Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of April 18, 2005
Sleeping giant is awakening
Sask. priest sees movements of the Spirit bursting out all over the world
By BILL GLEN
WCR Staff Writer
Christians are beginning to wake up to the enormous opportunity to spread the good news through the Church. But they need to unshackle themselves from their preset ways of thinking and be stirred by the freedom of the Holy Spirit.
Father Denis Phaneuf, pastor of Holy Spirit Parish in Saskatoon, told some 400 people who attended Catholic Renewal Service's interdenominational conference April 8-9 that the Church is like a sleeping giant at the beginning of an unprecedented arousal.
Behold the elephant
"Have you ever noticed an elephant in a zoo? What I consider to be the strongest animal in the world is attached to a little stake by a chain and it will not go anywhere," said Phaneuf. That is because as it grows from infancy, the elephant is accustomed to being chained and gives up trying to get free. Phaneuf told the audience a lot of Catholics are the same way. They will not move because they are caught in a certain framework of thinking.
Yet there is movement afoot to broaden the reach of the Church. He cautioned, however, there are certain principles that must be followed to provide a foundation to properly support the expansion.
"The sleeping giant of the Church is awakening rapidly. At this time in its history, we are seeing all kinds of growth of the Church in Latin America, Africa and Asia. All over the world, there are movements of the Holy Spirit," he said.
"One of the greatest movements is among the laity, as they come into their rightful place of ministry. It is wonderful because God is in such a variety of people on earth doing a variety of things."
Archbishop Thomas Collins, Father Stefano Penna and John Connelly, associate director of the John Paul II Bible School in Radway, were other speakers during the conference hosted by Catholic Renewal Services, which is celebrating 20 years of service in Edmonton.
They spoke about the message the Church has conveyed for centuries and its interpretation and relevance today. All three agreed - we cannot compromise the original message because it conveys God's truth and principles.
Phaneuf read from the Acts of the Apostles, noting five purposes of the early Church, how those principles apply to our lives and how they can renew prayer groups and parishes.
"The great giant that is the Church can come awake if we just discovered some biblical principles," he said.
Phaneuf listed mission, worship, fellowship, discipleship and service as ways to arouse parishoners - the heart of the Church: "The Church is not an organization, but a living organism."
"We indeed live in exciting times because the Church can use modern technology to get its message to the ends of the earth," said Phaneuf, referring to the billions worldwide who learned of and experienced the death of Pope John Paul II through television, newspapers, radio and the Internet.
"We are experiencing a tremendous move towards Jesus Christ. From the young to the old, people are experiencing renewals in their lives, all to a new way of life in Christ."
For 35 years, the charismatic renewal has brought formation of Bible schools and waves of small Christian communities. Phaneuf said the renewal is a means of "breaking the chains that keep us clinging to past ideas that hold us back from growing."
The mission of parishioners is to bring the Holy Spirit to others in their community. They must break bread and pray to God in worship.
"The task is to exalt God. When we give him our hearts, he exalts us," Phaneuf said. "Our objective is to magnify the Lord."
Church is a network of relationships of mutual support that forms fellowship. "What Archbishop Thomas Collins is doing teaching people with his Lectio Divina is forming them as disciples. They are hearing, believing and speaking the word of God."
"The great giant that is the Church can come awake if we just discovered some biblical principles,"
- Fr. Denis Phaneuf
We all minister
And to give as a person needs, is to give service and develop ministry.
"Every believer is a minister and as pastors, it is our responsibility to help equip you to serve your ministry. We need to discern and discover what our gifts are and how they match our personalities. Every person needs a purpose and the Church provides this functioning for living."
In order to grow in numbers and stand upon a solid foundation, a parish must develop, to the greatest degree possible, all five purposes, he said. "This is how we will awaken the giant."
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