1st Hispanic ‘Life in the Spirit’ seminar held

Catholic Charismatic Renewal of the Diocese of Knoxville leads event at All Saints

By Coral Getino

“We adore You, Almighty God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Father, send us the Holy Spirit that Jesus promised us. He will guide us to unity. He is the One who gives the charisms, who works variety in the Church, and it is He who brings about unity. Send us the Holy Spirit, that He may teach us all that Jesus taught us and that He may give us the memory of what Jesus said. Jesus, Lord, You asked for us all the grace of unity in this Church which is Yours, not ours. History has divided us. Jesus, help us to go on the path of unity or of reconciled diversity. Lord, You always do what You promise, give us the unity of all Christians. Amen.”—Pope Francis, 2015

More than 100 people gathered at All Saints Church in Knoxville the last weekend of July for a significant event: the first Hispanic Life in the Spirit Seminar to be held in the Diocese of Knoxville.

Several years of work by RCCKNOX, a group that focuses on the Hispanic Catholic Charismatic Renewal of the Diocese of Knoxville made the event happen. The group worked under the guidance of Blanca Primm, director of Hispanic Ministry for the Diocese of Knoxville, and Father Miguel Vélez, pastor of St. Patrick Parish in Morristown, who serves as spiritual moderator for RCCKNOX.

“The Life in the Spirit Seminar is a catechesis that, through the work of the Holy Spirit, leads to a personal encounter with Jesus, transforming our lives,” Pope Francis has said.

The seminar serves as a platform for the initial evangelization, known as the Kerygma. The recent seminar in Knoxville drew 106 people from various parishes, including All Saints, Holy Ghost in Knoxville, Our Lady of Fatima in Alcoa, the Cathedral of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, St. Mary in Oak Ridge, St. Patrick in Morristown, and St. Thomas the Apostle in Lenoir City.

The Life in the Spirit Seminar is a structured program that helps people understand the Holy Spirit’s role in their lives and how to have a relationship with God. The first seminar had a team of 20 people directing it. They included Deacon Salvador Soriano from Knoxville, Deacon Salvador Soto from the Diocese of Nashville, a music group from Nashville, a group from the Diocese of Birmingham led by Ramos Garcia, and several intercessors from both dioceses. Additionally, 30 individuals from the Diocese of Knoxville actively participated as servants, representing various local prayer groups. The seminar serves as an initiation into the Renewal movement.

The Renewal in the Holy Spirit, also known as the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, is a spiritual movement that traces its origins to Duquesne University in Pennsylvania during the 1960s, shortly after Vatican II. A renewed interest emerged in understanding the Holy Spirit’s role within the contemporary Church.

A Charismatic Congress at Knoxville Catholic High School attracted Hispanic parishioners from around the diocese.

A group of students on a Catholic retreat drew inspiration from the teachings of Pentecostal and Evangelical Christians. During this retreat, the students earnestly prayed for a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit. On the evening of Feb. 18, 1967, many participants reported experiencing various charismatic phenomena, including speaking in tongues, and an overwhelming sense of spiritual renewal. This event is often regarded as the pivotal moment that catalyzed the Catholic Charismatic Renewal movement.

These charismatic encounters quickly spread across various parts of the United States and later extended to the global stage. In 1975, Pope Paul VI officially recognized the legitimacy of the movement. Subsequent popes, including Pope John Paul II and Pope Francis, have consistently offered their support to the Renewal in the Holy Spirit while emphasizing the importance of adhering to the teachings of the Church.

In 2014, Pope Francis aptly described the Renewal as “a current of grace” within the Church, which brings “unity in diversity.” This multifaceted movement has united millions of Catholics worldwide, transcending cultural, linguistic, and socio-economic boundaries. It operates under the guidance of CHARIS (Catholic Charismatic Renewal International Service), founded in 2019 by Pope Francis, as a part of the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life.

Around the world, the charismatic spirituality resonates strongly within the Hispanic community. In the United States, the Renewal movement operates under the National Service Committee, which includes a Spanish-language branch known as CNSH (National Hispanic Service Committee), further divided into eight regions. The state of Tennessee belongs to RCCH (Hispanic Catholic Charismatic Renewal) Region 4.

RCCKNOX, which began as a grassroots initiative in 2019, has evolved to include a leadership team (steering committee) that represents various Hispanic Assembly of Prayer Groups, the beating heart of the Catholic Renewal. These groups gather weekly for charismatic worship, engaging in spirited praise through music and reflection upon the holy Scriptures. Notably, many of the participants remained steadfast in their activities even during the pandemic. Committed members actively contribute to their parish life, prayer meetings, and community outreach. They celebrate vigils, concerts, retreats, and conferences featuring speakers that attract participants from distant locations such as New Jersey and Florida.

Knoxville’s first Hispanic prayer group was founded in 2005 at Our Lady of Fatima by Juan Hernandez. With the influx of the Hispanic population in local parishes, several parishioners introduced their charismatic spirituality to the area. St. Patrick’s “Renovado en el Espíritu Santo” (Renewed in the Holy Spirit) group began in 2007, and St. Thomas’ group began in 2008. In 2010, the “Caminando hacia la nueva Jerusalén” (Walking Toward New Jerusalem) prayer group started meeting at Holy Ghost, and All Saints’ “Fuerza y fe” (Fortitude and Faith) and St. Mary’s “Jesus sana y salva” (Jesus Saves and Heals) were established in 2016 and 2017, respectively. At the diocesan level, RCCKNOX organized a well-attended Pentecost Conference at Knoxville Catholic High School in 2019.

Deacon Soriano and his wife, Cristina, played pivotal roles in establishing RCCKNOX. Through their leadership, a group of 50 members embarked on a journey to Arlington, Va., in 2018 to attend a Life in the Spirit Seminar. Guided by the Arlington Charismatic Renewal Committee, this group underwent two years of training and teaching, resulting in the formation of RCCKNOX’s steering committee. These prayer groups harmonize their practices, aligning them with the guidelines of HRCC Region 4 and CHARIS International.

The present members of the steering committee include Gerardo Aguilar, chair (St. Thomas); Cristina Soriano, vice chair (All Saints); German Juarez, treasurer (St. Thomas the Apostle); Coral Getino, secretary (All Saints); Angelina Pedro, at-large (Holy Ghost); and Griselda Ventura, at-large (St. Mary).

A notable highlight was the recent Region 4 retreat held in Florida, where a delegation of 43 members from RCCKNOX played significant roles in the retreat’s success. The group remains committed to the ongoing training of its leaders and members, nurturing existing and future prayer groups across the diocese. They pray that the new charismatics will soon bear the fruits of the Holy Spirit and conduct forthcoming Life in the Spirit seminars, as the faithful are encouraged by Pope Francis to “organize these seminars in parishes, schools, neighborhoods, to share baptism in the Spirit.”

For further updates, those interested can follow RCCKNOX on Facebook.

More information from the Vatican can be found here and here.

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