Since the earliest days of the Church, the faithful have looked to the Holy Spirit, source of life and strength, for preservation and inspiration. It was at Pentecost when the Church, “already conceived from the side of the second Adam in His sleep on the Cross, first showed herself before the eyes of men.On that day the Holy Ghost began to manifest His gifts in the Mystical Body of Christ” (Pope LeoXIII, Divinum Illud Munus, sec 8, May 9, 1897). At the start of the twentieth century, the same Pope invoked the Holy Spirit to reawaken His efficacious gifts in the hearts of Christians everywhere. Such a reawakening was felt throughout the world in the Pentecostal movement in California in `1906, and in mainstream Protestantism by the 1950’s. But it wasn’t until 1967 at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, and a year later at Notre Dame, that the Roman Catholic Church experienced a fresh outpouring of the Spirit (baptism in the Holy Spirit), and called it a “charismatic renewal”. The US Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee on the Catholic Charismatic Renewal has since defined baptism in the Holy Spirit in this way:
“As experienced in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, baptism in the Holy Spirit makes Jesus Christ known and loved as Lord and Savior, establishes or reestablishes an immediacy of relationship with all the Persons in the Trinity, and through inner transformation affects the whole of the Christian’s life. There is new life and a new conscious awareness of God’s power and presence. It is a grace experience which touches every dimension of the Church’s life: worship, preaching, teaching, ministry, evangelism, prayer and spirituality, service and community. Because of this, it is our conviction that baptism in the Holy Spirit, understood as the reawakening in Christian experience of the presence and action of the Holy Spirit given in Christian initiation, and manifested in a broad range of charisms, including those closely associated with the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, is part of normal Christian life.”
History of the People of Hope
Shortly after these manifestations in the Roman Catholic Church, lay covenant communities were formed in Ann Arbor, Michigan, South Bend, Indiana, and elsewhere in the United States. By 1969, Ralph Martin, one of the founders of the Ann Arbor community, together with Father Jim Ferry, a leader of the renewal in New Jersey, held the first baptism in the Holy Spirit weekend in New Jersey.
By 1972, the House of Prayer Experience (H.O.P.E.), under the guidance of Father Ferry, was centered in Convent Station, New Jersey. Over the next several years, thousands of people from all over New Jersey, New York, and other eastern states found a center for personal renewal at Convent Station, through their experience of the baptism in the Holy Spirit. At the same time H.O.P.E. focused strongly on the renewal of family life through their Hope Family Ministries, under the direction of Bob Gallic.
In 1975, Father Ferry and Bob Gallic began meeting with covenant community leaders in Michigan – Ralph Martin, Steve Clark, and Bruce Yocum – to found a covenant community in New Jersey. Finally, on May 1, 1977, sixteen people made a commitment to join themselves in a covenant, known as “The People of Hope”, with Bob Gallic and Father Ferry as their first overall leaders. Then began a period of rapid growth. Within just a few years, several hundred people constituted the community. Thanks to the generosity of The Word of God community in Ann Arbor, Michigan in sharing their many community-building and personal spiritual-growth courses with us, and with the guidance of their leaders, The People of Hope thrived. The Catholic Charismatic Renewal was rapidly growing and receiving much encouragement and approval by Church authorities right up to the Holy Father, who said, shortly after becoming Pope in 1979, “I am convinced that this movement is a sign of the Spirit’s action. a very important component in the total renewal of the Church.”
In the late ’70’s and early 80’s membership in The People of Hope increased dramatically. Members met weekly in small groups, biweekly in larger groupings called “districts”, and twice a month all together as a full community in General Community Gatherings. Evangelical outreaches proliferated in area public prayer meetings sponsored by the community. In 1978, The People of Hope, together with Logos International Fellowship, a charismatic ecumenical organization based in Plainfield, New Jersey, ran a huge televised ecumenical rally in Giants Stadium, called “Jesus ’78”, that gathered over 58,000 people from more than sixty Christian denominations.
A rich community life in The People of Hope developed, including a number of programs and support systems to provide spiritual challenge and sustenance for our members (and for many others who benefited from our many outreaches over the years). In 1979, Camp Hope was initiated, a two-week sleep-over camp for school-aged children to grow in the love of Christ. In 1981, a program for our high-schoolers called “Young Adults” began, and then in 1984, we started Koinonia Academy, which quickly expanded to cover kindergarten through twelfth grade, focusing on the development of Christian character in a Catholic charismatic spirituality.
Community courses provide members with instruction and encouragement in a wide range of spirituality, covering topics such as:
- Christian Service
- The Christian and His Emotions
- Christian Personal Relations
- Fruit of the Spirit
- Foundations in Christian Living, and others
A series of courses entitled Marriage in the Holy Spirit, developed by Bob and Ginny Gallic, has supported countless marriages both within and outside the community (even since the mid-eighties, internationally). In addition, men’s and women’s retreats keep rekindling their faith commitment to the Lord and to His way.
Over the years, a number of men and women from The People of Hope have responded to God’s call to serve Him in religious vocations. Several men have gone on to ordination as priests. A group of single men dedicated to living celibate lives of service to God, led by a priest, in 1980 formed the Brotherhood of Hope, which is now headquartered in Boston. In the mid-eighties, a group of women, including several religious sisters, left the community and formed The Sisters of Jesus Our Hope, under the auspices of the Diocese of Metuchen. Today, the community has a house for single men, and one for single women, who desire to share a common life so as to support each other in their spiritual walk with the Lord Jesus.
In 1975, on Pentecost Sunday, in St. Peter’s basilica in Rome, Pope Paul VI endorsed the charismatic renewal, accepting and approving the movement in the Catholic Church. However, in the ensuing years, some people in the Church held reservations about the place of lay charismatic communities in the Catholic Church, sometimes questioning whether such communities might be a threat to parish life. As a result of such opposition, The People of Hope underwent a time of considerable difficulties, resulting in some attrition of members, and an effort to restructure the community. Even the right of the community to form a legitimate lay association was questioned. However, in 1986, the Pontifical Council of the Laity declared that lay Catholics have a right to form associations. Shortly after that, The People of Hope joined the newly-formed Catholic association of communities, Christ the King.
In 1987, according to the National Catholic Register, Bishop Paul Cordes, of the Council of the Laity, speaking at the Synod of Bishops, affirmed that “the rapid growth of the movements and the great number of participants in them – more than 20 million – are not a threat for the Church, but a sign that the Spirit of God works forcefully also today in His Church”. A year later, on December 30, 1988, Pope John Paul II gave his post-synodal apostolic exhortation, Christifideles Laici (The Lay Members of Christ’s Faithful People), which delineated the vocation and mission of lay people and thereby afforded the People of Hope a true home firmly within the Catholic Church. Finally, in that exhortation, the Holy Father said, “lay associations have always been present throughout the Church’s history, as various confraternities, third orders and sodalities testify even today.” and that “the freedom for lay people in the Church to form such groups is to be acknowledged.”
In (Christifideles Laici, sec. 29). Pope John Paul writes:
“Such liberty is a true and proper right that is not derived from any kind of ‘concession’ by authority, but flows from the Sacrament of Baptism, which calls the lay faithful to participate actively in the Church’s communion and mission. In this regard, the (Second Vatican Ecumenical) Council is quite clear: ‘As long as the proper relationship is kept to Church authority, the lay faithful have the right to found and run such associations and to join those already existing’. A citation from the recently published ‘code of Canon Law’ affirms it as well: ‘The Christian faithful are at liberty to found and govern associations for charitable and religious purposes or for the promotion of the Christian vocation in the world; they are free to hold meetings in common.’ (Canon 215)” (Ibid)
The charismatic renewal has always been about faith revival, and today, in the third millennium, The People of Hope, as well as the entire Catholic Church, is once again experiencing a time of regeneration and renewal. In our first twenty-five years, The People of Hope experienced everything from conception to resurrection, with many, many births, many holy deaths, marriages, healings, , and challenges besides. Now, we look ahead to the next twenty-five years and beyond, for God’s plan for us. If we are faithful to Him, and follow His Holy Spirit, we are certain that we will have exciting, Spirit-filled, tested-by-fire lives on high, with Jesus Christ, at the center of the Holy Roman Catholic Church.