By Laura Dodson, Florida Catholic Correspondent – September 28, 2017
MELBOURNE | “Our country, our state, our world are going through a hard time, so we really need to be on our knees this weekend,” said Vince Maldonado, administrator of the Orlando Catholic Charismatic Renewal at the opening of their annual conference Sept. 22 – 24 at the Caribe Royale Hotel in Orlando. “Be open to what God has for you. There’s no limit to what God can do.”
With the theme, “Be Holy because I am Holy,” from 1 Peter 1:16, the conference attracted more than 600 participants from as far away as San Diego, Nebraska, Queens and Beijing who gathered to pray with scripture, Sacrament and song.
“He is with us in the storm, like a mighty champion,” said Valli Leone, master of ceremonies who evacuated from her Key Largo home and prayed the rosary with her children and grandchildren during Hurricane Irma. Despite losing the entire first floor of her home, Leone was joy-filled.
“Some of you may feel you are coming after the storm and are in need of a word of hope,” she said. “This is a renewal in heart and mind and spirit. If we listen for His voice, he does speak to us. He speaks to his people and through his people. Let us be still and listen for the voice of the Lord.”
Keynote speaker, Father Bill Halbing has been active in the charismatic renewal since 1975, was ordained in 1982 and is a scripture scholar and international speaker who shares his gifts online at “God’s Word Alive Today.”
“It’s time for us to turn the world upside down,” Father Halbing said, “God put us in the world at this time. It’s our time to be alive and to make a difference.”
The Charismatic Renewal in the United States began with a group of college students from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh on a weekend retreat in 1967 when the Holy Spirit exploded into their lives. The fruits of that weekend spread throughout the country and in 1970 the Diocese of Orlando offered its first conference.
“We grew up not knowing the power of the Holy Spirit, but when you have the Holy Spirit, you meet the God of mercy,” Father Halbing continued. “Mercy is the only place to encounter God. You are the men and women he has chosen for this hour. Pray, ‘Jesus make a miracle of my life’.”
Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers, known as the “Dynamic Deacon,” speaks regularly on national and international radio. He too is a scripture scholar, an author and acclaimed expert in marriage and family life as well as male spirituality.
“God looks at us as image and likeness and the Holy Spirit calls us to see God in others,” he said. “The Spirit has fallen upon us and we need to step up to do God’s work.”
Deacon Burke-Sivers asked the audience to consider what the Goliaths in their lives are and named some of the major issues – substance abuse, pornography, anger.
“You can defeat the Goliath in your life with the weapons of God,” he said. “As David used a sling-shot, pray the rosary. Start every day praying in the Spirit. Put on the armor of God that you may stand against the wiles of the devil. Go out filled with the Holy Spirit and share our faith in love.”
Renden and Anita Barretto met at a charismatic conference in Bombay, India in 1994 when they were teenagers.
“We love to learn more about the Holy Spirit and we live our life by it,” Renden shared. “We teach our kids everything about our faith.”
The Barrettos are parishioners at Incarnation Parish in Orlando and brought their three children, ages 15, 9 and 5.
“There is so much energy here,” Anita said. “It’s uplifting and the kids love it. This is a family thing for us – it’s rejuvenation every year.”
“I feel inspired to tell other young people and bring them to a charismatic conference,” said 15 year old Cherub. “A lot of kids think our faith is real serious, that they can’t enjoy our faith and they lose faith. Here they would see it’s a balance.”