6-9 March 1980
Over 90 delegates from 15 countries attended the First Asian Leaders Conference for the Catholic Charismatic Renewal in Manila, Philippines from March 6-9, 1980. The conference, whose theme was “Feed my Sheep”, was sponsored by the International Communication Office in Brussels, Belgium and organized by The Joy of the Lord Community in Manila.
The conference was a milestone in the history of the Charismatic Renewal in Asia because it was the first time that the Asian leaders of the Renewal met together on a regional basis. Delegates from Australia, Bangladesh, Brunei, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Sri-Lanka, Taiwan, and Thailand were present.
Cardinal Jaime Sin of Manila officially opened the conference. In his address, Cardinal Sin stressed the need to proclaim the gospel in Asia. He pointed out that Asia now has 2,200,000,000 people of whom only 70,000,000 are Christian. Of these 39 million live in the Philippines. Commenting on the materialism so rampant in the world and making inroads in Asia, Cardinal Sin said that the world as we know it is fading away and that the resulting void has to be filled. Christians, he noted, have a special role to play in filling this void.
In the keynotes address, Fr. Tom Forrest, director of the International Communication Office, told the leaders that one of his great joys as he travels around the world is to see evidence everywhere that the Holy Spirit is being poured out in great abundance. But he told the leaders that the task was not always easy: “As leaders, we can get tired, disappointed, frustrated, hurt, and lonely. But we cannot quit; we have to learn to do a better job. That’s why God has us here”. He noted that the Charismatic Renewal is not something “that has happened already; it is only beginning”. For this reason, he said, leaders have an ongoing responsibility to learn. Finally, Fr. Forrest warned leaders not to let their personal hurts interfere with their work in the Renewal: “It is not a toy or a personal possession, but a sacred trust given by God”. In a talk on the role of the Christian leader based on Ephesians 1:3-24, Fr. Herbert Schneider S.J. of Manila told participants that they were called to help those in their care reach Christian maturity. As the Renewal grows he warned about the danger of underplaying those spiritual gifts that are especially effective in evangelism. Fr. Schneider also cautioned leaders to make sure that they bring people into oneness not only with Christ, but also with one another. “Where there is no unity, our evangelism will be weak”, he noted. Finally, he emphasized the need for providing ongoing teaching in order to lead people to full Christian maturity.
In another major address, Brian Smith of Brisbane, Australia challenged leaders to work for unity in the Charismatic Renewal. “Sometimes we are surprised to discover that different people have different visions. We could be working at a thing for years and then discover that we have different ideas about why and what we are doing”, he noted. In order to foster greater unity, Brian advised the leaders to take some practical steps: conscientiously pray together to seek God’s purpose for the people they are leading; regularly do things together like sharing a meal or some form of recreation; constantly seek agreement between leaders of different groups.
In a talk entitled “The Calla to Holiness for Christian Leaders”, Fr. Fio Mascarenhas S.J. of Bombay, India outlined four characteristics of the Christian leader. First, he testifies to a deep personal experience of God in his lifestyle. Second, he is constantly searching the scripture for ordering his personal life. Third, he witnesses joyfully to discipline from the Lord that molds his life. Fourth, his keen desire is to be transformed so that he wants only Jesus and so that his first concern is serving the Body of Christ.
The backdrop of the conference emerged from the prophecies that were given during the liturgical celebrations. They were very similar to prophecies spoken at recent Charismatic gatherings around the world. “My people, I am building an army across the face of the earth…of obedient servants, marching in step, under authority, well trained in the weapons that they have been given through my Spirit…You will be exposed to hardship. You will have to leave much behind, not knowing how long the march will be or how much the cost. Beloved, if you begin this march, I will train and lead you. You will endure and know the joys that await you”.
In their evaluations of the conference, delegates spoke about the talks, fellowship, workshops, and liturgies as the most helpful aspects of the conference. But Minoo Engineer, editor of CharisIndia, singled out the environment that was created by such a gathering of God’s people: “The conference created a sort of environment where the desire to be together stands out above a lot of other details”.
Taken from the ICO Newsletter, May-June 1980