‘Joy of the Lord’ strengthens 220 at Catholic Charismatic Renewal event

Sister Linda Koontz, SNJM, a keynote speaker for the 31st annual Catholic Charismatic Renewal Conference on July 29, encourages people not to be shy in opening their mouths to praise Jesus and seeking his help as she prays. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

People filled with the Holy Spirit should not walk around like “sad sacks,” but rather put on their “garment of praise” and let everyone know the cause of their joy — Jesus Christ.

That is exactly what 220 people did during the 31st annual Catholic Charismatic Renewal Conference, which was held July 29 at the Spalding Pastoral Center in Peoria. The theme was “The Joy of the Lord Is My Strength.”

Father Dave Pivonka, TOR, raises his hand in prayer as the Mass for the 31st annual Catholic Charismatic Renewal Conference begins. The theme for the day was “The Joy of the Lord Is My Strength” and conference participants were only too happy to follow him and “lift (God’s) name on high.” (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

Helping them discover new ways of praising the Lord and reaching out to each other in prayer and support were Father Dave Pivonka, TOR, and Sister Linda Koontz, SNJM. Praise and worship was led by Dan Dúet of Two-Twelve Ministries of San Antonio, Texas.

A nationally known author and speaker, Father Dave is director of Franciscan Pathways, an evangelistic outreach of the Sacred Heart Province of Franciscan Friars of the Third Order Regular. Sister Linda is a Sister of the Holy Name of Jesus and Mary based in El Paso, Texas, where she ministers to the poor of Juarez, Mexico, through The Spirit of the Lord International Mission.


“The Holy Spirit is given to us so that heaven can be in our hearts as we walk this earth,” Sister Linda said.

“Joy can be present even when things aren’t going well,” she said, because “joy comes from being in relationship with the source of our joy.”

The Gospels make it clear that Jesus provides the way to that joy, Sister Linda said, growing animated as she proclaimed, “Heaven is ours! Heaven is yours! Heaven is mine!”

She reminded them that this joy is not possible if they are not “right with the Lord” or filled with anger, bitterness and resentment. It is the product of grateful people — people who understand what Jesus has done for us.

Too many people are timid about seeking the sacrament of reconciliation and letting their joy shine forth.

“We’ve got to open our mouths in Jesus’ praise,” Sister Linda urged. “Joy is always ours if we put Jesus first.”

And there is plenty of good news to share, she said, because God didn’t say he could or would help us one day. “He has healed us! Hallelujah!”

During her second keynote talk, Sister Linda said a lot of people have the Holy Spirit locked up inside them and inside the church.

“Today we want to pray for the fire,” she told them. “You won’t do much for the Lord without the fire, the baptism of the Holy Spirit.”


Joy also comes from encounters with Jesus, which is why Pope Francis continues to encourage people to provide them for those they serve, according to Father Dave.

“No matter what we’re doing — bingo, for example — is it an opportunity to encounter Jesus? If not, we’re doing something wrong,” he explained.

People need these encounters because the Lord doesn’t just make things better, he makes them alive and he will transform us if we let him, Father Dave told conference participants.

Rose Lee of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Galesburg is encircled with prayer during the healing service at the 31st annual Catholic Charismatic Renewal Conference in Peoria on July 29. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

“The thing is, we don’t expect much of God,” he said. “God wants to do something new in our lives. I suggest we come before him expecting him to do something new.”

In ancient Celtic spirituality, the Holy Spirit is depicted as a wild goose — something uncontrollable. People like control, however, so rather than jumping feet first into a river of grace that awaits us, we often go back to the pond, something familiar.

The Lord wants us to get into the current so he can move us. This can be scary for some, because we have no idea where it will lead us, Father Dave said.

That’s OK, because God will be with us in everything, he assured them.

As he was preparing for his presentations, Father Dave said he asked God what message he wanted people to hear. “Tell them I love them,” the priest heard in reply.

“But everybody knows that,” Father Dave countered. Again the Lord said, “Just tell them I love them.”

“It is the nature of God to love us and that’s why we rejoice,” he said, adding that this will never change. “What robs our joy is looking at what isn’t rather than what is.”

Not only does God love us, he will never give up on us, Father Dave said. “We rejoice that God is mercy and always will be.”

We shouldn’t take that for granted, however.

“Too many people treat sin like it’s a law that got broken — nothing personal,” he said. “The only problem is, it’s always personal. Sin isn’t a commandment we’ve broken, it’s a heart that’s broken.”

During his homily at the closing Mass, Father Dave encouraged conference participants to get in touch with the kingdom of God dwelling within them and look for it in one another, especially the marginalized.


A major part of the annual gathering is a healing service, although it took a different form this year. Instead of people going to prayer teams or the speakers for individual prayer, they were asked to raise their hands when an illness or obstacle particular to them was named and those around them reached out in prayer.

While some weren’t sure what to do, the speakers reassured them and asked them to let the Holy Spirit guide them.

There were also opportunities to spend time before the Blessed Sacrament, seek out the sacrament of reconciliation, visit the prayer room, and sing the Divine Mercy Chaplet.

“Many times you need a Holy Spirit booster shot. I get it here,” said Patty Mendoza of St. Mary Parish in Sterling. She said she appreciated the opportunity reflect on the joy of the Lord.

“At this time in our world we need an extra portion of joy,” she said. “The Lord is our hope and he’s our joy.”

EDITOR’S NOTE:  Several more photos from the 31st annual Catholic Charismatic Renewal Conference have been posted to The Catholic Post’s site on Facebook.



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