The Catholic Charismatic Renewal began at a retreat for college students at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania in February 1967. The students had spent much of the weekend in prayer, asking God to allow them to experience the grace of both baptism and confirmation. The students, that weekend, had a powerful and transforming experience of God, which came to be known as ‘baptism in the Spirit’. The account of the weekend and the experience of the Spirit quickly spread across the college campus, then to other campuses throughout the country.
The charismatic experience soon moved beyond colleges and began to have an impact on regular parishes and other Catholic institutions. Loose organisations and networks were formed. Catholic charismatic conferences began to be held, drawing over 30,000 at Notre Dame campus in South Bend Indiana in the mid 1970’s.
The Renewal caught the attention of the Church, and the leaders of the movement met Pope Paul VI (1975) as well as Pope John Paul II several times. In addition, several of the bishops’ conferences, of various countries, have written pastoral letters of encouragement and support for the movement.
The Catholic Charismatic Renewal is not a single, unified worldwide movement. It does not have a single founder or group of founders as many other movements do. It has no membership lists. It is a highly diverse collection of individuals, groups and activities – covenant communities, prayer groups, small faith sharing groups, renewed parishes, conferences, retreats, and even involvement in various apostolates and ministries -, often quite independent of one another, in different stages and modes of development and with different emphases, that nevertheless share the same fundamental experience and espouse the same general goals.
The common thread for the Movement is the ‘baptism of the Holy Spirit’. For many people, this new, powerful, and life-transforming outpouring of the Holy Spirit takes place in the context of a specifically designed seminar called ‘Life in the Spirit’, although many have been ‘baptised in the Spirit’ outside of the seminar.
The Catholic Charismatic Renewal is actually present in 220 countries and has touched the lives of over 120,000,000 Catholics. In some countries the number of participants seems to have diminished in recent years, while in other places the number continue to rise at an amazing rate.