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Photo Credit: Photo courtesy of Patti Gallagher Mansfield

Catholic Charismatic Renewal marks 50th anniversary of founding this year

NEW ORLEANS — For the past 50 years, Patti Gallagher Mansfield has kept the Champion Wiremaster stenographer's notebook, 5-by-8 inches, safely tucked away among her most cherished, sacred items in her dresser drawer.

The notebook has 80 ruled pages. It cost 25 cents. One was given to each of the 25 students from Duquesne University and La Roche College who attended a weekend retreat in February 1967 at The Ark and The Dove Retreat House just outside of Pittsburgh.

Between the slightly faded, tan covers are page after page of Mansfield's handwritten reflections of the mysterious things that happened on that three-day retreat, a weekend that ultimately changed the course of the Catholic Church worldwide.

"Who would have ever imagined — 80 pages, Patti Gallagher — that what I would record in this notebook would have any significance to over 120 million Catholics all over the world?" Mansfield, now 70, said. "It is amazing."

The weekend — now called the "Duquesne Weekend" — is acknowledged as the birth of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal movement in the United States, which has spread throughout the world. Charismatic Renewal centers on the "baptism of the Holy Spirit" in which God's Spirit renews and fills a person with grace. Mansfield talks about releasing the graces already conferred through baptism and confirmation.

"As far as I know, there were individual Catholics who had been baptized in the Spirit," said Mansfield, who added the Duquesne Weekend was the first known case in which a group had "a common experience" that then spread quickly to college campuses, rectories, hospitals and parishes across the country.

"That could not have been happened unless the Lord were behind it and that He willed for this grace of being baptized in the Holy Spirit to become more widely experienced by the whole Church," she said.

She made the comments in an interview with the Clarion Herald, the New Orleans archdiocesan newspaper, in advance of the movement's golden anniversary celebration, held Feb. 17-19 in the same retreat house chapel in Gibsonia, Penn.

Mansfield, who was a 20-year-old Duquesne junior in 1967, and her husband, Al, now serve as liaisons for Charismatic Renewal in the Archdiocese of New Orleans.

On the retreat at Duquesne, Mansfield recalled going upstairs to the chapel, now called the Upper Room, to pray. She remembers giving her life to God. "I'm grateful I wrote everything down," Mansfield said. "It's not like I remember everything that was said, but I remember how I felt. I remember feeling like my body was on fire. I asked the priest (on the retreat), 'Who should I tell?' and he said, 'The Lord will show you.'"

Mansfield said Charismatic Renewal has always been and will always remain at the center of the Church. After the Duquesne Weekend, her study of the Scriptures and the documents of the Second Vatican Council — especially the footnotes on the Holy Spirit in "Lumen Gentium" (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church) — convinced her that the movement was within the Church.

Within months, news of the Duquesne Weekend spread to students attending the University of Notre Dame and Michigan State, Mansfield said. This was before the internet. It was mostly word of mouth, but Mansfield said one way of transmitting the news came through "carbon copies" of testimonies that were mailed out.

In June 2014, Mansfield joined hundreds of thousands of charismatics, across all denominations, in Rome's Olympic Stadium and met with Pope Francis. "The Holy Father told us to remember that this grace was born ecumenical," Mansfield said.

She will return to Rome June 1-4 for a worldwide charismatic conference and the celebration of Pentecost. Pope Francis will preside at a prayer service June 3, the eve of Pentecost. 

>>Catholic Renewal Spring Conference

The Catholic Renewal Center of the Archdiocese of St. Louis will host its spring conference March 10 and 11 at St. Elizabeth of Hungary Church in Crestwood. Bishop Sam Jacobs, bishop emeritus of Houma-Thibodaux, La., will be the speaker. Praise and worship music will be provided.

Conference cost is $35 per person, with discounted rates for seniors ($25) and youth 13-18 ($5). Priests, deacons, religious and seminarians of the Archdiocese of St. Louis may attend for free. Lunches are available for an additional $10.

To register or for more information, visit www.stlouisreview.com/bvT. 

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