In early 1980, a group of Catholics who had attended the Life in the Spirit Seminars, in Mumbai, India, and experienced a personal encounter with Jesus Christ, approached the late Bishop of Kuwait, Msgr. Victor San Miguel for permission to start a Charismatic Prayer Group at the Cathedral premises. They were not given the approval to hold a weekly prayer meeting, but were permitted to hold a weekly Bible Service – where the Word of God was enthroned, read and reflected on.
Much later, the group once again approached the Bishop, and this time presented to him some books on the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, written by Fr. Marcelino Iraqui OCD – a Spanish priest working in India – who was a Seminary Professor in Kerala, India, and very much involved in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, giving Retreat Missions and preaching at conferences. It happened that Fr. Marcelino Iraqui was a former student of the late Bishop Victor San Miguel (this certainly was not coincidental, it was providential).
A few days later, probably making his own inquiries or considering that the CCR was an authentic move of the Holy Spirit in the Catholic Church since his former student Fr. Macelino Iraqui, was so actively involved and promoting it zealously, the late Bishop Victor San Miguel gave the group his official permission on 7th April, 1980, to start the CCR Prayer meetings in the room above the present room used by parents with small babies – next to the Cathedral sacristy– which was appropriately referred to as the Upper Room by the Charismatics attending the prayer meetings. A fire was lighted and its flames continue to burn even today, Praise the Lord.
Thereafter, the weekly prayer meetings were being conducted with parishioners coming in more out of curiosity than wanting to make a personal commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ. In 1982, when H.L. Bishop (Emeritus) Francis Micallef OCD, was appointed Bishop of the Vicariate of Kuwait, he invited Mr. Fritz Mascarenhas, a lay leader from Bangalore, India, involved in the CCR and thereafter the following year, two priests: Fr. Rufus Pereira and Fr. James D’souza, from Mumbai, India, were invited to preach mission retreats to the lay faithful of the Vicariate of Kuwait, so as to develop a proper understanding of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal in the Vicariate.
These mission retreats were very beneficial and fruitful as several parishioners attending these mission retreats, experienced a personal encounter with the Living Lord Jesus Christ, as the One who is alive and who brought a deep conviction, serenity and sense of freedom in their lives, that they had not known before. They experienced a difference in every aspect of their Christian life including having a hunger for prayer and sacraments especially the Eucharist, several of them shared their personal experiences with joy, boldness and a new awareness of the Lord Jesus Christ, stating how this personal experience of Jesus had changed their lives for the better.
It was around this period of time, that this first prayer group of around 30 to 40 people was named the Holy Family Prayer Group, and Bishop Francis Micallef OCD set up the first Core Team, appointing Rev. Fr. Dominic Santamaria, as the Spiritual Director. As the number grew, there was not even standing room in the Upper Room premises and so permission was given by Bishop Francis Micallef, to move the meetings to the small church hall (old cathedral premises).
Needless to state, as the number continued to grow, new prayer groups were formed with the approval of the Bishop the: God’s love Community at the Holy Redeemer Chapel, Salmiya, (now St. Therese Parish, Salmiya) and Our Lady of Arabia Prayer Group in the Parish of our Lady of Arabia Church, Ahmadi. Each prayer group was parish based and under the spiritual direction of a Priest. Also, a Prayer Group in Konkani language was started at the Cathedral Premises to cater to the needs of the Konkani speaking parishioners in the small church hall premises and as a result the English speaking group had to move to the big church hall (old cathedral premises).
In 1985, discerning the Lord’s leading, the Core Team Leadership of all Prayer Groups, met with Bishop Francis Micallef to put forward the proposal of setting up the National Service Team, for the CCR in Kuwait. This need was felt not just to oversee the workings of the prayer groups, but also to make contact with the International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Office in Italy, to plan and organize days of Renewal/Recollection for all groups; provide resource persons for teachings; formation of various ministries; and for conducting the Life in Spirit Seminars and also assist in the social needs of the groups members and others parishioners as well. This resulted in setting up the Kuwait National Service Team (KNST) in 1985, with a representation from all prayer groups under the Spiritual Direction of Bishop Francis Micallef OCD. KNST is also known as Kuwait Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services (KCCRS) now.
Members of the Prayer Groups were actively involved in the activities of their respective parishes serving as Catechists, Lectors, Ushers, Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist, participating in choirs, visiting the sick in hospitals/homes and even prisons and helping around in the maintenance of their respective parishes. By this they showed that they were conscious of the needs of their parishes and willing to be part of the parish life. Further, as a means to reach out to the poor and needy in the parish, the prayer groups set up funds to assist these by way of monetary assistance within their limited resources, help others to return to their homeland and assist several jobless persons in searching for suitable placements.
In August 1990, Kuwait was invaded by the Iraqi forces and this resulted in the break up of the functioning of the prayer groups, as many were forced to flee Kuwait due to this adversity. But those who stayed behind did continue to meet in their homes and whenever possible met with Bishop Francis Micallef and his priests to celebrate the Eucharist in these dire circumstances, thus keeping the flame of our faith burning even during these trying times.
In February, 1991, Kuwait was liberated and once again slowly but surely things were being restored back to normal as several members started returning back. The task of restoring the functioning of the prayer groups was zealously taken up by many and slowly with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Prayer Groups were not only restored but our good Lord also initiated prayer groups in several other languages Malayalam, Tagalog and Arabic with growing numbers being added to these day by day.
In April, 2005, the Catholic Charismatic Renewal celebrated it 25th Anniversary by coming together to praise, worship and thank God for His abundant graces and blessings that all have experienced. In December, 2008, together with our Bishop Camillo Ballin mccj, a large delegation from Kuwait attended and participated in the 1st Gulf Catholic Charismatic Conference in Abu Dhabi, U.A.E. and in April, 2010, with the support of our Bishop Camillo Ballin mccj – who continues to pastor and back the CCR in Kuwait – the Cathaolic Charismatic Renewal celebrated its 30th Anniversary, with 14 prayer groups and large attendance from several parishioners participating. Looking back we say: The Lord has done great things for us, we are filled with joy. (Ps 126:3)
Under the continuous patronage of our Bishop Camillo Ballin, and with the support of the entire Clergy, the Catholic Charismatic Renewal in Kuwait hosts the 2nd Gulf Catholic Charismatic Conference in Kuwait – a great milestone in the history of the Catholic Church and the Catholic Charismatic Renewal in Kuwait. As we gratefully give thanks to the Lord for his countless blessings experienced through this movement of grace, we get a sense from the Lord saying to us: “This if only the beginning, I have greater things in store for you” and to prepare ourselves for these greater things in store, we turn prayerfully imploring to Him: Lord send forth your Spirit and continue to renew us.