CHARLESTON—Members of St. Patrick Church wanted to do something special to brighten the flame of faith during Lent.
They decided to hold a Lenten revival and asked Deacon Carl Johnson from St. Martin de Porres Church in Columbia to host it.
Father Henry Kulah, church administrator, said he was unfamiliar with the style of worship, but when the parish council approached him about hosting a revival he supported it.
“It’s not the kind of thing I’m very used to, but it’s fine with me,” Father Kulah said in a phone interview. “God’s Holy Spirit will direct us.”
Some parishioners said they had attended a revival before, which encourages lively participation from the audience, and enjoyed it.
Patricia Grant said she knows Deacon Johnson, who is originally from Charleston, and knows his family and their strong Catholic faith. She said anything he put on would be worth attending.
“Every night I went I enjoyed it. It gave me something to think about,” she said. Grant added that she took notes, jotting down Scriptures the deacon mentioned and reading them later.
The theme of the revival, held Feb. 22-24, was “Is It Well With My Soul?” and Deacon Johnson said he spoke about ways to prepare one’s soul through love, faith, penance and prayer.
“Tomorrow is not promised to us,” he said. “We do not know when the Son of God is coming to take us from this Earth.”
The deacon said people must prepare for this day by being soldiers of Christ and living with a clean heart. He said a Catholic must have a clean heart to receive the body and blood of Christ, and this means finding time to regularly ask for forgiveness.
“Lent is a time to repent and reconcile yourself so you can have a close relationship to our heavenly Father,” he said.
Grant, who attended all three nights, said his words touched on a personal concern of hers.
“I was looking for renewal and he struck on something I was looking for — forgiveness. Forgiving yourself and others,” she said.
Participants said they loved the music, which was provided on the first night by the choir from St. Martin de Porres, and the chance to express themselves as the Holy Spirit moved them.
Deacon Johnson said he encouraged people by holding up signs that said: Sing for Jesus, Stand Up for Jesus, or Seek Jesus. On the back of each was a song selection or verse.
He said the revival follows a loose structure with songs, Scripture and meditation, but can change depending on the voice of God.
“I’m led by the Spirit, so when the Spirit moves me to pray, I pray,” he said. “It really opened everyone up. There was a sweet spirit in that church and it’s still there.”
Leonard and Norma Davis, parishioners, said the crowd was truly responding to the Holy Spirit.
“It was a wonderful evening of joyous celebration and contemplating the word of Jesus,” Davis said.
Grant said she would like to see the Catholic Church hold more revival services because it’s a wonderful way to focus on renewal of the soul.
She added that the Bible calls for people to rejoice and make a joyful noise unto the Lord (Ps 98:4) and said the revival let them know it was OK to clap and voice their love for Christ.
This was especially evident on the final night, when parishioners held a dramatic reenactment of Christ’s Passion.
Deacon Johnson said he gained a bit of experience with revivals when he conducted one in New York last summer.
He added that he knows many people at the church, including family members who still live in Charleston. His brother, Maurice Johnson, attends St. Patrick, as did his late brother Edmond Johnson.
The deacon said he had not been to St. Patrick since his brother’s funeral three years earlier, and at times during the service, the Holy Spirit touched him so strongly it moved him to tears.
He said the Holy Spirit flows among church members in the inspirational style of worship, and each person is touched in a different way.
Deacon Johnson is retired from the Air National Guard and spent over 20 years in education as a principal and teacher. He lives in Blythewood with his wife Rosetta, and has two grown daughters.