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 Since becoming involved in the Charismatic Renewal Ministry, she says she has experienced Christ at work in her life. Pacheco believes she found relief in the Charismatic prayer group at Holy Family Parish in Hesperia, a place where she could be at peace with God and surrender herself to His will. 

 “For us, healing is the surrendering of our troubles to God,” said Francisco Bermeo, speaker at the Opening Encounter event held for the Spanish speaking community on Jan. 25 and 26. “It’s our own way of placing trust in our God and relying on the Holy Spirit to provide us with the strength we need.”

 Pacheco’s story is echoed in the hearts of many who participate in the Charismatic Renewal Ministry in the Diocese of San Bernardino. For many, the ministry is a haven of support and spiritual healing. 

 “It’s here where families who are struggling find refuge; it’s here in the Lord. The power of the Holy Spirit gives us the strength,” said Marina Carrion, director of the Office of Charismatic Renewal during the Opening Encounter.

 People who subscribe to Catholic Charismatic Renewal spirituality meet in prayer groups. Currently the diocese has 64 Spanish prayer groups and 12 English prayer groups. The Diocesan Office of Charismatic Renewal recently welcomed three new Spanish language prayer groups from Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, Ontario; St. Margaret Mary Parish, Chino and Holy Innocents Parish, Victorville.

 Relatively new, the first signs of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal movement can be traced back to 1967 when an ecumenical group from the University of Duke in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania came together to pray for a new Pentecost in their lives. They began to pray in other tongues, had visions, and experienced healings. Soon similar prayer groups began to form in different parts of the world. Currently there are more than 120,000 Catholics who participate in the Charismatic Renewal spirituality.

 Prayer groups, particularly in the United States, are associated with a parish.  While many rituals and experiences in the Church can be characterized as solemn and reverent, the atmosphere at Charismatic prayer group meetings tends to be more lively and energetic. 

 “What sets the Catholic Charismatic groups apart from other expressions is our outward expression of joy, hospitality and our wish to encounter God through the Holy Spirit,” said Anita Munoz, program coordinator for the Diocesan Office of Charismatic Renewal. “Although we might sing different songs, we are still very much grounded in the sacraments, and believe the Holy Spirit to be a part of the Holy Trinity.”

 The Catholic Charismatic Renewal movement within the Diocese is very much a part of the Catholic Church and only wishes to offer another way of expressing the Catholic faith, Munoz said.

 “The diversity of the diocese includes the different ways that Catholic brothers and sisters choose to connect with God,” says Bishop Gerald Barnes. “For some it is through the Charismatic groups and we welcome all of these expressions of faith as part of our Universal Church.”

 One of the defining characteristics of the Charismatic prayer groups is their weekly meetings held throughout the different parishes of the diocese. These groups are characterized by worship, prayer and testimonies. Similar to other small faith communities, members of the prayer groups form strong bonds, often considering themselves a family. The main focus of the group is to promote the power of prayer.

 In gratitude to God, members of the prayer groups are encouraged to take on responsibilities and commit themselves to serve the Church in the other ministries at the parish. 

 “The prayer group has helped me a lot in realizing that God is love and in helping me to learn more about my faith and how to share it,” said Elisa Castañeda, a parishioner and member of the prayer group at St. George Parish, Ontario.

 Since joining the prayer community 10 years ago, Castañeda has begun serving as a catechist for the parish. 

 The Diocesan Office of Charismatic Renewal offers several opportunities for enrichment and growth throughout the year. Leaders are invited to attend meetings once a month, where they can network, participate in formation sessions and exchange ideas. 

 Spanish language prayer groups are invited to gather at weekly enrichment nights Wednesdays at the Sombrero Banquet Hall in Colton. The Spanish speaking community celebrates monthly Healing Masses on the third Wednesday of the month, while the English community offers the Mass on the fourth Thursday of the month. Locations for the Healing Mass vary month to month.

 “We find ourselves encountering God every time we meet,” said Maria Herrera, a parishioner at Christ the Redeemer, Grand Terrace.

 She and her husband, Jose, have been involved in the parish’s prayer group for 14 years.  

 “Every day we learn more, we learn something new,” Herrera said.

 The Diocesan Office helps coordinate several retreats at the request of the group and offers a calendar of major events held throughout the year, including; Opening Day Encounter, Youth Congress, Summer Bible Study week, Triduum to the Holy Spirit, Men’s Congress, Women’s Congress, Congress for Couples, Charismatic Crusade, Healing Congress and Days of Renewal. 

 “Many times we focus too much on the ways of the world. We don’t make time for God,” Pacheco said. “For me, participating in the prayer group, singing in worship, praying to God, and serving as a volunteer, it’s my way of dealing with stress. It’s my way of spending time in service to the Lord.”

 For more information on the Charismatic Renewal movement in the Diocese, contact the Office at (909) 475-5365.