Diocese introduces Brazilian Charismatic Renewal Commission

By Kenneth J. Souza
Anchor Staff

FALL RIVER, Mass. — A Charismatic Renewal Commission serving members of the Brazilian community within the Fall River Diocese will gather together for the first time with Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V., on Saturday night, February 24 for a Mass celebration at 7 p.m. at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Fall River.

“This Mass is going to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Charismatic Renewal movement in the United States, which started 50 years ago in Pittsburgh,” said Irina De Lucca, secretary for the newly-formed Brazilian Charismatic Renewal Commission. “We’re also going to present the new diocesan Brazilian Charismatic Renewal Commission at that time. We’ll be celebrating with nuns and priests from throughout Massachusetts who are involved with the Charismatic Renewal Movement.”

While there are already existing Charismatic groups in the diocese catering to members of the English-, Spanish-, and Portuguese-speaking communities, Bishop da Cunha — a native of Brazil himself — felt the need to have a separate and distinct Brazilian Charismatic Renewal Commission.

“The bishop asked us to come up with a new prayer group for the Brazilian people and that’s what’s going to be announced during the Mass,” De Lucca recently told The Anchor. “Although we (also) speak Portuguese, we’re so different. There are also differences (between the cultures) in the way they see the Charismatic movement, so I think it’s good to have Brazilians identify with other Brazilians.”

Like many of the existing Charismatic prayer groups in the diocese, the Brazilian group will be based at different locations and parishes to better serve its members.

Gilberto Marcondes will serve as the diocesan coordinator for the new Brazilian Charismatic Renewal Commission; Kelma Branco is the group’s Fall River area coordinator, based at St. Mary’s Cathedral; Roselene Ferreira is the Taunton area coordinator; Nathalia Marcondes (Gilberto’s daughter) will be the Cape Cod area coordinator based in Hyannis; and Regina Amarins will serve as coordinator on Martha’s Vineyard.

“Each prayer group generally has about 20 to 30 members,” De Lucca said. “The new group is still small, because we’re just getting started, but we hope to get more people to join.”

According to its website, the Catholic Charismatic Renewal began at a retreat for college students at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Penn. in February 1967. The students had spent much of the weekend in prayer, asking God to allow them to experience the grace of Baptism and Confirmation. Some of the students that weekend had a powerful and transforming experience of God, which came to be known as “Baptism in the Spirit.”

“They went to a retreat house and they were having a birthday party for one of the students and while they were at the party, one of the members — David Mangan, went to the top floor where the Blessed Sacrament was and he started praying before the Tabernacle,” De Lucca said. “While he was praying he asked the Holy Spirit to come to him and for him to be baptized. He experienced the same feelings that the Apostles had when the Holy Spirit came to them in the Bible.

“Another person named Patti Gallagher Mansfield went looking for him and found him on the top floor and experienced the same thing — her heart was beating fast, and she also had the same experience. Before this, the Catholic Church didn’t have anything close to the Charismatic experience.”

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In her later book about the retreat and its impact, Mansfield would recount how some students prayed in tongues, while others “couldn’t do anything but weep,” and still others began to “laugh for sheer joy.” 

The account of the weekend and the experience of the Holy Spirit quickly spread across the college campus, then to other campuses throughout the country. The Charismatic experience soon moved beyond colleges and began to have an impact on parishes and other Catholic institutions. Loose organizations and networks were formed, and Catholic Charismatic conferences were held, drawing more than 30,000 to the Notre Dame campus in South Bend, Ind. in the mid 1970s.

The Renewal soon caught the attention of the Church, and the leaders of the movement met Blessed Pope Paul VI in 1975 as well as St. Pope John Paul II several times. In addition, several of the bishops’ conferences in various countries have written pastoral letters of encouragement and support for the Charismatic movement.

The Catholic Charismatic Renewal is the largest approved ecclesial movement of the Church, estimated to have touched at least 120 million Catholics throughout the world. It is fully Catholic and also fully Charismatic, with an emphasis on a personal relationship with Jesus and the gifts of the Holy Spirit as mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12, including the gift of tongues, healing and prophecy.

“The Charismatic Renewal movement is all about getting together and praying to the Holy Spirit and asking Him to send upon us His seven gifts — wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord,” De Lucca said. “We sometimes pray in tongues and we sing and we administer healing on people, too. That’s pretty much what we do and that’s what the Charismatic prayer groups are all about.”

Thirty-eight-year-old De Lucca, who first emigrated to the United States from Brazil about 18 years ago, said she has been involved with Charismatic Renewal since she was very young. She and her family moved into the Fall River Diocese three years ago and she’s happy that the movement has taken root here.

Last year, De Lucca also traveled with her parents to Pittsburgh to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Catholic Charismatic Renewal at The Ark and the Dove — the retreat house where Mangan and Mansfield experienced that first Spiritual encounter.

“My parents and I went to represent the Brazilian community here in the U.S. — we were the only ones attending and it was a gift from God,” she said.

At that celebration, De Lucca met and befriended Johnny Bertucci, president of the Charismatic Renewal group in the United States. She has invited Bertucci to join them and Bishop da Cunha at this weekend’s Mass and is hopeful he will be in attendance.

And as the secretary for the new Brazilian Charismatic Renewal Commission, she’s optimistic that it will bring greater awareness to the movement and, hopefully, encourage more people to join.

“This will be the first time the (Brazilian) groups are all gathering together,” De Lucca said. “We get together to pray, to glorify God and to thank Him.”

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