by ESME O’RAFFERTY
The new body arising out of the worldwide re-organisation of Catholic charismatic groups has had its first meeting in New Zealand.
The CHARIS National Service of Communion met for the first time in Auckland last month and appointed a transitional executive to write new statutes, organise some launch events and to focus on inviting others onto its team — those to be invited being leaders of Catholic charismatic communities, evangelisation schools and ministries that have a national presence in New Zealand.
The Vatican had announced last year that CHARIS, the Catholic Charismatic Renewal International Service, would take over the roles formerly held by two other groups, the International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Service and the Catholic Fraternity of Charismatic Covenant Communities.
The two groups ceased to exist on June 9 upon the formation of CHARIS, which is now a “public juridical person”, acting in the name of the Church or on behalf of the Church.
Pope Francis had asked the two groups in 2015 to work with the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life to create a new, single “service of communion” worldwide.
At the NSC meeting at the St Columba Centre in Ponsonby, Auckland, from June 21-23, a new NSC executive team was appointed. Members are Diana Ingle of Christchurch (chair), Rainer Hensel of Wellington (vice chair), Reggis Rego of Auckland (treasurer), Helen Smithson of Hamilton (intercession coordinator), Viane Makalio of Christchurch (youth co-ordinator), Hayden Graham of Hamilton (media coordinator).
Prior to the Ponsonby meeting, a New Zealand delegation attended the inaugural meetings of CHARIS at the Vatican, where they met with Pope Francis at Pentecost.
Members of the New Zealand group were Diana Ingle, Fr Rick Loughnan, Anil Baptist and Helen Smithson. The inaugural meeting of the new service took place in the Vatican on June 6-8 at the Paul VI Audience Hall and 69 countries were represented.
Cardinal Kevin Farrell, the prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, spoke at the meeting, saying that the idea for CHARIS had come from Pope Francis himself.
Cardinal Farrell said at the meeting that the Holy Father expected five things from CHARIS.
“The Holy Father expects permanent personal conversion to the love of Jesus, witnessed in a life grounded in the Gospel . . . he expects us to share with all people in the Church the grace of baptism of the Holy Spirit . . . he expects us to evangelise using the Word of God to proclaim that Jesus is Lord and that his love is for all people . . . He expects us to be a people of prayer and praise [and] he expects us to be close to the poor and the needy,” the cardinal said.
At the meeting on June 9, Pope Francis thanked “the International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Service and the Catholic Fraternity for the mission they have carried out in the past 30 years . . . Today one thing ends and another begins. A new stage of this journey is beginning. A stage marked by communion between all the members of the charismatic family, in which the mighty presence of the Holy
Spirit is manifested for the good of the entire Church”.
Charity and love must be the hallmarks of the charismatic renewal, the Pope said.
“Without love, establishing evangelisation offices or implementing carefully planned programmes is useless,” he said.
“An evangelisation is. . . first and foremost a witness: a witness of love.”
Pope Francis celebrated Pentecost Mass on June 9 in St Peter’s Square, where CHARIS officially came into being.