Catholic Charismatic Conference focuses on faith, family

Matt Gardner
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A blast of freezing cold weather over the weekend couldn’t stop area Catholics from turning out in strong numbers for the diocesan annual charismatic conference.

Diocesan Committee chairperson Sylvia Dion marveled at the strong turnout for the conference, which serves as an opportunity for Catholics to gather and strengthen their faith.

“I think there are about 74 (people attending) … We’ve had a lot more, but we’re amazed that so many came out when it was this cold,” Dion said.

The theme of this year’s conference was “Our Church Is A Family of Families,” which Dion described as a reference to the communal nature of the Catholic faith.

“The Church is the place for everyone to gather and to share our faith,” she said. “It’s not a matter of just individual faith, but it’s sharing it with others, and when we share with others it grows.”

“It’s just like in a family,” she added. “If you share, your faith in the family grows -- and if you share your faith with every other family, it becomes one big family.”

Interspersed through the day’s presentations were praise and worship sessions as well as prayers.

Over the course of the day, three speakers expounded upon the main theme. Following an established precedent, the first presentation was a testimonial from someone who had either found faith or grown in their faith.

Saskatoon diocese member Shawna Arnold provided the first testimonial this year. Entitled Importance of Faith in the Family, the presentation detailed how Arnold was able to overcome a troubled past through her belief in God.

“I grew up in a very dysfunctional background … I was in and out of prison when I was a child,” she said. “I was using drugs and alcohol quite a bit. My mom died of an overdose when I was younger. I took all that and if it wasn’t for God, I don’t know where I’d be right now.

“In a sense, my faith and what God’s done in my life has really helped me to grow and to become a person -- to actually live a life that I’m supposed to live and let go of all that pain.”

She noted, however, that the transition was a long process -- one that began when she realized she could no longer go on living the way she had before.

“You get to the point where you’re so full of shame and hurt that I just felt like there has to be more to life than what I’m living,” Arnold said.

“‘Why am I here and why is this happening?’ You get to the point where you’re sick of it … I slowly would have people approach me and slowly plant little seeds, and eventually I started to ask more questions and my faith started to grow.”

The people who helped lead Arnold back to God included a priest in her congregation and an elderly woman whom she came to look upon as a grandmother figure.

For Arnold, whose own grandmother died of lung cancer when she was 15 years old, the woman who helped her was another sign from God.

“It’s funny … Later on in life, God used a grandma figure to kind of approach me, because that’s what I needed,” Arnold said.

If it wasn’t for God, I don’t know where I’d be right now. Shawna Arnold

“I needed somebody to kind of show me unconditional love and to listen to me and to kind of guide me.”

As she gradually let God into her heart, Arnold gained strength and developed more self-esteem. She began to pray and started attending church.

Over the course of years, she slowly transformed herself and eventually went back to school. Today, she regularly speaks about her experiences to Grade 10 students at Catholic schools.

“Now I look back, I think, ‘I was that person? I was that person that was at Kilburn Hall? I was that person that was in jail?’ My mom had an electronic bracelet on … I came from the rock bottom to where I am now,” Arnold said.

“It’s just amazing, and I want other people to know that there’s help. God will heal them.”

Following Arnold, the second speaker of the day was another member of the Saskatoon diocese, Carmen Humphrey.

A registered nurse who travels around the world on behalf of her own healing ministry, Humphrey offered a testimonial entitled The Gift of Healing Hands.

Humphrey described that gift as a product of the Holy Spirit, in which a person is asked to pray over others and miracles occur.

“I’m just a nurse,” she said. “But only God heals.”

Describing herself as an analytically-minded person, Humphrey argued that a miracle must meet certain criteria in order to qualify as such.

“Our bodies were created to heal themselves, I believe that,” she said. “But there’s a difference between a miracle and normal healing, and it has to do with time and intensity.

“I have seen cancers disappear overnight. I have seen swellings and tumours disappear right before my eyes. I have seen awesome things that I would not have believed before this all happened.”

Following lunch, Humphrey delivered a presentation on The Eucharist: Centre of Faith and Family.

As is customary, Prince Albert Bishop Albert Thévenot delivered the final presentation of the day, which summed up the theme of the conference.

Pointing to the central role of love in the Church, Thévenot compared believers spreading their faith to a person carrying a lantern.

“You can’t put (the lantern) in front of you -- it blinds you,” the bishop said. “You have to put it beside you so that it lights the road that’s in front of you so that you can walk.

“That’s what Christ is. He’s our light, and we have to be a lantern for other people who are caught in the darkness of our world.”

“Don’t try to blind them,” he said. “Show them the way.”

Organizations: Prince Albert

Geographic location: Saskatoon

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