Workshop helps Catholics discover their gifts

By Mary P. Walker
Senior Correspondent

Approximately 300 Catholics attended the “Called and Gifted” introductory workshop held in late August at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in College Station. Conducted by the Catherine of Siena Institute, the workshop helped participants discern their particular spiritual gifts, or charisms, and energized them to continue discovering and doing God’s work in the world. The attendees ranged from young adults to the elderly.
Presenters Mary Sharon Moore and Catherine Liberatore explained that each person, as a unique creation of a loving God, is entrusted with advancing his kingdom in a special way. To live what Moore characterized as “a unique life and work of love that will transform you and the world around you,” the Holy Spirit equips us with charisms, received at baptism and strengthened by confirmation. 
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that “Whether extraordinary or simple and humble, charisms are graces of the Holy Spirit which directly or indirectly benefit the Church, ordered as they are to her building up, to the good of men, and to the needs of the world” (799).
Although we do not know how many charisms there are, there are three lists in the New Testament (Rom 12, 1 Cor 12, and Eph 4). Charisms are more than talents, which may be inherited from parents or improved through education, training and practice. While we can develop our charisms, God uses them through us to bear results beyond our natural abilities. In addition, as the catechism states, charisms are directed outward, beyond the person with the gift. 
For example, a person with a talent for music may enjoy singing and entertaining others, and this talent can be used for good or evil purposes. However, a person gifted with the charism of music cooperates with God to use this gift in prayer, a revelation of the beauty of a creative God, and to help others foster a relationship with God. 
Because charisms are active, Liberatore said we should expect to discover and see them in ourselves and others. During the workshop, she reminded attendees that the Holy Spirit is always active in our lives and to “expect the gifts.” Generally, exercising our charisms is a natural process. We do not have to struggle to express them.
“How do you help others encounter Jesus? Show up! Listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit,” Moore said.
The workshop went far beyond the theology of charisms. After the Friday evening session, attendees had the “homework” of taking “The Catholic Spiritual Gifts Inventory.” It is designed to help participants discern which of the 24 most common charisms they may have and how God is calling them to use these gifts.  
The inventory yielded both surprises and clarity. Filo Maldonado of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish experiences a sense of peace as he serves as sacristan for Mass. He was not surprised that the inventory suggested that he had the charism of service, that is to identify and do what is necessary to meet needs that further God’s purpose. 
Barry Veazey of St. Joseph Parish in Bryan explained that as a recent “empty nester,” he wanted to re-evaluate what God was asking of him. 
“I learned that what you find almost effortless is a big clue about where your charisms may be,” Veazey said.
Anna Kjolen, like many participants, left the workshop with as sense of joy, discovery and mission, saying, “I was really excited to learn about my charisms. Every Catholic should do this.” 
The presenters emphasized that while it is important to discern what our charisms are, it is also important to understand which charisms we do not have. For example, those who do not have the charism of administration, which is the gift of planning and coordinating, may actually impede God’s work if they have administrative responsibilities. In addition, they could feel frustrated by the effort. 
Often we may be tempted to think that a good Catholic “should” participate in a certain ministry, but in reality, that may not be what God is asking us to do. The attendees were given the suggestion that when their pastor asks them to do something and they know they do not have the charism needed, they can confidently say, “Father, do you want God’s results or my results?” 
“You don’t have to do everything. You can just be who you are,” said Ben Starnes, 24, who attended with his parents.
Father Edwin Kagoo, pastor of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish, said he was glad that so many were able to attend the workshop.
“If you feel joyful living out your charisms, the church grows and we grow as disciples of Christ,” he said. 
Laura Snyder, director of religious education at St. Stephen Parish in Salado, wanted to understand how her growing parish could maximize the charisms of all the members. 
“We are a small parish. I wanted to learn more about discerning gifts,” Snyder said. 
Attendees were also offered the opportunity for one-on-one follow up with a trained interviewer to help them further discern their gifts and God’s will for the use of these gifts.
The Catherine of Siena Institute is a program of the Western Dominican Province dedicated to equipping parishes for the evangelization and formation of lay Catholics for the sake of their mission to the world. For more information, visit www.siena.org.

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