Spanish conference focuses on increasing faith
By Enedelia J. Obregón
Just as the boy’s father in Mark 9:24 cried out "I do believe, help my unbelief!," about 1,500 people sought strength in the Holy Spirit at the second Catholic Charismatic Renewal Conference, which was held in Spanish on June 8. The theme was "I believe, Lord, but increase my faith!"
The event, sponsored by the diocesan Office of Hispanic Ministry, featured music, a healing service, reconciliation and guest speakers. Eudist Father John Mario Montoya, from Colombia, celebrated the opening Mass, where his homily focused on the conference theme. His second presentation was titled, "Come Holy Spirit and Light the Fire of your Love in Me."
Also addressing the faithful was Marangely González of Buffalo, N.Y., a renowned Catholic Charistmatic speaker, who led a healing service after sharing her life story and focusing on the theme "By Your Faith, You Have Been Healed" and "In the World, Witnesses to Christ."
The decibel level of the music and preaching were high at the 12-hour event, and no one looked askance when participants shouted "Amen!" or "Alleluia!" during the homily and presentations by the speakers.
The faithful, many whom brought their families, formed long lines to receive the sacrament of reconciliation and rushed the food vendors during breaks for a physical nourishment before returning for spiritual food.
Luminosa Álvarez of St. Elizabeth Parish in Pflugerville was one of those in the front row who was brought to tears at the healing service.
"I came for my health," said Álvarez, who lost a leg to diabetes and is on kidney dialysis. "I feel a little different, a little better."
Arturo and Luz García of St. Francis on the Brazos Parish in Waco, have been to similar conferences in Dallas. This was their first in Austin.
"The Lord invited us and here we are," Arturo García said.
Sofía Rodríguez of San José Parish in Austin brought her three children, including Stephanie, 11.
"There are not a lot of things like this," the young girl said shyly. "It helps my faith. Sometimes people bully me. I can pray."
Sofía Rodríguez said she brought her children because there are not many religious events in which the entire family can participate.
"I want them to continue in the faith," she said. "It was instilled in me since I was a child and I want the same for them."
During the homily, Father Montoya focused on the Gospel from Luke 7:11-15, in which Jesus and his disciples and followers are walking to Nain. Jesus had just raised the centurion’s slave from the dead and was marveling at the faith shown. Along the way they encounter a funeral procession for the only son of a widow. Jesus commands the dead son to rise and gives him back to his mother.
At that time, he explained, women didn’t work outside the home and depended on husbands and sons to care for them. Thus, the widowed woman in the funeral procession was destined to poverty and perhaps a life of begging.
"This was a procession of sadness and pain, poverty, anguish and desperation," he said. "She had no hope. She was condemned to poverty."
"These are two groups of people –– two processions," said the priest. "One is a procession of hope and life and the other is of despair and death. To which group do we belong? In which procession do we want to be?"
Father Montoya said that Jesus did not just physically raise the widow’s son from the dead. He also gave new life to the woman by giving her hope.
Too often, he said, people stay focused on their losses and pain and overlook the hope given to us by Jesus Christ.
"When he meets the widow he tells her ‘Do not weep’ even though she had every reason to weep," he said. "He then tells the dead man ‘Arise!’ Those are words of power."
Father Montoya said that power is present in the Eucharist.
"Every time you take Communion he comes to tell you, ‘Arise! You are dead! Arise!’" he said. "Jesus has the power to save. So don’t just sit there! He can save you from vice, poverty and depression. Arise and don’t let anything keep you from the peace and joy that the Lord is giving you!"
González, who is coordinator of the Charismatic Renewal Committee for the Diocese of Buffalo and serves on the national committee, shared her story of sexual abuse and her search for peace in other religious denominations.
Physical and spiritual healing, she said, are only available through faith, and nurturing and strengthening faith begins with the Word.
"Faith enters through the sense of hearing," she said. "Words have power. But it’s easy to be distracted when you don’t listen."
St. Paul tells us in 2 Corrinthians that "we walk by faith, not by sight," she noted.
Today’s Catholics can’t be cowards, she said.
"Catholics need to be brave and get up from death and enter into new life!" González said. "You should be able to see faith in Catholics. We are mobile tabernacles."
When things go wrong or we face pain, we often think God has abandoned us, she said.
"With Christ you are a giant next to those problems," she said. "We need to learn to recognize God amid all that is happening."
Referring to the procession in the day’s Gospel, González said many people remain on the sidelines instead of joining the procession of life offered by Jesus Christ.
"Stop begging and complaining about things," she said. "God has a lot to offer. But we can’t just sit on the side of the road. We need to do our part."