Fire Rally stirs up the faith in the Southeast

FORT MILL — The Charleston and Charlotte dioceses were set ablaze on March 13 during the Southeast FIRE Rally, held at the Bobcat Training Center.

Throughout the daylong event, the evangelistic team of speakers spoke on the four pillars of the church: faith, intercession, repentance and evangelism — topics designed to build up the lives of Catholics. Bishop Robert J. Baker from the Diocese of Charleston and Bishop Peter Jugis from the Diocese of Charlotte also attended.

Ralph Martin, who spoke on faith, is the founding president of Renewal Ministries, which sponsors the television program “The Choices We Face.” He hosts the program with Peter Herbeck, who also spoke at the rally.

“Ralph Martin is a man on fire with the love of Jesus Christ,” said Darlene Kerfien of St. Joseph Church in Kannapolis, N.C., “and I thank God for men and women who have been risen up by Christ to lift us to the calling that God has given each of us.”

Donna Smith, also from Kannapolis, was inspired by Martin’s talk.  She felt that he encouraged everyone to reach his or her potential and to be accountable to their faith.

Sister Ann Shields, the superior of the Servants of God’s Love, discussed intercession. She is the author of “Fire in My Heart” and several other books. She also hosts a radio program, “Food for the Journey.” Shields’ main point was that “we can do nothing without God.”

Father Dave Pivonka, vice president for mission effectiveness at Franciscan University of Steubenville, presented a powerful session. He wrote the book “Rocked by God,” and recently released the CD series “There is Freedom.”

After seeing the movie “The Passion of the Christ,” Father Pivonka said that he began to seriously ponder, “Why did it have to be this way?”

Knowing that he would be speaking on repentance during the rally, he said that he prayed and found insight in the Scriptures.

The priest highlighted the history of sin, the need for sacrifice, and as Isaiah foretold, how the blood of Christ would redeem the world. He walked through the Old Testament, showing how it was all a part of God’s plan, a way to prove his love for humanity.

 “His blood is on us, and humanity is different because of that,” he said. “He offered himself for my sake. He would be my substitute and take my place on that cross because of his passionate love for me, for all of us.”

According to Father Pivonka, people can be freed from sin and do not have to be a prisoner of it.

“Don’t tell me that sin is human,” he said. “I don’t buy that. Sin is dehumanizing because it takes me away from what God created me to be.”

He believes that when someone says, “I am only human,” it implies that they do not believe in the power of Christ’s sacrifice.

“Sin is always personal,” he said. “We don’t understand what our sin is doing if we think it is only breaking a law.  Sin is always breaking a relationship.”

He stressed the fact that Christ’s blood was shed for everyone and for the sins of the human race.  He then asked, “What is that sin that you need that blood to free you from?”

“Father Dave really touched me,” said Edith Barker from St. Mark Church in Newberry. “I understand more about Christ’s passion and how it is a central part of the Mass.”

Unless a person admits that he or she is broken and needs God’s help, little can be accomplished in evangelization, according to the last speaker, Peter Herbeck. Herbeck is vice president and director of missions for Renewal Ministries.

“Simply begin with a prayer,” he said. “I confess that I am a big chicken but I want to be a part of the Great Rescue. Jesus wants you to have a passion for souls.”

He described evangelization as an invitation, one soul to another.  He said that one should communicate the faith in terms of a gift from God, not just as a set of rules.

 “Peter brought a new light to evangelization, especially to Catholics who tend to be too low-keyed,” said Muriel Johnson of Rock Hill.

The day ended with Mass. Bishop Baker gave the homily and spoke on the power of the Holy Spirit. He urged everyone not to be secure in anyone or anything but the Lord. To do this, he said, requires a full commitment of mind and heart.

  “I hope this rally is a real shot in the arm, and you will experience a deeper conversion, a need for reconciliation and a desire to share the Good News,” said Bishop Baker in closing.