Approximately five dozen people gathered at English Martyrs Church in Fenham to witness and be part of the launch of Charis diocesan service of communion [CDSC] on 16 October 2021. Charis, initiated by Pope Francis as the new and only international service under the umbrella of Catholic Charismatic Renewal, has just begun in the diocese of Hexham and Newcastle.
Charis invites each country to develop a Charis National Service of Communion (CNSC) and the CNSC invites each diocese to establish a CDSC. CDSC’s objective is to serve and create communion between the different realities existing within the diocese for the proclamation of the Gospel in the world. Bishop Robert Byrne, bishop of Hexham and Newcastle, has asked Fr Shaun O’Neill to establish the CDSC as the diocesan body for charismatic renewal with a view to support, promote and encourage all expressions of CCR within the diocese. As such, Fr Shaun O’Neill and Deacon Frank O’Neill, who is part of the CNSC, have formed a CDSC team comprising of various realities within the diocese.
After a formal introduction by Fr Shaun and Deacon Frank O’Neill, the African music group led the praise and worship session followed by the introduction of the CDSC team. It was followed by attendees being divided into four groups.
The small discussion group gave participants the opportunity to share their stories of faith witnessed and experienced during the pandemic. The discussion centred around the three key themes of Charis: to deepen the grace of baptism in the Holy Spirit throughout the Church; to promote the ecumenical dimension and foster unity of all Christians; and to promote the service of the poor and initiate social action, as the way ahead.
Before each group discussion personal testimonies were shared. The first testimony shared by Andy Drozdziak focused on his faith journey ignited by the Holy Spirit. During the second testimony Fr Shaun O’ Neill spoke about the ecumenical dimension of CCR and how the different realities within the diocese could work cohesively to embrace and reaffirm that unity with each other. Fr Adrian Tuckwell then spoke passionately and emotionally by narrating stories about how the diocese is initiating service of the poor and prioritising social action.
Coordinator John Wheeler summed up the day so well. “Seeing so many people from the various realities of Charismatic Renewal in our Diocese has given us great hope for what lies ahead, under the guidance and creativity of the Holy Spirit, and through the new communion Pope Francis hopes to see,” he said.
“As we looked around the church, we saw active participation and people embracing the idea of togetherness so well and wanted to contribute through the many talents they have for the greater good of the church. As a team the ideas, experiences and hopes shared in the discussion groups will greatly help us to understand, analyse and channelise back for the benefit of everyone in the diocese.”
There was an eagerness to actively participate in breaking open the Word, encounters, small communities of growing faith, a vibrant adult faith gathering, liturgical experiences and living as households of faith.
A sense of belonging was evident, and by remaining grounded in prayer, it will be possible to connect with different realities and help transfigure and configure the different strands to work as a global community of faith.
Feedback on the evaluation forms confirmed that participants particularly appreciated discussions in the groups, the testimonies, singing, praise and worship and generally appreciated the new launch event.
The second launch event is to be held at English Martyrs and St Peter and Paul, Redhill Road, Stockton on Saturday 13th November 2021 from 11:00 to 2:30 with music provided for by the Filipino community for praise and worship.
By Alison Rebello