Tag: Renewal Ministries

Our Manifesto: A Look Forward

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

In our July newsletter, we published Cardinal Mueller’s “Manifesto,” which so clearly reaffirmed important truths of our faith that have been surrounded with fog and confusion, even in Rome. As I meditated on his thoughts, I felt inspired to write a Manifesto for Renewal Ministries that clearly states where we stand in the ongoing spiritual battle, who we are, and what we are planning. I hope you find the below informative and inspiring. I do!

What are we facing?

We’re facing a very grave decline in the life of the Catholic Church. And if the body that is supposed to be salt and light to the world, loses its savor . . . the consequences for the Church and the world will not be good.

The statistics are not improving! Years ago, I used to make use of statistics to try to wake people up to the seriousness of our situation and to elicit a greater generosity and clarity of response to Jesus. But after a certain point, I stopped using statistics because almost everybody knew the situation was bad and didn’t need any more convincing. But because this is an attempt to lay out our vision for the future of Renewal Ministries, I want to review the current situation once more. The headline on the front page of our local Sunday newspaper recently read: “Catholics struggles as numbers fall.” Embarrassing, but true.

And what are the current numbers? Not pretty. These numbers are for the State of Michigan but would be very similar for most states, other than the Sunbelt states that benefit from migration from the north and immigration of Hispanics, who are traditionally Catholic.

A Remnant?

In the state of Michigan from 2000 to 2018, there was a forty-nine percent decline in infant baptisms; a fifty-four percent decline in Catholic marriages, a forty-six percent decline in First Communions, a forty-nine percent decline in enrollment in Catholic grades schools, and a forty-eight percent decline in K-12 religious education classes. During this time, the state’s population stayed relatively stable; in fact, it recently peaked at about ten million, which was similar to population numbers before the 2008 economic downturn.

While these statistics are bad in themselves, what they portend for the future is worse. Out of the approximately twenty-one percent of those nominally Catholic who still attend Mass somewhat regularly, the number of people who attend drops as the ages drop, with young people especially absent from many churches. Nationwide, for every person who enters the Catholic Church, six people leave.

Some Michigan Catholic dioceses are national leaders in the seriousness with which they’ve attempted to “change the culture of the Church” to one of evangelization. I’ve participated in these efforts myself as director of Graduate Theology Programs in the New Evangelization at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in the Archdiocese of Detroit, a very good seminary. But despite massive investments of time and money, the statistics are not yet improving. It is very likely that societal trends are so strong and years of negligence in teaching and preaching the truth in parishes and schools so great, that many Catholics who still attend Church have gone over to the “world” in terms of what they really believe, how they live, and how they are raising their children, guaranteeing that further erosion of attendance and numbers is extremely likely, no matter what efforts are currently being made. We will almost certainly be reduced to a remnant, perhaps a despised remnant, by those who form part of an apostate church and a society that is hostile to true faith and morality. So what shall we do? What is Renewal Ministries going to do in response to this?

We must consider: What are we called to do?

We firmly believe that Jesus Christ is Lord and that He is the same, yesterday, today, and forever. We firmly believe that God has permitted all the negligence, cowardice, complicity in evil, and lack of a clear sound from the trumpet, for many years now, and that He has a plan to bring good out of this horrific evil. Negligence and infidelity are being exposed. Corruption and cowardice are being unveiled. Either we will turn to the Lord in humble repentance and ask Him to have mercy on us or the unraveling will continue. We  may indeed be reduced to a remnant. In any case, in God’s perfect time, the unrepentant wicked will be judged, and those suffering for righteousness’ sake will be vindicated.

But God has often allowed His people to be purified and pruned in this way, and He has begun again with a faithful remnant, out of which powerful renewal comes. Out of Noah, He gave a new beginning to the human race that had fallen into wickedness. Out of Gideon and his littleness, the Lord brought victory over His peoples’ enemies. And Jesus Himself started with a small number; out of their radical love, faith, and willingness to give their own lives even to the death, the Church grew. It can happen again. It is happening again where people give their lives to the Lord with generosity and bear the fruit that Jesus asked us all to bear. It may not show up in the statistics for a long time, but under the surface, the Lord is powerfully working, drawing people into deep relationship with Himself and one another.

Isn’t this unraveling what Pope Benedict XVI foresaw many years ago?

“From the crisis of today the Church of tomorrow will emerge—a Church that has lost much. She will become small and will have to start afresh more or less from the beginning. She will no longer be able to inhabit many of the edifices she built in prosperity. As the number of her adherents diminishes, so will she lose many of her social privileges. In contrast to an earlier age, she will be seen much more as a voluntary society, entered only by free decision. . . .

“But in all of the changes at which one might guess, the Church will find her essence afresh and with full conviction in that which was always at her center: faith in the triune God, in Jesus Christ, the Son of God made man, in the presence of the Spirit until the end of the world. In faith and prayer she will again recognize her true center and experience the sacraments again as the worship of God and not as a subject for liturgical scholarship.

“The Church will be a more spiritual Church, not presuming upon a political mandate, flirting as little with the Left as with the Right. It will be hard going for the Church, for the process of crystalization and clarification will cost her much valuable energy. It will make her poor and cause her to become the Church of the meek.

“The process will be all the more arduous, for sectarian narrow-mindedness as well as pompous self-will will have to be shed. One may predict that all of this will take time. The process will be long and wearisome as was the road from the false progressivism of the eve of the French Revolution—when a bishop might be thought smart if he made fun of dogmas and even insinuated that the existence of God was by no means certain—to the renewal of the nineteenth century.

“But when the trial of this sifting is past, a great power will flow from a more spiritualized and simplified Church.

“Men in a totally planned world will find themselves unspeakably lonely. If they have completely lost sight of God, they will feel the whole horror of their poverty. Then they will discover the little flock of believers as something wholly new. They will discover it as a hope that is meant for them, an answer for which they have always been searching in secret.

“And so it seems certain to me that the Church is facing very hard times. The real crisis has scarcely begun. We will have to count on terrific upheavals. But I am equally certain about what will remain at the end: not the Church of the political cult, which is dead already . . . but the Church of faith. She may well no longer be the dominant social power to the extent that she was until recently; but she will enjoy a fresh blossoming and be seen as man’s home, where he will find life and hope beyond death.” (Ratzinger, Joseph Cardinal. Faith and the Future. E-book. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2010. 116-118.)

A New Springtime Arises

It is out of decisions like this, of renewed loyalty to Jesus Christ and His Church, to His whole teaching, that the “new springtime” prophesied by St. John Paul II will arise. As some have pointed out, the “first springtime” of the Church came through hostility, persecution, and martyrdom, and so may also the “new springtime.”

It is with joy and confidence that I write these difficult words. Jesus indeed is the Lord, and always will be. He has a plan. That plan includes all of us! Let’s all continue to give ourselves to the Lord in all the everyday ways that present themselves, and persevere to the end! He is with us, and He will give us everything we need. He who did not spare His own Son—will He not also give us all that we need (Rom 8:32)?

I also write this with a sense of great gratitude. Those of us associated with Renewal Ministries have been given the great privilege of being used by the Lord to help many, many people come to the Lord and continue to follow Him. He has “appointed us to bear fruit” (Jn 15:16), and by His great grace and mercy, we are!

Thanks for all you do to further the kingdom in your daily lives and in your support of Renewal Ministries.

What will Renewal Ministries Do?

We will continue as best we can to obey Paul’s advice to Timothy:

“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season, convince, rebuke, and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths. As for you, always be steady, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” (2Tm 4:1-5)

  • We are interested not in promoting a particular movement or experience, but in promoting the integral Catholic faith as it comes to us through the apostles and as it is articulated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. In particular, we are interested in including in our teaching and preaching those aspects of the Gospel that are often being ignored or denied today, such as the reality of heaven and hell; the eternal consequences of refusing to believe and repent; and the full truth about God’s mercy, that it must be responded to in faith and repentance in order to be effectively applied.
  • We want to be clear on the truly good news that God’s plan for human sexuality involves marriage between one man and one woman, and that sexual activity outside of godly marriage will exclude us from the kingdom of God unless we repent.
  • We want to draw from the depth of the Catholic Tradition the profound truths about growing in holiness, how we are all called to holiness, and that holiness is possible—and necessary!
  • We want to embody in our ministry, teaching, and preaching the truth of the powerful work of the Holy Spirit, and how He gives gifts to all the faithful that we must use for the building up of the Church and the extension of the kingdom.
  • We affirm with St. John Paul II that the charismatic dimension of the Church, along with its institutional dimension, are both “co-essential” for its very constitution.
  • We want to not just preach and teach but pray with people for them to encounter the Lord in a deeper way. We want to live and communicate the truth of the Lord’s body and blood given to us in the Eucharist, and we want to honor Mary and benefit from her prophetic and evangelistic missions that continue today.
  • We want to continue to be inspired by the witness of Sts. Jacinta and Francisco and “become like children” in our whole-hearted response to Mary’s request to pray and sacrifice for the salvation of souls and reparation for sin.
  • We want to continue to do what God has asked us to do; we want to fulfill the ministry He has given us.
  • We want to continue—through television, radio, social media, books, booklets, CDs, DVDs, YouTube and Vimeo channels, and more—to speak the word of truth and love, and of salvation, in season and out of season.

Commitment to Missions

We want to continue to help strengthen the Church by our various missions to more than forty countries. Once we get involved in a country, we stay with them as long as we can help. For some countries, like Lithuania, we have been helping for almost thirty years. We want to continue to work with dedicated brothers and sisters throughout the world, our country coordinators, and others, who so generously give of their time in working side-by-side with us in our international missions.

While the main focus of our mission is evangelization, we also help with people’s physical needs whenever possible. We do so regularly in our four annual mission trips to Mexico, in which we focus on meeting peoples’ needs for food and medicine, clothing, and shoes. In other countries, particularly in Africa, we also are often able to assist people who attend our events with meals, toiletries, transportation, and lodging. One of the members of our Tanzania mission teams has even played a significant role in bringing much-needed wells and clean drinking water to the country!

We also, through the gifted people the Lord has joined to us, are able to do really important and ground-breaking “pro-life” education in many African countries that are being bullied by Western secular government to introduce abortion into their cultures.

Salvation of Souls

We want to continue to do all we can to strengthen seminarians, deacons, priests, and bishops by responding to requests to do clergy study days and convocations, deacon retreats, and Life in the Spirit Seminars for seminarians. We have conducted these sessions in more than thirty dioceses in the US and Canada, and in many overseas dioceses as well. As I write this, I’ve just received a report on the recent retreat for seminarians that we made possible in Uganda; eighty-nine seminarians from across the country attended and experienced a real deepening in their spiritual lives, as well as the Holy Spirit and the urgency of evangelization.

We want to continue to write and publish books, booklets, and scholarly and popular articles that advance the cause of the Gospel. A number of our books are being used in universities, colleges, seminaries, high schools, and study groups, and by hundreds of thousands of individuals. We are concerned with the salvation of souls, and all we do has that as its main focus.

Cross-Generational Ministries

We want to be a truly cross-generational ministry involving fellow disciples from each of the generations—from the Greatest Generation, to Baby Boomers, to Generation X, to Millennials, to Generation Z, and to whatever else they name the next group of young people. We want to work side-by-side with old and young, to witness to and extend the love of the body of Christ in our relationships and in our ministry.

We are significantly investing in reaching younger generations through i.d.9:16, which now has eighteen chapters in the US and Canada. We want to be a voice for truly solid young adult ministry, and we are given many opportunities to do this through invitations to conferences, diocesan and parish training retreats, Bishops’ Advisory Councils, and even an international consultation on young adult ministry in Rome.

As the world targets younger and younger children, we are grateful that our ministry has extended to younger groupings of middle-school and high-school-aged boys and girls, and young men and women, through the boys and girls camps that Pete Burak and Debbie Herbeck have led for many years—which bring hundreds of young people to an encounter with Christ—that we have supported and been actively involved with for about three decades now! In fact, this outreach has been actively growing through the Be Love Revolution ministry for girls and a similar group, called Zion, that we are beginning for boys. These ministries currently are mainly incubating here in Ann Arbor, but this is often the seedbed out of which things develop that we can share with wider groups, as was the case with i.d.9:16. In fact, new Be Love Revolution chapters have already begun in Maryland and Lansing, Michigan. One of the reasons we have been able to expand our work with young people so rapidly is that many of those on staff with us now have been able to raise a good part of their salaries from friends, relatives, and fellow parishioners, which we are able to supplement with health insurance coverage.

We are seeing in all this the outlines of the Lord’s “succession plan” for Renewal Ministries. I continue to be in good health and have seen no diminishment of energy, and I feel very confident if anything happened to me, Peter Herbeck would be able to step into overall leadership—which he already shares with me—without missing a beat. And as you know, we have other promising young people, like Pete Burak, coming up behind Peter, as well as an excellent board that will continue to care for the ministry during whatever may come.

Healing Wounds

We are acutely aware that so many of our fellow Catholics, our fellow human beings, are suffering from wounds of the past, abuse, rejection, isolation, sins they have committed and sins committed against them, trauma, disappointment, and evils beyond mentioning. We have been grateful for some time now for the simple method of biblically based prayer that the “Unbound” ministry has developed. We have recommended this simple method to those working with us and are happy recently to have received as part of the Renewal Ministries’ family the Live Free Unbound Ministry, which has helped thousands of people throughout the state of Michigan and elsewhere at home and abroad. Inspired by the work of our good friend Neal Lozano and his international ministry, “Heart of the Father,” John and Michelle Kazanjian have conducted conferences and trained many teams who are able to pray responsibly with people to help them get free from the various bondages that sometimes beset us all. A number of us have gone through their training program and benefitted from it quite a bit.

We have known John and Michelle for years, and they have served with us in many ways. John is one of our country coordinators, and both of them have helped train people who work with us in missions. Their ministry has reached a point where they can benefit from the administrative and legal structure that Renewal Ministries can provide, as well as the closer spiritual fellowship and discernment that is available to those serving with us. They maintain a cooperative relationship with the Lozanos and Heart of the Father as they move forward into a more intentionally Catholic mission, situated within the context of the New Evangelization. We look forward to the new opportunities that will open up as a result of us serving together more closely in the broader work of Renewal Ministries, now very much enriched by adding John and Michelle and the many they have trained to our team.

Co-Workers for the Harvest

We also want to acknowledge our fellow ministries, which inspire and teach us, and with which we are blessed to be engaged in the same battle for holiness and evangelization. I am thinking of ministries like ChristLife, led for many years by our good friend Dave Nodar; and Divine Renovation, led by our friend and Canadian Board Member Fr. James Mallon; the Companions of the Cross and their bishop “graduates,” such as Bishop Scott McCaig, who is one of our Canadian Board members and a frequent mission team member; Neal Lozano and the truly amazing national and international “Heart of the Father” Unbound ministry that is helping so many get free of various bondages; and the great work of the Franciscan University of Steubenville, where a number of us continue to participate in many conferences, and which is now led by their new president, Fr. Dave Pivonka, one of our American board members. I also am thinking of the great Bible studies that are emerging everywhere and helping so many people know the Word of God, including those developed by our American Board Members Lori Manhardt (Come and See Catholic Bible Study) and Sharon Doran (Seeking Truth Catholic Bible Study) and our mission teacher Lavinia Spirito (Catholic Way Bible Study). I think also of the great work being done by Scott Hahn and the St. Paul Center for Biblical Studies, Curtis Martin and the great work being done by FOCUS, the Summers family and the great work being done by Family Mission Company, and so many more—including our longstanding relationship with the amazing work of EWTN, and locally, with Al Kresta and Ave Maria Radio. There’s a lot happening, and there are many signs of hope.

Gratitude and Prayer

Your support makes the work of Renewal Ministries possible, and we thank you for it. In a time of confusion and discouragement, we want to continue to be a voice of truth and a reason for hope, a light in the darkness. You have made it possible. We commit ourselves as we approach our fortieth anniversary to continue the mission, even more so, as the Lord adds to our numbers and continues to open doors.

Let’s pray that all of us in the Church today are able to make the courageous decisions needed in the face of great pressure to the contrary to remain faithful to Jesus Christ and not deny him before men! How prescient the words of the great Dominican moral theologian Servais Pinckaers, who died a few years ago, were in pinpointing the important decisions now facing the Church—and every Christian!

“The Church in its turn must pass through the testing of faith, must stand alone before God far from the world, in order to be rooted in Christ, in God. These are the questions asked: will the Church dare to believe in the Word of God, even when it seems to be a folly, a scandal, the stupidity of a prescientific age in the eyes of the world’s learned ones? Will it have the courage to hope in God when human hope is gone, and renounce human support if need be? Can it love God more than the world and all it offers, more than itself . . . The crucial point in the encounter between Christianity and the modern world is found in the affirmation and audacious preaching of the supernatural, other-worldly character of faith in Jesus Christ. . . . In the measure in which it avoids detachment and the transcendence of human values in order to remain bonded to the world . . . Whatever upheaval illusions, books it may produce, it is self-condemned to spiritual sterility. It recoils before the cross of Christ.” (Servais Pinckaers, OP, The Sources of Christian Ethics, [Washington DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1995], 313-315)

Recznik Named Director of Mission Advancement

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From l-r, Sr. Ann Shields, SGL; Pete Burak; John Recznik; Peter Herbeck; and Ralph Martin.

The Renewal Ministries’ family recently welcomed John Recznik as the Director of Mission Advancement.

Ralph Martin explained the purpose of this new position: “As more doors open for us to serve the wider Church, it has become increasingly difficult for us to get to know some of our donors, as we had previously been able to do. We are grateful John will be able to represent us and the mission of Renewal Ministries to our existing and potential donors. If he is ever in your area, I hope you can make time to see him!”

John has twenty-seven years of experience in retail management. He managed the Franciscan University of Steubenville’s (FUS) bookstore for over nineteen years. His skills from FUS will help him “communicate to our supporters the mission of Renewal Ministries and its many different facets,” he said.

In February, John said he started to feel “a nudge from the Lord that maybe there was another type of work or management He wanted me to do.”

However, nothing else seemed to be the right fit. Then, while visiting his son over Memorial Day weekend, John heard the Lord speak to him in prayer: “I have a non-profit for you. It’s a greenhouse, and you can make it grow.”

John shared the experience with his wife, Mary, and they wrote it down and spent the next month praying about it. Later, John’s son said he had a friend hoping to hire someone for donor relations. That friend was Pete Burak, the director of i.d.9:16.

John submitted his resume, interviewed, and was offered the position on August 4. That date is significant, because many years earlier, John heard the Lord say, “Seventeen years, time to move.” He had written those words down and pondered what they could mean. While moving, John had to look up the date that he and his wife had purchased their home. It was Aug. 5, 1999; the date John received the Renewal Ministries’ job was the last day of their seventeenth year in that home.

All this affirmation was important, because John and Mary had to leave a close-knit community—all of John’s eight siblings and their families; his parents; and the Community of God’s Love, of which they had been members for thirty-two years.

In fact, John’s conversion and Ralph Martin’s A Crisis of Truth both helped lead his entire family to Steubenville. John shared his testimony:

I was born and raised Catholic, but I fell away as a teen. For seven years, I pursued what the world had to offer—alcohol, drugs, rock and roll. Then, in 1982, I went to a prayer meeting. I went to give my life to Jesus. One of my family members had recently given their life to the Lord, and I knew it was time for me to make that commitment, and to let Him fix my life.

That night, the Lord completely removed any desire for drinking or drugs. It started me on a new path of daily prayer and walking with Him. I landed in a Catholic Church and felt the Lord say, “Bloom where you are planted.” Then, I read A Crisis of Truth, in which Ralph said that the only university he recommended was the Franciscan University of Steubenville. So I moved there in 1984 with my brother and sister and later met my wife there.

Within five years, all of John’s siblings and his parents had moved to Steubenville from Amherst, Ohio. John explained: “The baptism of the Holy Spirit moved through my entire family.”

Fortunately, John and Mary’s children are now all living in Michigan—the youngest two because of John’s own move. They have three children: a son Eddie, who has a wife and four children; a son Casey, who has a wife and two children; and a daughter, Joanie, who is working and getting involved in the i.d.9:16 community.

John said, “Fr. Mike Scanlan (former FUS president and Renewal Ministries’ close friend and former board member who passed away earlier this year) hugely influenced my life, and to come here with Ralph, Peter, Sr. Ann, and Pete, and to work with them in their mission of spreading the Gospel is inspiring. I look forward to getting to know Renewal Ministries’ supporters, to meeting these people of faith from around the country, and to providing them with the opportunity to receive the blessings that Lord has for them, as they choose to support Renewal Ministries’ mission.”

Peter Herbeck explained why John was the best fit for this position: “Beside that fact that John had impressed us in the interview, in choosing him, it felt like Fr. Scanlan was there with us. We worked so closely with Fr. Mike, and John has that same heart and spirit.”

Responding to the Call of Evangelization

 

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Four women from St. John’s Church in Fenton, Michigan, discovered the New Evangelization is for all Catholics. Three of them are shown here at Renewal Ministries’ 2016 Gathering, where Peter Herbeck shared their story.

A group of women from St. John’s Church in Fenton, Michigan, recently discovered that the call of the New Evangelization truly is for all Catholics.

These women—Jeanie Frakes, Tammy Junker, Nora Francis, and Christine Champlin—had their faith activated when they attended a Renewal Ministries’ Gathering in 2015.

“We left on fire for the Lord,” said Jeanie. “We knew God had called us to bring Life in the Spirit to our parish.

Life in the Spirit Seminars help adults prepare their hearts to receive the Holy Spirit and make a commitment to make Jesus the Lord of their lives.

Peter Herbeck introduced the women at Renewal Ministries’ 2016 Gathering. He explained that they told him they normally “wouldn’t have thought they were the ones to do something like that; they would have thought somebody else more important or trained needed to do it.”

“These are mighty warriors of God, and they were typical of a lot of good Catholics,” Peter continued. “They’d been on retreats and parish missions, but in their mind, they thought they were not like the speakers they heard. But then the Lord activated their faith.”

When the group went home from the 2015 Gathering, it seemed they wouldn’t be able to bring the Life in the Spirit to their parish. They responded by praying.

Jeanie explained, “We were called to do it. We didn’t give up. We couldn’t forget how we felt when we left here—we knew we had to do it.”

For nearly a year, the group—along with “prayer warriors” who joined them—prayed to Mary, Undoer of Knots, that the Lord would open doors to bring a Life in the Spirit Seminar to their parish.

And then, unexpectedly, Debra Hawley, the director of the St. Francis Prayer Center in nearby Flint, Michigan, visited St. John’s pastor to tell him about the prayer center. While she was there, the priest mentioned that people in the parish wanted to do a Life in the Spirit Seminar—and she offered to help lead one.

“The Lord had a plan,” she explained.

Nevertheless, things still didn’t fall into place smoothly, and shortly before the seminar was scheduled to begin, “the only ones signed up were us and the prayer warriors,” said Jeanie. So they kept praying—“praying was our power,” she said.

Those prayers bore fruit—during the last week before the seminar, nearly 200 people registered. And almost 250 people attended the entire six-week seminar.

“We thank God, because He brought a beautiful seminar to our parish, and it went off like fireworks,” said Jeanie.

And the fruit doesn’t end there. According to Debra, ninety people who attended the seminar also attended follow-up courses.

Debra explained that the Fenton story relates to all of the faithful, in that “we have to be faithful to what we’ve been called for—but the momentum and the fruit have got to be God’s.”

“Grace cooperates with us doing our part,” she added. “Those women were faithful and persistent—like the faithful widow in Scripture.”

As Peter explained, “God was moving them. Pope Francis said the Church began on the move—when the Holy Spirit comes, God wants us to get moving, and get into what He wants us to do, even if we don’t have it all figured out. They did it, and they were activated, and they passed the current of grace on to others.”

Renewal Ministries Welcomes Dr. Mary Healy

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Ralph Martin; Sr. Ann Shields, SGL; Dr. Mary Healy; and Peter Herbeck at the 2016 Rewewal Ministries’ Country Coordinators’ Conference.

Dr. Mary Healy, a long-time friend of Renewal Ministries, a professor at Sacred Heart Major Seminary, and a member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, recently joined the Renewal Ministries’ team as a special consultant. We are happy to introduce her to our readers in the interview below.

Please share some of your testimony with us.

We were “Sunday Catholics” until my parents’ conversion when I was twelve. But from early on, I had a hunger for the Lord. At age six, I had a dream about Jesus—I think that was when I began to fall in love with Him.

In high school, I went on retreats, attended Bible studies, and was in the parish choir, but I never really learned how to have a prayer life, a daily interaction with the Lord. In college, I found little to foster my faith, and I felt far from God. That is why I attended the Franciscan University of Steubenville for graduate school. I knew I could find the Lord there.

I took a course with Fr. Frances Martin and began to see what incredible treasures of wisdom and inspiration are found in Scripture when it is unpacked and interpreted rightly. I decided to pursue the scholarly study of the Bible.

But before I did that, the Lord unexpectedly led me to Mother of God Community, a charismatic group in Maryland. I was there for many years. The community was a tremendous gift, a means of deeper conversion and growth in my life.

What drew you to the Charismatic Renewal?

In the Renewal, I saw New Testament Christianity lived out in a most visible and radical way. I saw a strong awareness of the presence of the Holy Spirit and His activity in our daily life. I saw a recognition that by His power, it is truly possible to put sin to death and live for God.

When have you seen the Holy Spirit at work?

In Mother of God Community, there were the typical challenges of living in very close fellowship with others. But we experienced the power of the Holy Spirit as we worked out our differences through prayer, spiritual warfare, relying on the cross of Jesus and His blood, and learning to forgive and love each other.

The gifts of prophecy and tongues have always been important to my spiritual growth and community life. Later, the Lord began to teach me more about the role of signs and wonders.

Describe the mission of your work and life.

My mission is to know and love the Lord and to make Him known and loved, especially by helping spread the grace of baptism in the Holy Spirit throughout the Church.

How did your relationship with Renewal Ministries begin?

My parents have been friends with Ralph and Anne Martin for more than thirty years. I watched The Choices We Face in its early days. I’ve admired Renewal Ministries almost since its beginning. In the late 1990s, I went on a Renewal Ministries’ mission to Lithuania, which was a wonderful experience. Since moving near Ann Arbor, I’ve been blessed to be friends with Ralph, Peter, and Sr. Ann. It’s been a great blessing to have a deeper relationship with them.

When did you move to Ann Arbor?

Ralph invited me to apply for a position as a professor of Scripture at Sacred Heart Major Seminary eight years ago. Sacred Heart has been a wonderful place to teach. I have outstanding colleagues. The faculty have a real unity of heart, a love for the Lord and the Church, and a respect for one another. There is an openness to the Holy Spirit and His charisms, a focus on the New Evangelization, and a clear vision of what the Lord is doing in the Church today.

Please tell us about one of your biggest projects, writing the Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture, with Dr. Peter Williamson.

It was Peter’s idea. We both completed our doctorates in Rome in 2000, and we both recognized that there is a lack of good Catholic resources in the middle range, between academic and popular writings. The Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture breaks open the Word and shows that God is still speaking to us through His Word today.

People have been very grateful and enthusiastic about the series, especially priests, deacons, seminarians, and bishops, some of whom have told me they use it every day for spiritual reading. Lay people also have thanked me for it. Catholics don’t have a culture of studying the Bible in depth.  I want to help create that culture—a zeal for digging into the Word of God, studying it, and getting to know it.

You are a member of the ICCRS (International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services) Doctrinal Commission. Please tell us about that.

The Doctrinal Commission was formed ten years ago to provide theological guidance to the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. We’ve published two documents so far, Guidelines on Prayers for Healing and Baptism in the Holy Spirit, and we’ve just finished a new one on deliverance ministry, which we hope to publish this year. These documents are geared toward leaders and participants in the Renewal as well as priests or bishops with responsibility over Renewal groups.

Please tell us about being a member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission.

The PBC is an international group of twenty biblical scholars appointed by the pope, whose job it is to advise the Holy See on matters related to biblical interpretation. In the present five-year term, our task is to study the topic of biblical anthropology: What does the Bible teach about the human person? We will produce a document, and then the pope will decide whether it gets published.

You have published Healing: Bringing the Gift of God’s Mercy to the World and Renewal Ministries produced a CD of your discussions with Peter Herbeck on this topic, entitled Does Jesus Still Heal? Please tell us about your interest in this area.

Three years ago, I took a sabbatical, which allows time for more focused research. I really felt the Lord prompting me to study healing and its role in evangelization.

During that time, I went on a mission trip to Brazil as part of a team with Randy Clark, a Protestant evangelist with an international healing ministry. For those two weeks, I saw miracles daily. I saw the Lord open blind eyes and deaf ears; I saw tumors and pain disappear; some of our team members saw people get out of wheelchairs. After that, I couldn’t be the same. I cannot but speak of what I have seen and heard! Healings and miracles are meant to be a part of the New Evangelization.

How can people experience this in their own lives?

We need to fill our minds with truth—to read the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles and meditate on what Scripture reveals about Jesus as our Healer. Also, it helps to hang out with people who are exercising great faith and seeing miracles. Step out in faith. Pray for healing with great fervor and expectancy, especially when evangelizing. Obey the leading of the Holy Spirit, even if He takes you outside of your comfort zone. Anyone who does that and perseveres is going to see amazing things.

You speak all over the world. Please tell us about that.

It’s a real privilege to get a glimpse of what the Lord is doing around the world. The Lord is awakening Christians everywhere to our identity as sons and daughters of God and to the authority we have in Christ. So many people today are in need of healing, and many miracles of healing and deliverance are occurring.

The Lord also is awakening the Church to the urgent priority of Christian unity. By the grace of the Holy Spirit, we have to seek to overcome divisions in the Body of Christ, which are a scandal to the world.

I see many reasons to hope. People are beginning to heed Pope Francis’ call to go out to the peripheries with the Gospel and not to remain enclosed in church buildings. The laity is taking a leadership role in carrying out the mission of the Church. People are evangelizing with bold faith for signs and wonders.

Do you have any new work coming out soon?

There is the ICCRS document on deliverance ministry, and I am co-authoring a book with Randy Clark on spiritual gifts from an ecumenical perspective. Also, my commentary on Hebrews just came out!

This article originally appeared in Renewal Ministries’ October 2016 newsletter. You can view the entire newsletter here.

A Christian’s True Mission: Becoming A Saint

Assissi
“St. Francis died here”: A photo from the Herbecks’ visit to Assisi.

We at Renewal Ministries often share quotes with each other that speak to our hearts or encourage us in our work of serving the Lord. Ralph Martin recently shared the following quote from Fr. Henri de Lubac, SJ:

It is not the proper duty of Christianity to form leaders—that is builders of the temporal, although a legion of Christian leaders is infinitely desirable. Christianity must generate saints—that is witnesses to the eternal. The efficacy of a saint is not that of a leader. The saint does not have to bring about great temporal achievements. He is one who gives us at least a glimpse of eternity despite the thick opacity of time.

This quote prompted a reflection from Peter Herbeck, which is shared below. Peter was in Italy with his wife, Debbie, when he wrote this reflection. They were celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of their wedding.

Exactly! That is the message I’ve heard and felt all week, while visiting Siena and Assisi, and reflecting on the lives of Ss. Catherine, Agnus, Francis, Bernard, Rufino, Leo, Clare, and others.

Their impact flowered from their union with Jesus in the Holy Spirit and from intimate communion with Mary, the saints, and the angels. Saints are simultaneously the most humble, powerful, beautiful, and simple people to walk the earth. They are living in heaven while on earth, and producing impact for the Kingdom during their lifetimes and for centuries after their deaths.

Saints of heaven, help us become saints!!!

We hope these two men’s thoughts encourage you to find companionship and encouragement in the great “cloud of witnesses” that accompany each of us in our walk with the Lord (Heb 12:1). We pray it also helps bring you an increased peace and understanding of our true mission as Christians who hope to one day become saints—people who give us “at least a glimpse of eternity despite the thick opacity of time.”