STEUBENVILLE, OH —“If not you, who?” asked Bishop Sam Jacobs, bishop emeritus of Houma-Thibodaux, Louisiana. “If not now, then when? If not in your personal world, then where? If not in the power of the Holy Spirit, then in what power and for what purpose?”
On the 50th anniversary of his ordination, Bishop Jacobs opened the Catholic Charismatic Conference, held June 6 – 8, at Franciscan University, with his talk “The Holy Spirit: The Promise of the Father and Jesus.” He focused on the promise of the Holy Spirit, saying “The role of the Holy Spirit is twofold: our sanctification, so that we can grow in holiness. And secondly: empowering us for mission. Holiness is the work of the Holy Spirit within us.”
Bishop Jacobs also drew upon Bible references to show the promises of God to send his Holy Spirit and how the Spirit would change the lives of not only the Apostles at Pentecost, but also those who ask for grace today. In regard to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, he said, “We must be refilled like a reservoir. The water evaporates and needs a fresh rain to be renewed and refreshed. We need to be refilled, and in the words of John the Baptist, baptized with Spirit and with fire.”
The weekend drew almost 650 participants and was full of workshops and talks centered on the promise, purpose, and power of the Holy Spirit, along with the sacrament of reconciliation, eucharistic adoration in the Portiuncula Chapel, and a Holy Hour and healing service. Bob Rice, a singer/songwriter, led Praise and Worship.
Franciscan University president Father Sean O. Sheridan, TOR, welcomed the participants, saying that his job representing the University was one of the best jobs in the world because the students, faculty, and staff are “on fire with their love for God.” He then quoted Pope Francis, saying, “There is no greater freedom than that of allowing oneself to be guided by the Holy Spirit, renouncing the intent to plan and control everything to the last detail, and instead letting him enlighten and guide and direct us, leading us wherever he wills. The Holy Spirit knows what is needed in every time and place.”
Sister Miriam James Heidland, a member of the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity and a speaker on the Theology of the Body, spoke about God’s healing power through the Holy Spirit.
“What is the very first gift of the Holy Spirit?” she said. “It is himself, the one who is love, and who makes us fall in love with Jesus. This love changes our lives and that is why we speak of being born again in the Spirit.”
Quoting St. Augustine, Sister Miriam James compared the Holy Spirit to pure honey. “If God wishes to fill you with honey, and you are full of sour wine, which is vinegar, where is the honey going to go? Where is it going to go? The vessel must be empty of its contents and then be cleansed.”
Sister Miriam told the audience a story of when she heard God speaking to her. She was in a rush to clean dirty glass candleholders, on the verge of breaking them, when she heard a voice in her heart say, “What is your hurry?” She realized her soul was like the candleholder, needing to be cleaned, but carefully and gently. She said, “The way God cleans a soul is very different from the way I do. And he showed me how he takes the paper towel that I was using, and he just tenderly cleans the glass. And there are areas with extra wax on them, and he spends more time on them. He’s in no hurry. And there’s no fear of him breaking the glass. Because he just loves.”
Anne Funai of Hanoverton, Ohio, has been to the Franciscan University conferences many times. She said, “The inner healing talk by Bishop Sam [Jacobs] was phenomenal because he made us work.” She also took advantage of the opportunity to go to confession and thought the Holy Hour was “magnificent.”
Another participant, LeRoy Sheldon of Norfolk, Nebraska, said the conferences teach him “how to more efficiently increase my spirituality, to pray better and more. Just recharge the batteries.”
Janice Saffles from Akron, Ohio, said, “I think that there are always things in the talks that hit you personally that you can draw from, and know that God is really talking to you about a certain thing at a certain time. Every time we come here, I don’t think we’ve ever come away without something.”Another participant, LeRoy Sheldon of Norfolk, Nebraska, said the conferences teach him “how to more efficiently increase my spirituality, to pray better and more. Just recharge the batteries.”
Jack McAleer, formerly a member of Krispy Kreme Doughnut’s Board of Directors and now on the Legatus Board of Governors, and his wife, Jamie, a trustee for Franciscan University, witnessed through their talk, “Thinking Life Over Again.” They spoke of how coming back to the Church was a gradual process. “This is how the Holy Spirit works,” Jack said. “It’s different for each of us.”
Jack spoke of the difficulties of the business world and his healing through pilgrimages and the help of Franciscan alumni John and Lisa Beaulieu. He mentioned several key points in his life that were “more than turning, but as the title of out talk indicates, thinking life over again, recognizing that, more than repentance for sins, we must change the way we live our lives.”
Filled with new fervor, Jack was disappointed with the way some Catholics acted, especially when they received the Eucharist. He wanted to make them understand the importance of Jesus’ Body and Blood, but he realized that “all we can do is plant the seed. It’s up to the Holy Spirit to make the move.” Jamie called for the audience to go out into the world, evangelizing through personal witness, saying, “What the world is in particular need of today is the credible witness of people capable of opening hearts and minds to the desire of God in truth and willing to share stories openly and honestly, so that maybe through our witness, others might find encouragement to live a life more open to the Holy Spirit.”
This year Franciscan University will offer 5 adult, 2 young adult, and 20 youth conferences in 11 states and 2 Canadian provinces. For a complete list of conferences, visit www.steubenvilleconferences.com.