By Marc and Julie Anderson
TOPEKA — They came from Arizona, Wyoming, Illinois, Missouri and Kansas. Some even came from Juarez, Mexico.
Close to 500 people filled the Marlo Cuevas-Balandran Activity Center at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Topeka for the ninth Catholic Charismatic Renewal Congress held Oct. 12-13. The theme for the two-day event was: “Come to know the word of God, and you will be truly free.”
Featuring Catholic apologist Father Luis Toro, the two-day event featured two talks by Father Toro — one on the Eucharist and one on the veneration of saints — and the chance to hear two different bands perform praise and worship music in a variety of styles, including mariachi.
Born in 1973 and ordained to the priesthood in 2000, Father Toro serves on the diocesan seminary formation team for the Seminary of St. Thomas Aquinas of the Diocese of San Cristobal, Venezuela.
Designated a Missionary of Mercy by Pope Francis, Father Toro travels the world teaching the Catholic faith from a biblical perspective. His website at: escueladebiblia.com (“Bible School” in English) features downloadable content in the form of videos and handouts with answers to scores of questions about the Catholic faith, including the need for the sacrament of reconciliation and the Mother of God’s role in the plan of salvation.
Father Toro can also be found on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, where, in addition to videos of his speaking engagements, he regularly posts videos taken at events at which he answers participants’ questions about the Catholic faith.
Father Toro has also authored several books, including “Mother of God and Mother of All Christians” and “Dialogue with the Protestants.”
For Our Lady of Guadalupe parishioners, the weekend provided an opportunity to learn more about their Catholic faith, something which Ventura Morales said he appreciated.
“I listen to him daily at work,” Morales said.
“I really like that he’s knowledgeable. He’s knowledgeable on everything,” he continued. “I’ve never met anyone so knowledgeable, passionate and truthful about our religion.
“Father Toro has a way with words. Every word he says has a principal base that is the Bible and it is the word of God. He never gives his own opinion. He just goes straight to the Bible.”
But even the weekend wasn’t enough, said Morales.
“I’m always going to listen to him because I discover new things every day,” he said.
Dolores DelRio and Luz Perez, who helped to facilitate the event, said they truly enjoyed the manner in which Father Toro engaged everyone in attendance.
“I’ve never had anyone who talks about the Bible and our religion the way he does,” said DelRio. “I’ve never listened to anyone speak it that way.
“I’m going to continue watching him because I just love the way he says things, the way he expresses things. . . . It’s not straight speeches. He interacts with the crowd. He’s goofy and funny.”
“You can ask him any question,” added Perez, “and he has the answer with the Bible verse. He will tell you the exact Bible verse on anything.”