loved them first. We prayed for them, asking God to fill their hearts with His love. They came to hear God’s message with joy. They responded well when prayed with for inner healing. They prepared their hearts by surrendering all to Jesus, and then they invited the Holy Spirit into their hearts. God started a great work in them, and I am sure He will continue it.” —Sr. Damiana

“At the afternoon rally, I was touched by the faith, joy, and gratitude of a man whose liver was completely healed. For a while, he was dancing and praising God. His whole liver was infected and swollen. He spent most of his income for treatment with different doctors without success, because the infection kept coming back. The Lord healed him completely. His doctor testified this as well when he went for another checkup.” —Sr. Mary Justin

“This marked my seventeenth journey to Africa in twenty years. What impressed me the most were the similarities of the people today with those living in New Testament times. I reflect on journeys of the Holy Family to Jerusalem, the birth of Jesus, the presentation in the temple, and the finding of the lost child in the temple. We witnessed hundreds of people who traveled great distances by foot and other difficult means to arrive at the church grounds to set up camp for two weeks. They built fires, prepared and ate meals, washed clothes, and slept on the ground and floor so they could attend the daily workshops and rallies. Truly, a faith-filled people!” —John Mathe

Family Life Ministry

Never before in Tanzania have we seen so many babies and children! Hundreds of babies were in attendance at every event, and the cathedral was constantly overflowing. In Sumbawanga, one of the poorest areas economically in Tanzania, life is precious. Young women consider childbirth a sign of maturity and prestige. Most all women have ten to twelve children.

Jean Marie Edwards shared the following reflections:

“I think it will take me many months to fully comprehend the depths of God’s love and works amongst His people in Sumbawanga. The hunger for Him was so powerful. Surely, the Lord satisfied that hunger with abundance.

“In every workshop, every rally, every divine appointment, God was powerfully present and dwelt in each and every soul. Their eyes, faces, and entire beings showed their grateful hearts to their God for what they were learning and experiencing. His presence was so real and so beautiful.

“The prayers were raw and honest, and the youth prayed them with all their hearts while tears streamed down their faces. They prayed not only for themselves but for the others. They opened their minds and hearts deeply to their God and in turn were touched by the very heart of God. Such love!

“I want to thank you again for all you do, especially in making sure we always have the (fetal models frequently used on our missions to help participants gain a more clear understanding of the various stages of life within the womb) to take and leave with the people. Words can’t do justice to the power they have. The Lord pours Himself out through them. I am in awe every single time we show them. Being able to leave them is huge. It is another way Renewal Ministries deeply, deeply touches the hearts of God’s people everywhere. It is going to be so awesome in heaven to see face-to-face all the babies and their families that were given life because of how the Lord uses these little models.”

Staying Catholic Made it Possible

Ann and Bill Cassano

The following interview took place between Renewal Ministries’ Administrative Assistant Therese Jones and supporter Ann Cassano. We share it here as an encouragement and reminder of the difference made by persevering in faith. This interview originally appeared in the October 2019 Renewal Ministries’ newsletter.

By Therese Jones, in conversation with Ann Cassano

Q: How would you describe your relationship with Renewal Ministries? I know you went on pilgrimage with us in 1996.

A: I’ve been following Ralph Martin since the 1970s. He gave a talk at one time called A Crisis of Truth, which my husband and I heard. We were so impressed with it that we got a copy and invited a houseful of people to come see it. This opened our eyes to what was really happening in the Church, and it helped a lot of people. We continued to do this type of thing all through the years. We lived in many places.

Q: So you would take Ralph’s teachings and distribute them to others, no matter where you were?

A: Yes. In the 1980s, I worked as a DRE for about ten years. I watched EWTN and all of Ralph’s programs, and I learned so much. He took us along, taught, and formed us. That was helpful back then, when the Church was worse off than it is now.

Q: Why do you say it was worse then?

A: No one knew what was really going on. It was a confusing time.

Q: So it was worse because there was no clear voice?

A: Exactly. EWTN, Ralph Martin, and things coming out of Steubenville seemed to be the only voices that were sounding a clear message and were saying the same things. That really helped me stay Catholic!

Q: Going back to how you promote the message, you said you purchase materials from Renewal Ministries and share them with others wherever you live?

A: Yes, I do. The people in our last parish were very open to learning more about the faith. For about twelve years, we met together, first in a Catholic book club, and then working together in faith formation programs, many of which were aired on The Choices We Face, or through DVDs we purchased from Renewal Ministries of conferences, rallies, etc. Because of the other participants’ openness and thankfulness for all they were learning, they grew and continue to grow in the Spirit. I am so grateful for Renewal Ministries’ DVD As By a New Pentecost, which makes it so easy to present the Holy Spirit to everyone. Shortly before I moved, we formed a prayer group that still meets weekly to praise the Lord and grow in the faith. I hope to bring this kind of growth and understanding of our faith to the retirement community I now live in

Q: Thank you so much for sharing, Ann. You are such an inspiration!

A: You know, my husband passed away recently, and he had had a really rough year. But for eighteen months, Bill offered his suffering from lung cancer for the salvation of souls. And then, he died a beautiful death. I’m so grateful for Renewal Ministries’ witness to the Catholic faith; because of Renewal Ministries, I knew how to pray, I knew how to sing praise, and when Bill died in my arms, it was a really blessed time. Let me tell you a story:

Right after my husband died, I could see him running through the clouds, happy, free, and without pain. I was filled with joy! Our deacon (who is ninety-two years old but still serving) had come to see Bill regularly, and had left shortly before Bill died. As I was holding Bill, seeing this vision, the doorbell rang. It was the deacon again! With tears in his eyes, he embraced me and comforted me. I asked him how he knew that Bill was gone, and he said the Holy Spirit had told him! I have so much joy! I thought this would be the hardest time of my life—sixty-one years of marriage and knowing him five years before that—but it has instead been filled with grace and joy. I think because I know where he is. I have hope that he is happy—running and pain free. That is my faith. The faith that was developed in large part by Ralph and his teachings, but EWTN and Steubenville as well. This faith has carried me through.

Q:  Ann, you inspire me. I want to help others to live out the truth too. Thank you!

A: I even trained as a spiritual director, and Ralph’s sister Therese taught part of the program. This all has happened—was made possible—because I stayed Catholic, which was largely because of Ralph. He needs to know this. We need to tell him. It makes a difference!

 

 

‘Carry Out the Work of Evangelization’

Ralph Martin speaks at the 2019 Lift Jesus Higher Rally in Toronto, Canada.

Ralph Martin was recently interviewed by Edward Pentin from the National Catholic Register about Vatican II’s teachings on salvation that are often misunderstood.We want to help our readers access this from our blog to make sure they don’t miss it! You can read the introduction below; you can read the article in its entirety here.

By Edward Pentin, for the National Catholic Register

It’s become a common false assumption, witnessed most recently in preparations for the upcoming Amazon Synod, that most, if not all, people are saved, even if they might not be Catholic.

But such a “universalist” view is not what the Church has ever taught, so how did we reach this point, and what does the Church really teach about the salvation of souls?

To find out, the Register asked professor Ralph Martin, director of graduate theology programs in the New Evangelization at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in the Archdiocese of Detroit. Author of the widely read book on spirituality The Fulfillment of All Desire, he has also written Will Many Be Saved? What Vatican II Actually Teaches and Its Implications for the New Evangelization.

In this email interview, Martin explains how some documents of the Second Vatican Council had a destabilizing effect on the Church, exacerbated by a failure to read them carefully, combined with various concepts of universalism put forward by theologians such as Karl Rahner and Hans Urs von Balthasar.

Martin, who also serves as president of the evangelization organization Renewal Ministries, says he believes these theologians and other factors have “contributed to a weakening of zeal for holiness and for evangelization.”

Continue reading here.

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.