COLUMBIA — Father Bob Bedard spent last weekend “Bringing to Life the Culture of Pentecost” to more than 150 participants at the 2003 South Carolina Charismatic Conference at St. John Neumann School.
“You have to get used to a little chaos when you let go and let God go for broke,” said Father Bedard, the keynote speaker. The priest founded the Companions of the Cross, a new Society of Apostolic Life formally recognized as such by the Holy See in May of this year.
According to Father Bedard, the notion of giving up control is countercultural to today’s philosophy that says “you have to get your life together, get it under control.” He reminded everyone that true happiness comes from doing God’s will and giving him permission to do what he wants to do.
“God has not resigned; he’s still on the job,” he said. “The Holy Spirit is not tired; the Holy Spirit’s still got lots of pep, but how are we doing?”
Bedard shared his life experiences and illustrated how he has come to the conclusion, after many struggles, that the secret to real success is allowing God to operate, not getting in his way. He was made aware of this fact when he took on his first parish.
“I had always avoided being a pastor. I avoided it like the plague, in fact, because my perception of the guys who were pastors was that they were so tired that they were wearing out. They had so many things to carry, so many agendas coming at them from the left, right, and center,” he recalled. He didn’t want to end up that way.
After 20 years of teaching literature and religion, he was assigned to St. Mary Church in Ottawa, Canada, a parish that was dwindling in number and enthusiasm. He tried to breathe life into the parish to no avail, until he began to pray fervently and turned it over to God.
“If he (God) knows he’s got somebody who will do anything he says, he moves,” explained Father Bedard. He came to understand that his role as pastor was to be in the service of prayer and service of the word.
He said that he believes that God gives pastors the gift to pick out the people who have the talents to accomplish the work of the church. He also welcomes the times when people are moved to come forward without his suggestion.
The Charismatic Conference had several workshops: “Life in the Spirit” by George Lourigan, “St. Teresa of Avila: Stages of Prayer” by Sister Donna Lareau, “Revival” by Mike Culbertson and Alan Waters, and “Evangelization in the Modern Church” by Father Paul Williams.
Father Williams, pastor of St. Martin de Porres in Columbia, conveyed what he feels is central to evangelizing a culture where more than 50 percent of the people are “unchurched.”
“We have too often, in our day and age, allowed Hollywood to tell the stories, and Hollywood is a liar so it is high time we take storytelling back,” suggested the pastor.
“Sit your young’uns down, and you tell them the stories, and they will listen. Oh, they will listen, and they will remember. And when hard times come their way … they will remember how when hard times came to you, you brought it to Jesus Christ in prayer. You humbled yourself before the Lord and the Lord made a way where there was no way.”
Father Williams explained that the greatest witness any Christian can give is testimony of how God made a way when everything was hopeless.
“It is the job of all of us who are baptized to go out into the world and proclaim the Gospel and to teach what Jesus taught us, because the world we are living in is in need of its savior,” he said.
On Sunday at the conference, Bishop Robert J. Baker celebrated Mass and spoke on the Gospel of the blind man Bartimaeus. The bishop said the blind man represents Mr. and Mrs. Everyone who at some point in their lives cry out, “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.”
The blind man would not take “no” for an answer, and his persistent faith gained for him a response from the Lord. The bishop named two people who demonstrated that interior sight of faith.
One was a young blind boy whom the bishop confirmed last year. The young man had knowledge and peace that was well beyond his years. When asked what covet means, the boy answered, “not to be satisfied with what you have or who you are. You always want to have something that someone else has or be somebody else than who you are.”
The other person was Sister Elvira Petrozzi. He said she understood that troubled youth need to have their spiritual sight restored, accomplished by learning to pray, work and love. Her community, Comunita Cenacolo, “spans the globe but speaks a universal language.”
“She could see the value and potential of every human being,” said the bishop.
Donna Leach, a parishioner of St. Peter Church in Columbia, has always been excited about her faith but after the conference this past weekend, her enthusiasm has reached a new level.
“He [Father Bedard] made me proud to be Catholic,” said Leach.