Catholic Vancouver Feb. 9, 2018

‘Charismaniac’ has helped 10,000 become friends of Jesus

By Agnieszka Ruck

Lennie David (centre, in blue dress) smiles with members of the Life in the Spirit Seminar during the 25th anniversary celebrations Jan. 26. (Photos by Charles Lam / Special to The B.C. Catholic)

DELTA—A charismatic movement 25 years old is still gaining members and transforming lives.

The Life in the Spirit Seminars have touched 10,000 lives since they were first launched in the Archdiocese of Vancouver in 1993.

“I am so grateful that this living water of the Spirit has flooded our Archdiocese,” Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB, told 650 members celebrating the anniversary at Immaculate Conception Parish in Delta Jan. 26.

“Charismatic Renewal is a great force at the service of the proclamation of the Gospel,” he said.

“Your love of Jesus, your attention to the revealed Word of God, your faithfulness to the full teaching of the Church, your reverence for the priesthood, your participation in the sacraments, your devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and your zeal for sharing the good news with your brothers and sisters are just some of the gifts you bring to all of us.”

The Life in the Spirit Seminars are a series of eight weekly sessions that include talks by local priests on God’s love, salvation, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Participants are blessed in a commissioning ceremony during the last session, after which a charismatic prayer group is often opened to keep the momentum going.

“I see people have been transformed,” said Deacon Peter Gomes, an organizer for Life in the Spirit Seminars.

He calls them an “entrance to the charismatic life,” and says they are truly life-changing. He first experienced a program like Life in the Spirit when he was 16 years old.

“It completely changed my life from that point onwards. Today I’m a deacon because of that experience. It completely changes the way you think and interact with people.”

It also gave him a spiritual re-awakening. “You start a new connection with Jesus and Jesus becomes a good friend of yours. I had a strong faith, but I’m sure that would not last long if I didn’t have this experience.”

Deacon Gomes hopes to bring that spiritual energy to all corners of the Archdiocese of Vancouver. While 10,000 people influenced is a good number, he said there’s still a long way to go to reach the region’s 430,000 Catholics.

“My basic focus is going to be on training and empowering the people, especially the leadership in these prayer groups, to make them vibrant, so people can stay and make use of the experience.”

Light in the Spirit came to Vancouver as a dream of Lennie David, a Catholic so passionate about charismatic renewal some have called her a “charismaniac.”

“When I joined the charismatic Life in the Spirit, I realized I didn’t know Jesus! I didn’t know him in a personal way. I had to be open to the Lord and listen to him,” she said.

Lennie David (centre) with Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB, of Vancouver and Bishop Peter Smith, auxiliary bishop of Portland, Oregon.

David had been involved in the movement since 1976, but it wasn’t until 1992 that she felt prompted to bring Life in the Spirit to archdiocesan attention.

“The Lord laid on my heart to ask my pastor at the time, Msgr. Dennis Luterbach, if he would like to have a Life in the Spirit Seminar,” David recalls.

“When the Lord asked me that, I said, ‘Lord, are you kidding? You’re asking me for this?’ And then I said, ‘Lord, you know I love you, you know I love to serve you, but before I do that, maybe you talk to him first? And after you talk to him, call me again and I’ll do something.’”

A few weeks later, on a Monday, David saw Msgr. Luterbach at the parish and saw her chance. She asked him for a meeting, and they scheduled it for Wednesday.

“I prayed so hard on Wednesday,” said David. With heart pounding, the “charismaniac” asked her pastor about starting a series of sessions that could revitalize the parish. To her surprise, his response was: “When would you like to have it?”

They scheduled the first event for a Friday in January 1993. David hoped 100 people would attend, and was completely shocked when 365 arrived. Since then, she’s launched Life in the Spirit at 35 parishes and opened roughly as many prayer groups. Though some have folded, 19 are still currently active.

“I want everybody to realize and feel how good God is,” said David, eager to see more people embrace the charismatic renewal.

“We can’t just be reading our prayers and going to Mass and reading the Scripture; we need to be doing. We have to get up. That’s what I’ve learned in the Life in the Spirit. The Holy Spirit really moves your spirit.”