PHOTO BY CHUCK ZUBLIC
People participate in the “Life in the Spirit” seminar at St. Mary’s Parish in Bryantown, which was held for five weeks during Lent. The parish is now continuing the seminar with the a program titled “Walking in the Spirit.”
PHOTO BY CHUCK ZUBLIC People participate in the “Life in the Spirit” seminar at St. Mary’s Parish in Bryantown, which was held for five weeks during Lent. The parish is now continuing the seminar with the a program titled “Walking in the Spirit.”
Just as the apostles were given the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the Church today needs the Holy Spirit to help it proclaim the Gospel, said Father Rory Conley, the pastor of St. Mary’s Parish in Bryantown.

In March, the parish held a five-week “Life in the Spirit” seminar, held on Thursday evenings and Sunday mornings, to teach people about the Holy Spirit and what it can do in their lives. The seminar was based upon the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, a global movement that is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

The turnout for the seminar was greater than Father Conley expected, with about 200 people coming each week between the Thursday and Sunday meetings. Each meeting included a shared meal, a video, and a small group meeting.

Rick Miller said he and his wife felt called to attend St. Mary’s four years ago after they had stopped going to church for a while. Through this seminar and a recent men’s retreat that he attended, Miller said he has been inspired by the Holy Spirit and “people at my work already see a difference in me.” He works in his family business, Miller Farms, and said customers have started coming there to look for him so they can pray together.

While he used to have a quick temper, he does not anymore, he said, adding, “When you have the fruits of God, you feel 100 percent different.”

Joanne Lennon is a member of St. Mary’s Parish in Newport, but was drawn to the seminar to learn more about the Holy Spirit.

“You know about God the Father, God the Son, but God the Holy Spirit” was less familiar, she said. Now, she better understands the Holy Spirit as “[God’s] love living in me,” she said, and prays to the Holy Spirit to guide her through her day and help her to see everyone as God’s son or daughter.

“I look forward all day to coming here” to the Life in the Spirit seminar, said Leroy Plater, who works as a fuel distribution operator at Andrew’s Air Force Base. One of his favorite memories of 2016 was putting fuel in Pope Francis’s aircraft when he visited Washington.

His reason for attending the seminar with his wife was “to receive the Holy Spirit and surround myself with great, spiritual people” he added. Plater said he leaves the seminar feeling upbeat and ready to pass it on.

“It’s bringing the best out of me,” he explained.

On Thursday, March 30, the last evening of the seminar, the participants watched the last video in the series, which encouraged them to pray to receive all of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Afterward, they all gathered in their small groups and the leaders laid their hands on each person’s shoulders to pray for the Holy Spirit to come to them.

Before attending the seminar, Bertha Chase said she experienced the Holy Spirit powerfully at the parish’s healing service, when Deacon Dan Ford prayed over her cousin, who had recently had several surgeries as a result of a complication from an original surgery. When she attended the service, her left eye was stuck shut, and her right eye could only see shadows. After praying with Deacon Ford, her left eye opened.

Chase, who was sitting about 10 pews behind them, said she could feel things happening as Deacon Ford was praying with her cousin.

“It is such a warm feeling when the Spirit is moving and performing those miracles,” she said.

Chase has been a parishioner at St. Mary’s for 12 years, but said she has seen a large spiritual renewal take place in the last few months. St. Mary’s has continued the program even after the Lenten season and has named it “Walking in the Spirit.” Four months after the program’s start, it continues to draw large crowds, and on June 29, 120 people attended a presentation on the power of praise and worship.

Since many people came to the Life in the Spirit seminar from other parishes, they have since returned to their parishes and asked their pastors to hold similar seminars. The leadership team of the St. Mary’s program hopes Life in the Spirit will spread to many other parishes in the archdiocese.

“As long as your heart is open and as long as you’re forgiving people, you feel the Holy Spirit no matter where you are,” said Chase.