by Joe Bollig
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — As the Catholic charismatic renewal celebrates its golden jubilee this year, it does so with a new leader from the archdiocese, Father Anthony Ouellette.
Father Ouellette, pastor of Holy Name Parish in Kansas City, Kansas, was elected chairperson of the steering committee for the Association of Diocesan Liaisons to the Charismatic Renewal. He will serve a one-year renewable term.
The election was held during the 50th jubilee celebration and the association’s annual convention held July 20-23 in Pittsburgh.
For the past two years, Father Ouellette has been a member of the six-person steering committee. He has also served the archdiocese as ecclesial assistant to the charismatic renewal.
Last year, Father Ouellette served on the steering committee as vice chairperson.
“This association of diocesan liaisons is made up of priests, deacons and the lay faithful,” said Father Ouellette. “So, there is a very nice balance in the association.”
Father Ouellette became a member of the Catholic charismatic renewal during a Life in the Spirit seminar in January 2001, while he was a seminarian. He became diocesan liaison and a member of the association in 2010.
A diocesan liaison to the association is a person appointed by a bishop to be the connection between his office and the Catholic charismatic renewal. The role and activities of the liaisons have changed over the past 50 years as the renewal has matured.
“The role of the liaison was really to try to create a position of responsibility and accountability to the bishop, to help him to know what the renewal was, to encourage it and, in many ways, act as a translator for the terms and experience of the renewal,” said Father Ouellette.
“It seems that, as many different dioceses you have, you have as many different understandings of what the role of liaison is,” he continued. “So, the creation of an association for liaisons was done so those liaisons with different understandings and job descriptions . . . would be able to come together for networking, collaboration and mutual support.”
The role of the association’s steering committee is to organize meetings and events, represent the association and provide leadership to a movement that has grown in many different directions.
What are the greatest challenges?
“The greatest challenge for any chairperson for the association is communication,” said Father Ouellette. “The greatest challenge for our association is looking, again, at what is needed from liaisons, [and] what the bishops need us to be for them.”
As it celebrates its 50th anniversary, the renewal needs to take a self-assessment.
“The association can ask the question, ‘Do we need to exist anymore?’” said Father Ouellette. “The challenge for the greater community is to understand, now that the renewal is 50 years old, what our role of liaisons can be in the promotion of the renewal.”
For 50 years, the Catholic charismatic renewal has been seen as a separate entity or movement in the Catholic Church, but Pope Francis has encouraged the renewal to see itself rather as a “current of grace” available for every member of the Catholic Church, said Father Ouellette.
“[In Rome earlier this year,] Pope Francis reiterated that he desires that the graces of the renewal be a part of every parish and church,” said Father Ouellette.
In other words, the movement will become less something “over there,” but rather something all Catholics can have as part of their life of faith. After all, the gifts were given by the Holy Spirit to build up the whole church.
“If the renewal does what it’s supposed to do,” he continued, “if we’re really obedient to the Holy Spirit and the sharing of the gifts we experience, we will cease to exist.
“It means that people will come to a recognition of an adult faith that opens up the graces and charisms that they received in baptism.”
The next big thing for the Catholic charismatic renewal is Kairos 2017, an interdenominational Christian unity and revival conference to be held Oct. 24-26 at the convention center in Kansas City, Missouri.
Kairos 2017 marks a number of anniversaries, including the 40th anniversary of the Ecumenical Charismatic Conference of Kansas City, the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the Catholic charismatic renewal and The Messianic Movement, and the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.