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A New Thing: First International CHARIS Conference for Communities

Author: Dominic McDermott

Picture: CHARIS/Twitter

A New Thing: First International CHARIS Conference for Communities

We were encouraged not to be timid in our use of the charisms, says Dominic McDermott, who attended the First International CHARIS Conference for Communities in Brazil.

Community leaders gathered in Recife on the North East coast of Brazil in January 2020 from across the globe. We were hosted by a Brazilian community called Obra da Maria (“the work of Mary”) and the meetings took place in their beautiful, purpose built community village with tropical gardens and structures.

They were wonderful hosts, looking after a couple of hundred participants staying both on site and in a hotel on the beach in central Recife. The care seemed to be provided mostly by smiling young people, which was very encouraging. 

In fact, the last Friday evening of the conference flowed into the weekend of their 30th anniversary celebration in a World Cup football stadium. 50,000 participants from 60 countries and 50 bishops and a cardinal were in attendance, which was very impressive.

New Relationships and Listening to God

The Conference was a delight, with many new relationships being formed, business cards being swapped continually and old friends warmly greeting each other.

This felt like a large family gathering, which was perhaps a surprise, given its global reach. This was helped by wonderful and exuberant worship, which worked well, even though it was nearly all in Portuguese. The translation was excellent, helped by a tireless team of lovely translators.

CHARIS moderator Jean-Luc Moyen of the Emmanuel Community wisely built in a daily holy hour time of Eucharistic adoration, including an opportunity to share what participants felt the Lord was saying in the second half. This meant a good time of uninterrupted silence followed by some key prophetic ‘words’, especially about unity.

Emphasising Pope Francis'  Mandate For CCR

Cardinal Kevin Farrell, prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, spoke to us and answered questions about CHARIS. He assured us that none of the fellowship built up by the Fraternity or ICCRS would be lost. 

He also re-emphasised the importance of our role as CCR communities to work on the key elements of CHARIS that Pope Francis had assigned to us: sharing Baptism in the Spirit with the whole church, working for ecumenism and the unity of the Body, and practical service of the poor and marginalised.

He also encouraged us not to be timid in our use of the charisms, as they are a gift for the whole Church and especially in our evangelisation, with special emphasis on the youth as modern man. He told us to seek signs, not just words-Amen!

Some of the input confronting power and sexual abuse was tough, but well worthwhile, whilst the many testimonies of those working with the marginalised across the world were truly inspiring.

Reconciliation and Humility

A highlight for me was hearing Lalith Perera sharing about the work for reconciliation by his Community of the Risen Lord in Sri Lanka, which has been torn apart by ethnic civil war. 

His community made a huge difference by bringing together the two sides, Tamils and Singalese, who both happened to be Catholics, using humility and an exchange of rosaries. This work of reconciliation was then repeated in London and in Canada to great effect.

Apart from many individual communities represented, there were also the networks of communities; the ecumenical Sword of the Spirit network represented by their president Jean Barbara from Lebanon; the now disbanded Catholic Fraternity with ex-president Matteo Callisi from Italy; and the ecumenical European Network of Communities (ENC) which I was representing, along with colleagues from Czech, Lithuania and Ukraine. The Ukrainian delegate was also representing the large Ukrainian Network of Communities OKS, which is in the process of joining the ENC.

God is truly doing a new thing through CHARIS and in CCR communities throughout the nations.

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