Two parishes in the diocese will present Life in the Spirit seminars this fall for those who would like to establish a deeper faith life and gain a better understanding of the role of the Holy Spirit in their lives.
Anthony Scheeda and Richard Stiegler, who assist Father Richard DiGiulio as diocesan liaison for the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, recently discussed the two seminars and why recognizing the importance of the Holy Spirit matters for Catholics. Catholic Charismatic Renewal was formed after a group of students at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh took part in an ecumenical retreat in 1967 and came back filled with the Holy Spirit.
"It was after that they decided, 'How can we possibly bring this to the Church in a way that it's going to be accepted?'" Scheeda said. "They decided to do this formation program of the Life in the Spirit seminar. It's talks that are given, a total of eight weeks, which begins with introduction talks and followed by a series of talks on the basics of God's love, salvation, new life and receiving God's gifts."
"What the Life in the Spirit seminar is, is an introduction into the deeper life of faith and our walk with Christ," Stiegler said.
Scheeda said the seminars are designed to help people "yield to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in (their) lives," and the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is a "reawakening of the sacramental graces given to us at our baptism and confirmation." This does not mean it is a second baptism, but rather a way of realizing one's true purpose. Scheeda used the analogy of a candle.
"A candle may be pleasant to look at, but it's not fulfilling its original design by just looking at it," Scheeda said. "The purpose of a candle is to give light. Until then, if it's not lit, it just remains dormant, and so it is with us. We have been designed by God, and we have been given the Holy Spirit to empower us to give light, as it says in the Gospel, the fifth chapter of Matthew."
Stiegler said, in his own experience, the power of the Holy Spirit has enabled him to live with relationships on a much deeper level, especially with his wife and family, with knowledge that "God lives within us, and God empowers us, and God leads us in order to make those relationships very precious to us."
The fifth week of seminars includes an opportunity to be prayed for with the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and there are also talks on growth and transformation in Christ. Scheeda said teams involved at St. Jude the Apostle Parish throughout the seminars include Barb Franusiak and pastor Father Ted Jost. Franusiak "regulates the people who are working with her," Scheeda said, since additional staff is needed to manage books that will be available to help people "yield more to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit."
The seminars also include discussion groups. Each group will have a discussion liaison to help people open themselves up to the importance of topics presented on each day. If a participant is unable to attend a talk, a makeup session will be arranged where a discussion leader plays a CD for the absent person on the missed talk. Following that talk, there will be an opportunity for further group discussion.
"If they miss more than one session, it's usually recommended that we tell them to wait for the next Life in the Spirit seminar, because there's too much that's missing," Scheeda said. There may be additional seminars scheduled, but this depends on the discretion of the presenting parishes. Many parishes in the Diocese of Buffalo have small prayer groups, and Scheeda said some people in the prayer groups realize it has "been quite a while since they've had a Life in the Spirit seminar."
Scheeda also emphasized that although the presentation is important, discussion groups are more important. He said the discussion times allow people to present to each other the thoughts they got out of a particular topic of the lecture, and people often educate each other during those discussion times. People are asked to present their thoughts, but are not required to share more than they feel comfortable sharing. The seminars further the New Evangelization in individual parishes throughout the entire diocese.
According to Scheeda, he experienced a change in his life after he and his wife attended the seminars, when he came to realize the role of the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. As he read and learned of these, he said the gifts could be used in everyday life as well as in prayer meetings.
Scheeda quoted St. John Paul II, who said in Rome in 2004, "I thank the Charismatic Renewal for what the Charismatic Renewal has given to the Church. There are so many Christians, men, women and youth, who have rediscovered Pentecost as a living, present reality in their daily lives. It is my desire that the spirituality of Pentecost continues to be spread into the Church with a renewed thrust of prayer, holiness, communion and proclamation." Scheeda said the renewal has achieved this purpose.
"Another thing that it's done for me is to help awaken in me a love for the Scriptures, and that has led to reading the Scriptures daily. It's almost like eating," Stiegler added. "If you skip a day of eating, you get pretty hungry. Well, I really miss if I skip the Scriptures for a day, and of course it helps me to understand when I'm reading it in a more full way." Maintaining the metaphor, Scheeda said hunger for the Word of God helped him to learn more about Scriptures, the catechism and the saints.
"I had such a hunger to want to become holy, and I think that's a call for all of us to become holy," Scheeda said. "My prayer life began to develop, and I had such a hunger for the Sacraments. The Sacrament of Reconciliation became very important, and the Eucharist became very important to me. Those are some of the things I felt began to happen in my life, as a result of a reawakening of the graces and the gifts that were given to me when I was baptized and when I was confirmed."
For more information about the seminars at St. Jude the Apostle Parish, call Kathy Strusa at 695-3777. Preregistration is requested from Aug. 1 to Aug. 30. For more information about the seminars at Our Lady of Victory Parish, contact Pat Jarosz at Victory for Christ Prayer Group at 675-6680.