6-9 September 1977
Only 120 priests were expected to attend the First Charismatic Retreat for Priest in Latin America which was held in La Ceja, Colombia, from September 6-9. However, 310 priests from 15 countries showed up for the event, as well as four bishops from Argentina, Colombia, Venezuela and Guatemala.
The theme of the retreat was “The Charismatic Renewal of the Priesthood and the Sacraments”. Among the speakers were Fr. Carlos Aldunate of Chile, Fr. Diego Jaramillo of Colombia, Fr. Tom Forrest of Puerto Rico, Fr. Dario Betancourt, a Colombian priest working in New York, and Bishop Alfonso Uribe, the bishop of the diocese where the retreat was held and the author of some 15 booklets on the Charismatic Renewal. Although the teachings were forceful and profound, the participants in the retreat agreed that the personal sharing that took place constantly among the priests was especially valuable. As the days of the retreat went by, the priests grew closer to each other in brotherhood.
On the third day of the retreat, all of the participants concelebrated the Eucharist in the town plaza of La Ceja.
Over 15,000 people attended the celebration- half the population of the town and surrounding countryside. This turned out to be one of the highlights of the retreat. At the closing Mass, Fr. Emiliano Tardif, a French-Canadian priest working in the Dominican republic, prayed for healing for everyone present.
“The priests themselves were the most childlike of the participants”, one observer noted. “Their joy as they clapped and raised their hands was contagious”.
At the end of the retreat, many of the priests spoke about how their lives and ministries were being transformed. One priest from the diocese of Sonsón-Rionegro said that since a retreat by Fr. Francis Macnutt two years ago, the priests of the diocese had grown noticeably “in charity, in harmony, and in brotherly unity”. One bishop thanked God for his priests and the wonderful work that the Holy Spirit was doing among them: “We know that not we, but the Holy Spirit himself, is communicating peace and joy to all our diocese, and we thank God for the transformation of lives that we are witnessing. I go back to my country to tell all my fellow bishops what I have seen, learned, and felt during this retreat”.
Plans are already underway for another retreat for priests who are active in the Latin American Charismatic Renewal.
Taken from the ICO Newsletter, December 1977