By MIKE CONROY
CHARIS was launched during the international gathering of Catholic Charismatic Renewal delegates with Pope Francis held in Rome in June, 2019. The Pope said he expected the movement to share the baptism in the Holy Spirit with everyone in the Church, to serve the unity of the Church (harmonising diverse charisms in unity), and to serve the poor and those in greatest need, physical or spiritual.
Inspired by the Pope’s words, the national leadership team for CHARIS in New Zealand organised and ran a retreat for priests. Burns Lodge, Mosgiel, formerly Holy Cross College, was chosen as a venue, and all priests in New Zealand were sent a personal invitation to attend the retreat, which ran from January 13-17. The objective was for retreatants to take time out to slow down, reflect, pray and refocus on their priestly ministry and to have the opportunity of receiving regular, individual prayer ministry.
The programme moved progressively through reflecting on past, present and future — posing the questions like “where have we come from?”, “where are we at now?” and “where are we headed?” from both an individual perspective and communally as the Church in New Zealand.
Each day started with morning prayer led by Bishop Colin Campbell. After breakfast, the group regathered for a time of gentle praise and worship, leading into Mass. In the post-morning tea session, a member of the CHARIS team delivered a talk, followed by discussion and sharing. One of the participants could then share a short personal testimony of their journey into priesthood.
The next talk each day was in mid-afternoon, about 2pm, so as to allow time for rest and reflection after lunch. The rest of the afternoon saw the CHARIS team split up into prayer teams, with each priest having a specific time slot to be able to come and receive individual prayer ministry if they wished.
The last session of the day, following dinner, consisted of a time of Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, praise and worship and evening prayer. Supper time provided an informal atmosphere during which one or two priests took their turn to share how they came into the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the profound effect it had on their priestly ministry.
Other events and activities during the week included the opportunity for receiving the sacrament of Reconciliation, the visit and participation in one of the evening sessions by Bishop Michael Dooley and a celebration lunch at St Clair Beach, accompanied by some of the youth leaders from Dunedin diocese.
The youngest priest at the retreat, Fr Prakash Somu, celebrated the sixth anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood while there. On a sadder note, Fr Vince Smith was called away early as a result of the death of his sister-in-law in a car accident in Queenstown.
This retreat was the first CHARIS lay-led retreat for priests in New Zealand, and it is fair to say that there was a degree of apprehension on the part of the team at the beginning. However, as the week unfolded, it became clear that the Holy Spirit was working through them.
Feedback received from the retreat participants had a common theme of gratitude and appreciation for the opportunity of receiving personal prayer ministry. Burns Lodge proved to be an excellent venue for this event. CHARIS NZ hopes to be able to facilitate more of these retreats in the future.