San Francisco Charismatic Renewal

A Brief History

In 1967, the sovereign power of the Holy Spirit was manifested at what is often called The Duquesne Weekend near Steubenville, Ohio. And the church has never been the same since. The power and gifts of the Holy Spirit spread rapidly throughout the United States. In 1972, the John the Baptist prayer group formed in a classroom and drew people throughout the SF bay area. Father Joe Diebels was a strong driving force encouraging the creation of more prayer groups. He celebrated masses at Serra High School, and for most, it was a novel experience to prayerfully and excitedly praise God.

The community, inspired by the John the Baptist prayer group at St. Ignatius, grew rapidly and peaked at 200 persons. In 1977, the prayer community began to discern that they were called to form a covenant community. A major concern was the difficulty forming a covenant community like those in eastern US. After much discussion and prayer, a large portion decided to move to South Bend, Indiana. Many in the local church questioned this decision and the parish clergy support diminished. Up until 1977, many Life in the Spirit Seminars and special teaching seminars were sponsored by this prayer group. After the split up, the rapid growth of the charismatic renewal turned to slow growth. Many members who stayed behind left the John the Baptist prayer group and started prayer groups in their own parishes. It took many years before some parish priests throughout the archdiocese felt comfortable with the charismatic renewal.

Father William Justice (later Bishop), Secretary of Lay Groups under Archbishop Quinn, formed the San Francisco Coalition. It was comprised of representatives from prayer groups from Marin, San Francisco, and northern San Mateo. And other prayer groups from San Mateo County and San Jose. These groups sponsored healing masses and seminars and the Holy Spirit was teaching and growing the communities.

In 1981, when San Jose became a separate diocese, two separate San Francisco and Santa Clara organizations were created. Marin, San Francisco and San Mateo prayer groups sent representatives who formed the initial Archdiocesan Renewal Advisory Board and after several meetings Father James Tarantino (later Monsignor) became the chair and was appointed liaison by Archbishop Quinn.

In 1983, Fr Tarantino brought the San Francisco charismatic community together to celebrate masses on the first Friday of the month. Each month the masses were celebrated in different archdiocesan parishes and the presence of the charismatic renewal was spreading through more parishes. And soon first Friday masses concluded with healing prayer. A lay person team was trained and prayed to Holy Spirit before the masses. After mass, the team prayed for all who came forward. The charisms of the Spirt were experienced and spread throughout the archdiocesan prayer groups.

In 1985, Fr. Tarantino gathered the liaisons of the seven Northern California dioceses and formed the Northern California Coalition of Charismatic Diocesan Liaison (NCCCDL) and sponsored the first three-day Conference on Memorial Day Weekend in 1987 in San Francisco with Archbishop Quinn attending. Today we know this group as NCRC (Northern California Renewal Coalition) and it has presented 36 annual conferences with speakers throughout the US and overseas as well. Many conference participants were drawn to greater faith and a more personal relationship with God.

In 1991, Fr Tarantino was asked to be president of Marin Catholic High School, and Deacon Fred Swanson was appointed successor liaison for the next three years. Then Fr. Joe Landi became liaison. Shortly afterwards Carlos Pantoja and his wife formed San Raphael Ministries and sponsored quarterly days of renewal with excellent charismatic guest speakers drawn throughout US.

Fr. Joe Landi established a one-page monthly newsletter of several hundred copies that was distributed within the archdiocese. Over the next few years Fr Joe Landi improved and polished the one-page newsletter and it grew to 32 pages and was mailed across the United States and over seas as well with a monthly distribution of over 4000 copies. The newsletter was recognized throughout the United States and won awards. The board discussed, prayed and then approved the expense of sending the newsletter free despite the mailing cost exceeding the charismatic renewal's limited cash reserves. Every month the needed money was there. Father Joe created the SFSPIRIT.COM website. Initially it was small with limited technical support. It gradually grew and flourished and eventually became the central means of gathering and distributing information.

The Hispanic prayer groups sponsored two spirit filled conferences under Carlos Merlo's leadership with very large attendance and the Spirit moved powerfully and the prayer groups grew. The SF Renewal Board held the first annual retreat for board members. During the retreat, the leadership under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, decided to hold the first joint conference of the Spanish and English speaking at the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption. The English and Hispanic groups each possessed different strengths and when combined there was new power in their unity. Although it was simple, it was successful and the joint conferences continue today.

The Filipino charismatic community grew substantially and in 1983, strong prayer group leadership formed the Filipino Catholic Charismatic Community (FCCC). The FCCC is an active component of the Renewal and remains a strong force today.

Archbishop Levada (Later Cardinal) appointed Msgr. Bitanga and Fr. Coral as Liaisons for the Filipino and Hispanic communities and to work with Fr. Joe Landi. Fr. Coral chose to separate the Hispanic prayer groups from the Charismatic Renewal Board. Some of the Hispanic prayer groups decided to stay and work with the Renewal Board. In 2003, Ernest von Emster (later Deacon) became associate Liaison. Fr Joe Landi continued as liaison until 2006, When Fr James Tarantino returned as liaison.

In 2009, the community invited Archbishop Niederauer and many priests to a dinner thanking them for their service and support over the years and gifted each priest with a custom designed stole. This dinner helped the broader church to recognize how large the charismatic renewal had grown.

In July 2011, when Fr. Tarantino was assigned new responsibilities, Fr. Raymund Reyes became the liaison of the SF Renewal. The Filipino portion of the charismatic renewal was experiencing the beginning of a significant change. Prayer groups from the Philippines began to grow in the SF Bay Area as many members emigrated, started local prayer groups with continued strong relationships with the parent Philippine prayer groups. After a while, these new prayer groups connected with the San Francisco Renewal Board and the charismatic renewal is stronger with their contributions to leadership, teachings and worship music.

When the pandemic struck in 2019, members could no longer meet face to face at prayer meetings and seminars. In 2019, Fr. Ray Reyes inspired the SF Renewal to become among the first to gather technical expertise and to sponsor seminars via zoom. Although it was a novel experience for almost everyone, the attendance was excellent. But even more importantly, the community continued to grow in the Spirit and in faith and the Renewal contributed to the archdiocese.

In September 2022, The Renewal celebrated the 25th annual Holy Spirit Conference at the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption. Archbishop Cordileone presided and Fr Ray Reyes and Fr. Andrew Ibegbulem (Associate Liaison) concelebrated with other priests and with Deacon Ernie von Emster assisting.

The San Francisco Renewal grows in the Holy Spirit. The Hispanic, Filipino, Vietnamese and Anglo prayer groups unite under the leadership of Fr. Ray Reyes. It serves the church and sponsors the Holy Spirit Conference, prayer meetings, seminars, celebrates and zooms First Friday mass, offers healing prayer, supports the NCRC and responds to requests from the surrounding area.

Come Holy Spirit.

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