By Marimah Branch
Special to The CS&T

On April 30, the Catholic Charismatic Renewal hosted its 31st annual Philadelphia Catholic Charismatic Conference at Pope John Paul II High School in Royersford.

“Faith to Move Mountains,” the conference theme, focused on the Gospel passage from Matthew 17:20 when Jesus speaks about faith the size of a mustard seed. “There are many mountains to move today, especially with the economy and jobs, sickness, relationships and so forth,” said Gloria Coyne, liaison for the archdiocesan Catholic Charismatic Renewal and one of the directors of the conference. “So we are praying, ‘God, help increase our faith.'” {{more}}

Charismatics employ the spiritual gifts and charisms of the Holy Spirit, such as healing, prophecy and speaking in tongues. The charismatic movement in the Church began in 1967, when the Holy Spirit called people to be part of the “New Pentecost” of the Church, Coyne said.

“We need the Holy Spirit now more than ever,” she said. “We felt this was a tremendous year of healing for God’s people. When you have had an injury you can see the scars, but when the spirit is hurt, you don’t always see the scars, and we are dragging these scars with us all our lives.”

Coyne added the conference was full of miracles, even during the planning of the event. Just two months before the conference date, the original venue, the Valley Forge Convention Center, pulled out of the deal, leaving organizers scrambling to find a new location.

“We prayed and prayed, and five days later, we had a space at Pope John Paul II High School,” she said. “The high school was just wonderful. They had a state-of-the-art sound system, padded seats in the auditorium and even a chapel with stained glass windows. It was just perfect. After that first miracle, we knew that God had special plans for us.”

The day included adoration, praise and worship, confession, a healing service and Mass, Coyne said. “This conference was on a very special day because it was the Saturday after Easter, the vigil for spanine Mercy Sunday, the first time the high school held any archdiocesan meeting or event, and it was the day before the beatification of Pope John Paul II,” she added. “It was quite a day.”

Some key figures at the conference were Franciscan Father Andrew Apostoli from Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), who was the keynote speaker and celebrant of the Mass, Righteous B, a Christian rap artist and founder of Dirty Vagabond Ministries for inner-city youth, and Msgr. Ralph J. Chieffo, pastor of St. Mary Magdalen Parish in Media.

“Righteous B gave a 30-minute concert in the afternoon for the kids, and he gave a talk which had (the adults) all crying,” Coyne said. “He had strokes before and was healed by Kathleen McCarthy through prayer.”

McCarthy, a speaker, author, broadcaster and member of Corpus Christi Parish in Lansdale, also was a presenter at the conference, which for the first time featured sessions geared to young people. Approximately 60 children from grades 7-12 attended the conference.

“The kids had such a great time, and we hope these kids will come back next year and bring a friend,” Coyne said. “We want to show this conference is something you can attend as a family.”

The conference drew about 470 people, lower than last year’s 600 attendees. Regardless of the smaller crowd, the conference achieved its goal of helping people develop a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ and asking God for an increase of faith in prayer and healing, Coyne said.

She added that her group also hosts healing Masses and parish prayer groups. There are about 110 prayer groups in the Archdiocese that meet weekly or monthly to “lift up in prayer the intentions of the Church, the parishioners and their families,” she said.

Plans are already under way for next year’s conference. “We are a tool of the Church,” Coyne said. “Each of us does our little part, and God takes it and multiplies.”

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Marimah Branch is a freelance writer and parishioner of St. Rose of Lima in North Wales.