Sister Nancy Kellar to talk on the Lavish Gifts of God

As a member of the charismatic order, Sisters of Charity in Scarsdale, NY, Sister Nancy Kellar has an extensive teaching ministry and has spoken at conferences and given retreats in 50+ countries. She is a long-time national leader in the Charismatic Renewal, having served in various capacities in the Archdiocese of New York, the National Service Committee for the CCR, the North American Ecumenical Charismatic Committee and International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services (I.C.C.R.S.). She spoke with us about her upcoming visit to the Twin Cities for our Rally Day.

What will you be focusing on at the Rally Day?
I’m going to be talking about what it means to be baptized by the Holy Spirit and what it means to have the charisms stirred up in us. Many of us were very young when we made our confirmation (I was 10 years old). We really didn’t have an expectancy of what happened at Pentecost to happen in our own lives.

When I talk about what it means to be baptized in the Holy Spirit, I go through the Acts of the Apostles and ask, ‘Have you had a personal experience of Pentecost? Have you experienced the charisms of the Holy Spirit the way they did in the early Church?’ I will talk about the different ways the gifts were used from the first day of Pentecost through the early church history and show instances where St. Francis, St. Theresa of Avila and other doctors of the Church reflected on the charisms of the Holy Spirit. On a more personal level, I will share how my own life was changed when I was baptized in the Holy Spirit. One of the first gifts I received was the renewal of my religious vocation which, at the time, I was thinking about leaving.

What are you seeing when you travel throughout the U.S. and the world, with regard to the Charismatic Renewal?
When I go to different dioceses I see a greying of the Renewal. There is a need to reach out in the New Evangelization to young adults, 18-30 years old. Many will say, ‘I believe in Jesus, but I don’t believe in the Church.’ If we can bring them to a personal conversion to Jesus, and then to an understanding of the sacraments and the teachings of the Church, then the Church as a worship place will become important. They are not attracted to the structure of the Church. Many are not going to Mass at all; some are atheists.

Pope John Paul II started writing about the New Evangelization in 1983. It’s got to be about a personal relationship with Jesus, a friendship with Jesus. We have sacramentalized and moralized without having evangelized. In many parishes, once they finish 8th grade Confirmation there’s nothing more for them. We, rather, have to go out after the young people. We can’t merely say, ‘you must come to church.’ That means nothing.

After a religious experience with Jesus, Confirmation means something. Then things open up. There’s hope that these young people will re-evangelize the faith. I’ve seen that in, for instance, Lithuania. There’s a spiritual renewal going on with the young people, and they’re evangelizing their parents who are atheists because they grew up in the Soviet years, and their grandparents who practiced the faith in secret.

You are also ministering to the leaders in the Renewal; what is your sense of their needs? Is there a need for a new Pentecost?
We need something, but I don’t think that those of us who have been around for a long time can expect one high after the other. Leaders need to learn to go deeper, to walk in the Spirit, not just to be baptized in the Spirit; but to live baptized in the Spirit. I’ll include this in my talk, too. It is learning how to persevere through purification, how to walk through dryness in prayer. Being charismatic doesn’t mean we skip over those growth steps that the spiritual masters talked about down through the ages. A lot of leaders get discouraged when they don’t have the ‘Halleluiah!’ moment, and they don’t know how to find Jesus in the valleys. I say to them, you can’t be airlifted to the top of the mountain. The only way to the top of the mountain is through the valleys. A lot of leaders need to learn how to grow, how to go deeper, how to persevere in times of difficulty and purification.

As we grow, we learn that love is the essence of the Christian life, not exuberance. Then the Lord gives us new exuberance and we’ll know it is God doing it, not us. The gifts of the Spirit can be an ego trip for people, particularly the gift of healing, and they need to be purified. It is the Spirit Who gives the power, not ourselves, and that’s why they need to be purified.

Is there anything else you want to add?
Healing of relationships and unity. When I was on the National Service Committee, I was what they called a Traveling Timothy, and we went around the country visiting different prayer groups and identifying what factors caused a prayer group to either continue to grow or to die. We came up with three factors that facilitated growth:
1. The gifts were still alive and operating in the prayer group;
2. They were fostering the building of committed relationships;
3. They were evangelistic and had outreach beyond the prayer meeting.

The prayer meeting isn’t a prayer club for the regulars to attend. Being baptized in the Holy Spirit is for personal renewal, for communal renewal and for ministerial renewal.

If I could point to one thing that has more than anything else in the Charismatic Renewal caused us to lose the power of the Holy Spirit, it is lack of unity and not knowing how to repair relationships. I find in a lot of places that I go, the healing service is about physical healing and words of knowledge, but I think the biggest need is inner healing and forgiveness and building relationships of unity. If we took more time building relationships of unity, we wouldn’t have to spend so much time repairing broken relationships.

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