With the heat and humidity already descending upon St. Louis, attendees at the North City Deanery Revival found refuge in the comfort of Sts. Teresa and Bridget Church on a mid-May evening.
Resurrectionist Father Manuel Williams of Montgomery, Ala., led the three-day event, May 21-23. Each evening began at 6 p.m. with praise and worship music from the North Deanery choir, followed by Father Williams’ talks.
A revival seeks a religious awakening, through song, prayer and Scripture, while in communion with others. This revival has experienced a renewal of its own — it’s the first time in at least 10 years since a deanery-wide revival has taken place, said Sts. Teresa and Bridget pastor Father Timothy Cook.
“If nothing else, this is to give God praise and listen to a good word,” Father Cook said. In his welcome to participants, the priest called on them to rely on the gifts of the Holy Spirit, a continuation from the feast of Pentecost celebrated the previous weekend. “It was His Spirit that gathered us — a faith community giving praise.”
With a theme of “Cloud of Witnesses, Past and Present,” Father Williams wove personal stories with the account of Sts. Paul and Barnabas, who in their missionary work had a serious argument and separated ways (Acts 14-16). Father Williams underwent priestly formation in St. Louis in the 1980s and delivered the remarks at Sister Antona Ebo’s funeral last year.
The story of Paul and Barnabas, he said, is a challenge to all of us to go to the Lord when things cannot be fixed. Reconciliation, he said, does not always mean reunion. But we must trust in Him in those moments.
“If we trust God, if we believe in the cloud of witnesses that surround us, we have to know that God will accompany us in every moment of our journey,” Father Williams said.
Firing up the crowd to a round of applause, he continued: “If it’s a new job, He will be there. If it’s a new school, He will be there. If it’s a new parish structure, He will be there. If it’s a new relationship, He will be there. If it’s a new neighborhood or state, He will be there. If it’s a new Christian tradition, He will be there. If it’s a new way of life, He will be there. If I have to take a new regimen of medication, He will be there. God will accompany us in every moment, every step of our journey.”
The Good News is that God is a God of new beginnings, of mercy and forgiveness, Father Williams noted. Pope Francis has likewise said that the Church is a hospital for those who are sinners, where healing can take place.
“It’s been so long since we’ve had (a revival),” said Ruby Douthet of Our Lady of the Holy Cross in Baden. “It was so good to bring (Father) Manuel back to do it. We need stuff like this to keep us in the Church.”
Bridget Stegall of Sts. Teresa and Bridget, who sang with the choir, said she needed the reminder that “God’s grace is sufficient. So often we’re trying to fix things, and even though we have asked God for forgiveness, sometimes in the back of our mind, we’re thinking, ‘Well, maybe I need to keep asking. Maybe that black mark is still there. Maybe I need to do something else.’”