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Holy Spirit Women’s Retreat a calm in world’s storm

    Five hundred women filled the room Jan. 25-27 at the 25th annual Holy Spirit Women’s Retreat held in Lafayette, sponsored by the Catholic Charismatic Renewal of New Orleans (CCRNO).
    Most were Catholic and yet others were just curious onlookers, hoping for a meaningful weekend.
    This was my seventh consecutive year attending. A friend and I drove in from Dallas. I had lived in Covington the first year I attended, with my new friends insisting that I join them.
    It was a life-changing experience.
    It was a chance to draw close to the Holy Spirit, guided by CCRNO leaders Al and Patti Mansfield, who always encourage one’s relationship with the Holy Spirit and foster new fruits and gifts being manifested in our lives.
    It was also a time of healing because healing and conversion are main themes of the retreat.
    Many women pile into that ballroom, invited to bring to God our hurts, our struggles and fears. Within the first few hours of the retreat, many are crying, silently naming these hurts and at the same time relieved to have a safe place to bring them, with the hopes of God’s answers and direction for our lives.
Adoration was powerful
    The first night, a priest carries Jesus in the Eucharist  in a monstrance around the room, and we are encouraged to see the Son of God reaching out to us, wherever we are along our paths to heaven. When Father Joe Krafft carried it this year, it was a powerful beginning to a weekend full of prayer, singing, worship, adoration, Mass and uplifting and insightful talks.
    Over the years, speakers such as Johnnette Benkovic and Kimberly Hahn have offered inspiring testimonies.  
    My first year was such a time of integratng various aspects of my faith. It was a time of healing, joy and an experience of a loving community. I have been so moved I have driven or flown from Virginia or Texas to attend.
    This year’s retreat proved to be spectacular – with an unexpected twist. One of the testimonies given was by Deacon Larry Oney, who proclaimed his story, “Amazing Grace: Overcoming Race” (his book is available on
    Deacon Oney spoke of his experience as an African-American of having a hatred of white people for the way that he and his family members had been treated and for the poverty, hunger and racism that he had endured. He then spoke of his astonishing conversion to Catholicism and described in a profoundly moving way his release from that anger, his healing and how he now approaches people of other races. Those of us in the audience were deeply impacted by his story.
    It got more interesting. The principal speaker this year was Michelle Moran, chair of the National Service Committee for the Catholic Charismatic Renewal in England and Wales and president of the International Council for Renewal in Rome.
    When Moran walked up to stage on Saturday night – even before Deacon Oney spoke – she felt the Lord say to her, “Kneel down and kiss his feet.” She didn’t respond immediately, not knowing how her actions would be received or what direction it would lead us in.
Asked for forgiveness
    On Sunday morning, Moran ignored her planned talk and instead obeyed the prompting the Holy Spirit had given her the night before. She told us that Pope John Paul II encouraged us to foster “the culture of Pentecost” and Pope Benedict XVI speaks about building “the civilization of love.”
    Then she asked forgiveness of Deacon Oney for what white people have done to injure African Americans. He willingly granted forgiveness, and then she knelt down and kissed his feet.
    This retreat was a true Pentecost: it was like participating in the early church. It was a place in which God is powerful.
    So often in our culture, we deafen our ears to God, distance from him and thus render him powerless in our lives. But at the retreat, we were led to open up and allow him to become powerful in our lives, as is right and just. It is a place in which we surrender to God, and he takes his rightful place in our communities, our relationships, and in our individual relationships with him.  
    Women came to the retreat from all over the country. They represented 13 states, including Arizona, Utah and Michigan.
    When one old friend from Louisiana asked, “Why do you keep coming?” I said, “It is the high point of my year.  Honestly, I would walk.”