Fernanda Thurmond’s first and most important vocation is her role as a wife and mother. But she also describes herself as a consecrated missionary focused on bringing herself and others closer to Christ.
On a Saturday evening in November, Thurmond stood before her husband, children and members of the Brazilian Catholic community at a Mass at St. Joseph Parish in Manchester and committed to her third year of formation with Comunidade Católica Face de Cristo, a covenant community she joined in Fortaleza, Brazil, in 2016.
“We say that our vocation is love, and our service is to the family,” said Thurmond, who at the Mass read a letter of her commitment to the community.
Since moving to the United States with her family, Thurmond has restarted the five-year formation process with Face de Cristo, which is part of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal movement and under the umbrella of CHARIS, a Vatican-established body that serves the worldwide Catholic Charismatic Renewal movement.
Covenant communities typically have a particular spirituality, way of life or type of service. Face de Cristo is focused on marriage and family, and consecrated members make promises of chastity, obedience and poverty, said Thurmond, who with her husband, Mike, have three children: Isabella, 13, Oliver, 4, and Lucas, 2.
“It starts with your relationship with God,” said Thurmond, a parishioner at Christ Prince of Peace in Manchester. “As a married lay person who is also consecrated, it means my mission starts at home with my husband and my kids.”
Thurmond is called within her community to bring others to Christ. To accomplish this, she helped start a weekly prayer group in Portuguese for the Brazilian Catholic community at St. Joseph. In November, she was commissioned as a spiritual director after completing a training offered through the archdiocesan Catholic Renewal Center, and she offers spiritual direction in English and Portuguese. She helps with other Catholic Renewal Center activities, including as a prayer minister at healing services and Life in the Spirit seminars.
Thurmond said that lies outside of her paid work as an engagement coordinator at St. Joseph Parish. “This is my mission and how I serve in my community,” she said. “Jesus is calling me to serve. I organize my home life so that every free moment of time I have (outside of her duties as wife and mother) is given to Jesus fully.”
CHARIS: Unifying the
In 2019, the Vatican established a new body to provide a “new, single, international service for the needs of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal in the Church.” This body, called CHARIS (Catholic Charismatic Renewal International Service), exists under the Vatican’s Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, and has its own statutes. This is the first time the worldwide Catholic Charismatic Renewal movement has existed under a Vatican dicastery.
The pope said he wanted the Vatican to establish CHARIS so that the whole Church would know that the Charismatic Renewal belongs fully to the universal Church. The service’s statutes emphasize three dimensions: unity of Christians, service to the poor and the spread of baptism in the Holy Spirit — a hallmark of the Charismatic Renewal.
During a November meeting with some of its members, Pope Francis said that CHARIS is a “window” into the vast world of the Charismatic Renewal. “Those involved in its work have an extraordinary opportunity to look out this window, to peer into the distance, beyond local experiences, and to appreciate the rich gifts that the Holy Spirit is bestowing in cultural, social and ecclesial contexts very different from their own,” he said.
Vocation to the priesthood
William Rocha was 16 when he joined Shalom Catholic Community in his hometown of Fortaleza. He saw the community as a healthy alternative to some of the typical activities of his peers. As part of the group, Rocha participated in a prayer group, Mass and service activities every week.
A Vatican-recognized private association of the faithful, Shalom was started in Fortaleza in 1982 for young people to experience moments of prayer, fraternity and mission, helping them to grow on their path of faith. The community has since spread to other cities worldwide and now includes various ages and vocations, including lay people, single and married, priests and families.
“Our mission is to announce the risen Christ passed through the cross,” Rocha said. By announcing Christ’s resurrection, “we suffer little deaths every day, but it’s important to know that Christ defeated death and He has risen.”
When he joined Shalom, Rocha felt God was calling him to a life of celibacy. Along the way, he began to see that God was calling him to a specific vocation within the priesthood. As a child, his family noticed that something was different about him: “I was always more quiet, not into the partying as much,” he said. “There was this constant feeling that I was drawn to be with God and to spend time with Him.” Being in the presence of Jesus and contemplating Him, he saw the priesthood as a way to share God with others.
Through a Brazilian priest friend, Rocha began his seminary formation in the Diocese of Nashville, Tennessee. After a year of initial formation there, he came to Kenrick-Glennon Seminary this year as a second-year pre-theology student.
Rocha maintains a connection to Shalom as a spiritual companion to other members and by giving spiritual talks online. He also visits the community when he can return home to Fortaleza on summer break.
“It’s using the gifts of the Spirit, of evangelizing with zeal and boldness, to talk about Jesus with everyone we meet and to be that sign of peace in the world, which is what Shalom means,” he said. “If I know something that is good for me, I want to share that with others.”
Lilian Silva is a busy wife and mother. She came from Brazil to the United States about two and a half years ago to work on her post-doctoral research. Through a connection with a couple in her prayer group, she found her way to St. Louis, where she landed a position at Saint Louis University studying progeria, a genetic disorder that causes premature aging.
The day after she arrived in St. Louis, Silva connected with the Brazilian Catholic community at St. Joseph and met Thurmond. She learned that Thurmond’s covenant community, Face de Cristo, had opened up its initial year of discernment to people living outside of Brazil for the first time. Last year, Silva began her discernment, which includes an initial formation period; she has chosen to repeat a second year of discernment this year.
Silva was attracted to the community’s charism of marriage and family. In Brazil, she underwent training to become an instructor in the Billings Ovulation Method of natural family planning. She also helps with child care at the Brazilian community’s weekly prayer group.
“The charism is family and I am learning to go deeper into that,” said Silva, who, with her husband, Adriano, has a 5-year-old son, Benjamin.
Baptism in the Holy Spirit
The Church describes baptism in the Holy Spirit as “a life-transforming experience of the love of God the Father poured into one’s heart by the Holy Spirit, received through a surrender to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. It brings alive sacramental baptism and confirmation, deepens communion with God and with fellow Christians, enkindles evangelistic fervor and equips a person with charisms for service and mission” (International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services (ICCRS): Baptism in the Holy Spirit, pg. 13).
Baptism in the Holy Spirit is an action of God invited by an individual through prayer. The person experiences a deeper conversion to Christ and gives the Holy Spirit permission to work in that individual’s life in a more powerful way. It is not a sacrament instituted by Christ, but a new awareness of the life given to Christians in the sacraments of baptism and confirmation.
A covenant community is made up of a group of people who recognize either a founder or a group of founders, who commit themselves to the same founding charism and commitment to the Lord and to one another, in a stable fraternal life. The charism, mission, rights and duties of the members, and governance are described in the statutes recognized by the Church. Covenant communities offer a program of formation to all its members, which come from different states of life, depending on the group’s charism.
To learn more about CHARIS and covenant communities, visit www.charis.international/en/communities/
Catholic Renewal Center
The Catholic Renewal Center offers numerous ministries, including prayer, conferences, spiritual direction, a Healing and Deliverance Ministry, as well as other spiritual resources, including a regular schedule of healing Masses in the archdiocese. To learn more about the Renewal Center’s ministries, visit www.archstl.org/catholic-renewal-center; or contact director Jane Guenther at (314) 792-7734 or email [email protected].