The Duquesne Weekend: a retreat that started a movement
February 19, 2017 12:00 AM
Marianne Skrobiak, of Milwaukee, Wisc., raises her hands as she sings at Mass Thursday at the Embassy Suites in Moon. The service and reunion marked the 50th anniversary of a 1967 weekend retreat of Duquesne University students who reported an overpowering experience of the Holy Spirit.
Participants in the "Duquesne Weekend" gather at The Ark and The Dove Retreat Center in Pine Township in the only group photo that was taken during the February 1967 retreat, which is considered to be the start of the Catholic Charismatic movement. In front at left are Patti Gallagher Mansfield and David Mangan, who have gone on to write and teach about the movement. Photo by John Rossmiller, a retreat participant, is courtesy of David Mangan.
Michelle Moran, of London, England, prays on her knees during Mass Thursday morning at the Embassy Suites in Moon. Moran is currently the President of International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services. The service and reunion marked the 50th anniversary of a 1967 weekend retreat of Duquesne University students who reported an overpowering experience of the Holy Spirit.
Sister Lucy Likasiewicz, of Amarillo, Texas, gives a big hug to Fausto Franco, of Albany, N.Y., after Mass Thursday at the Embassy Suites in Moon. The service and reunion marked the 50th anniversary of a 1967 weekend retreat of Duquesne University students who reported an overpowering experience of the Holy Spirit.
Katia Arango extends the arms of her daughter, Giovanna Arango, as they soar during a hymn at Mass Thursday at the Embassy Suites in Moon. Arango is with the Diocese of Camden, N.J. and is originally from Paraguay. The service and reunion marked the 50th anniversary of a 1967 weekend retreat of Duquesne University students who reported an overpowering experience of the Holy Spirit.
Bishop Sam Jacobs leads Mass Thursday at the Embassy Suites in Moon. The service and reunion marked the 50th anniversary of a 1967 weekend retreat of Duquesne University students who reported an overpowering experience of the Holy Spirit.
A woman prays during Mass next to a poster of Pope Francis Thursday at the Embassy Suites in Moon. The service and reunion marked the 50th anniversary of a 1967 weekend retreat of Duquesne University students who reported an overpowering experience of the Holy Spirit.
Irina (cq) De Lucca, of Barrington, Rhode Island, uses her phone to go live on Facebook during a hymn at Mass at the Embassy Suites in Moon on Thursday. The service and reunion marked the 50th anniversary of a 1967 weekend retreat of Duquesne University students who reported an overpowering experience of the Holy Spirit.
By Peter Smith / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
David Mangan looks back on a retreat held 50 years ago this weekend as a life-altering event. And not just for him. Roman Catholics throughout the world are still feeling the effects of the spiritual movement launched by the small gathering at a retreat house about 15 miles north of Pittsburgh.
Mr. Mangan, a recent Duquesne University graduate, had joined a group of Duquesne students and staff in mid-February 1967 for a three-day retreat focused on biblical teachings about the Holy Spirit.
There, he was struck by a speaker’s comment that when the Bible promises “power” to Jesus’ followers, it uses the same Greek word that forms the root for “dynamite.”
“I had to come to grips with the fact that although I was a solid Catholic, dynamite was not the descriptor of my spiritual life,” he said.
That was soon to change. He went upstairs to pray in the retreat house chapel — a small, carpeted room with few furnishings other than some cushions and an altar.
“When I walked into the chapel, I was completely overcome by the power of God,” the Turtle Creek native, now living in Michigan, said. “I found myself prostrate on the floor. Little explosions were going on in my body. I knew it was God. I knew it was the Holy Spirit. When I went to thank him, I started speaking a language I didn’t know. I later found out that was the gift of tongues.”
Mr. Mangan, who went on to a career teaching in Catholic schools and speaking and writing about the charismatic renewal, wasn’t the only one having such experiences at the Ark and the Dove Retreat Center in Pine Township.
Several of the 25 students and other attendees reported similar ecstatic experiences. The event, which has gone down in history as the “Duquesne Weekend,” took on worldwide significance.
It marked the decisive event when the so-called charismatic movement, which started when the supernatural-oriented worship of Pentecostals crossed over into mainline Protestant denominations in the 1960s, jumped the lines yet again, this time into the Roman Catholic Church.
The movement swiftly spread to Catholic college students elsewhere and soon around the world.
While it’s hard to pin down the number of participants in a movement measured more by spiritual practices than parish registries, several scholars and leaders in the renewal estimate the number of Catholic charismatics worldwide to be anywhere from 120 million to 180 million.
By most accounts, the movement in North America has waned from the peak of its influence in the 1970s and 1980s, and it has had its share of controversy, particularly with some charismatic communities in which leaders exerted severe control over members’ lives.
But the movement continues to thrive in much of the Catholic world in Africa, Latin America and Asia, to the point where in some places it’s hard to distinguish the movement from Catholic life overall.
Pope Francis is the latest in a line of popes to support the movement. When he was an archbishop in Argentina, he used to think that exuberant charismatics were running “some kind of samba school,” the pope recalled in a 2014 speech to participants in the movement.
“Later, I got to know them and I finally realized all the good that the charismatic renewal was doing for the Church,” said Pope Francis. Later this year, he plans to host a massive gathering in Rome to mark the 50th anniversary of this Pittsburgh-born movement.
Marking the 50th anniversary of the Duquesne Weekend also has brought about 130 people from around the world to the area. They include leaders within the International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services and related organizations.
They’re holding most of their meetings in the more spacious Embassy Suites in Coraopolis, but on Thursday afternoon, they boarded a bus for a field trip to The Ark and The Dove, whose main building, a large three-story house with multiple dormers, still resembles the country inn that it was intended to be before becoming a retreat house.
Given the small size of the historic chapel, participants took turns filtering in and out, with those waiting their turn gathering in the front hall, framed by the open two-story staircase, to sing guitar-led choruses.
Others sat in chairs and on the floor of the chapel itself, little adorned but for a crucifix, a large icon of Our Lady of Guadalupe and large windows overlooking a snow-dusted woods.
In between choruses in English and Spanish, their individual prayers swelled and ebbed. Many chanted in unintelligible tones — which they describe as praying in tongues, a hallmark of the movement. Some prayed in dulcet melodies, others in staccato, repeated syllables. They raised their hands in praise, fingered rosaries or read from open Bibles.
“It felt supernatural, something peaceful,” participant Irina De Lucca of Barrington, Rhode Island, said afterward. The native of Brazil, who attended with her parents, added that in coming to the retreat house, “It felt like home.”
Katia Roldi Zavaris, president of the national council of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal in Brazil, said that while some church leaders initially feared that the movement would lead them to join similar Protestant movements, participants were able to convince them: “We are in the church. We are for the church.”
Supporters of the movement recently purchased The Ark and The Dove to operate as both an ecumenical retreat house and a kind of pilgrimage destination. “In a sense, a building is a building,” said Johnny Bertucci, chair of the The Ark and The Dove board of directors. But he hopes it can help unify various streams of the charismatic movement by letting them know, “This is your home.”
Bishop David Zubik, who was scheduled to celebrate Mass yesterday for the conference, last year designated the chapel as an oratory, or an official place of Catholic worship. Visitors to the house last week saw a display, including a cloth relic, of Blessed Elena Guerra, an Italian proponent of teachings about the Holy Spirit in the early 20th century.
Catholics had an easier time incorporating the charismatic movement than did some Protestant denominations in part because of its long history of people like Blessed Elena. Other saints reported miraculous events and sensations of spiritual power throughout history, and when Pope John XXIII inaugurated the reformist Second Vatican Council in the 1960s, he prayed, “Renew your wonders in this our day, as by a new Pentecost.”
The council produced teachings on spiritual gifts and the importance of lay people living out the vows of their baptism and confirmation.
“You could say the moment was an extension of the grace of the Second Vatican Council in certain ways,” said Alan Schreck, a longtime professor of theology at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, an epicenter of the Catholic charismatic movement. “If it had happened before the council, some of the bishops might not have had the framework to understand it.”
In 1967, some instructors at Duquesne went to prayer meetings at the home of a Presbyterian woman, where they reported receiving the baptism in the Holy Spirit, or a spiritually intense experience often marked by reports of the miraculous, such as speaking in tongues, prophecies or healings.
They were mentoring a group of Duquesne students in what was called the Chi-Rho Society, which met for prayer, Bible study and social service. As the group prepared for a February retreat, they were assigned to read the beginning of the biblical book of Acts, which describes miraculous workings of the Holy Spirit in ancient days beginning on the day of Pentecost, and “The Cross and the Switchblade,” which told of spiritual transformations among modern gangs and drug addicts of New York.
Mr. Mangan wasn’t the only one seeking a deeper experience.
In a book on the retreat and its impact, “As By a New Pentecost,” participant Patti Gallagher Mansfield said some students prayed in tongues, others “couldn’t do anything but weep,” still others began to “laugh for sheer joy.”
She wrote in her journal some time after 2 a.m. that night: “You have seized me Lord. You’ve rocked and knocked me over. You’ve made me mad with great joy.”
Not all shared the experience, and when she assembled the written accounts of participants some 25 years after the fact, a couple of them declined, saying that nothing special happened to them.
But for others, it was life-changing. The movement soon spread to Catholic students at Notre Dame and at public universities in Michigan. It reached Brazil as early as 1969, according to Ms. Zavaris.
The story of Franciscan University, a once-obscure regional college that has become a nerve center for conservative Catholicism, is inseparable from the movement.
It “enabled us to have a renewal,” Mr. Schreck said. “It was not solely a charismatic renewal, but I don’t think it would have happened” without it.
Ms. Mansfield, who was scheduled to give a keynote talk to the conference last night, wrote that participants weren’t perfect and sometimes alienated others by their zeal.
While some communities formed by Catholic and other charismatics continue to thrive, the movement had its dark side. Some communities fell apart in past decades over allegations of spiritually abusive leadership. Pope Francis, in his 2014 talk to charismatic Catholics, warned its leaders they are “dispensers of God’s grace, not its arbiters!”
Added Mr. Schreck: “One of the dangers and pitfalls of just about any vibrant spiritual movement is a type of elitism. When you have experienced a powerful grace, you are convinced it’s for everybody,” but this can lead to “excesses of zeal.”
“The question is, have we learned from our shortcomings?” he said. “Overall, the answer is we have.”
While the charismatic movement is less visible in North America, some of its spirited music and hand-raising worship has found its way into mainstream Catholicism.
And from India to Africa to Latin America, the movement has fueled the church.
Today, Jean Christophe Sakiti of Togo, a council member of the International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services, said the charismatic movement is central to worship in almost every parish in French-speaking African countries.
Without it, he said, “I don’t know where the church would be.”.
Peter Smith: email@example.com or 412-263-1416; Twitter @PG_PeterSmith.
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