COLUMBIA—The transforming power of God’s mercy was the highlight of this year’s S.C. Catholic Charismatic Conference held Oct. 22-24 at Our Lady of the Hills Church.
More than 200 people from the Southeast and as far away as Pennsylvania took advantage of the opportunity for private and group prayer, the chance to attend Mass, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and the sacrament of reconciliation.
Father Richard McAlear, a member of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, was the keynote speaker. The Boston native was ordained in Rome in 1970 and became involved with the Catholic Charismatic Renewal in 1972. Since then he has become a popular speaker, retreat leader and pilgrimage director.
Father McAlear is a former vocations director for his order, a member of the Association of Christian Therapists and past director of Our Lady of Hope Center in Newburgh, N.Y.
He opened the conference with a Mass concelebrated by Oratorian Father Elbano Muñoz, Father Emmanuel Andinam, Dominican Father Bernard Oniwe, and Fathers Edward Kelley and Brian Simpson. Father Marcin Zahuta also attended.
This was the Oblates priest’s second appearance at the conference. He focused on the power of God’s mercy and the importance of the love Jesus offers to the world.
During his homily at the opening Mass, Father McAlear recalled the intense study that led up to his ordination. He said he attended a charismatic prayer group a few years later, during which a truck driver told a story about how he felt Jesus’ guiding hand during his busiest hours.
“I had never before heard anyone talk about Jesus as if He were a real person,” the priest said. “I’d heard about the life of Jesus, the theology of Jesus, but never Jesus himself. This truck driver and everyone there seemed to know Jesus but me.”
After that prayer meeting, the priest said he learned how to concentrate on the real presence of Jesus in his life, and this new aspect of the relationship helped him in his ministry and interacting with others.
He said that busy Catholics fill their lives with things that seem holy, but don’t spend enough time on Christ Himself and the gifts of His love and mercy, a theme he stressed throughout the weekend.
“You can do all kinds of things in a church or in a parish, and Jesus can still be a side issue,” he said. “We may be into all kinds of good stuff, but where is He? People need God; they need to do things to glorify God. Jesus didn’t come to bring the world theology, he came to bring God. If you see Jesus, you see God the Father.”
Father McAlear used examples from Scripture to show God’s forgiving nature and said too many people have been raised to think only of an angry God who is intent on punishing those who do wrong.
“Jesus came to reveal the Father’s love and mercy and forgiveness of sin,” he said. “When you’re into condemnation, you’re not really into Jesus. The foundation of all spiritual love is the merciful love of the Father revealed through Jesus Christ.”
Ross Gamble, one of the conference organizers, said the weekend offered important lessons about how everyone is a sinner who is in need of God’s forgiveness and mercy.
“We need to forgive others and forgive ourselves,” he said. “Nobody is completely innocent.”