Hundreds gather for Charismatic Renewal Services fall congress

FRAMINGHAM -- Close to 700 people attended the Charismatic Renewal Services of the Archdiocese of Boston (CRSB) fall congress, which was held at St. Stephen Parish in Framingham on Sept. 10.

It was the first time CRSB was able to hold the annual event in person since the coronavirus pandemic began. The daylong conference included talks from two featured speakers, with separate tracks for Spanish and Portuguese as well as English. On the lawn between the church and the school, vendors from Catholic companies set up booths to display books, T-shirts, rosaries, statues, and other religious items. The day ended with a Mass during which new CRSB officers were installed.

The Catholic Charismatic Renewal began in 1967 as a spiritual movement emphasizing a personal relationship with Jesus and belief in charisms, or spiritual gifts. The first Catholic Charismatic prayer group in Boston was the Cenacle prayer group, which began in Brighton in the 1970s.

Speaking to The Pilot during the conference, outgoing director of CRSB David Brooks explained that they believe the gifts of the Holy Spirit, such as prophecy, healing, and speaking in tongues, did not end with the apostolic age.

"Our spirituality is very Holy Spirit-oriented but also very Jesus-oriented, too. And usually through that baptism of the Spirit, a love of Jesus, a love of Scripture, things happen," he said.

Brooks got involved with the Cenacle prayer group in the 1980s after experiencing what he later understood to be the baptism of the Holy Spirit. People typically join the renewal by taking the Life and the Spirit seminar, a series of seven sessions that culminate in the laying on of hands and baptism in the Holy Spirit.

"What we pray for is a complete indwelling of the Holy Spirit. It's not a sacramental thing, we receive the Holy Spirit at baptism and confirmation, but we want everything the Holy Spirit has. And what that usually does is bring people to a deeper relationship with Jesus as Lord," Brooks said.

Currently, CRSB's ministries include Healing and Deliverance, a music ministry, and three formation schools.

CRSB includes seven ethnic communities: Anglo, Brazilian, Haitian, Hispanic, Nigerian, Ugandan, and Vietnamese. Each community has its own ethnic leadership team and three representatives on the CRSB council.

Janice Filippi was introduced to the Catholic Charismatic movement when a relative invited her to come and pray for a cancer patient's healing. She was touched by the music, and later became a music director in different parishes for many years. She also worked at Boston University and took those skills with her when she was asked to be the director of CRSB from 2014 to 2019. She visited all the prayer groups and learned how to say "hello" and "I'm glad to be here" in each community's language. When her term was over, Brooks selected her to serve as associate director.

"It was some of the best work I have done in my life. Any service to God is such a privilege," Filippi said.

Another former CRSB director, Vincent Cerasuolo, came to the congress as the speaker for the English track. The speaker for the Spanish and Portuguese track was Father Alejandro Marca Mansilla, the Hispanic liaison in Chicago, who was also to stay for a few days to meet with the Spanish-speaking leadership.

Michael Marraffino, whose wife is part of the CRSB leadership, said that they have brought in national in the past, and considered doing so this year. However, he said, "having somebody who really knows us and works with us, I think, is a blessing."

"I think it's better when you get somebody local, because he's not giving you a big, lofty speech, he's talking to us and encouraging us and is very interactive," Marraffino said.

The congress included times of music and prayer as well as the speakers' talks, which covered topics like different types of charisms and the authority that Jesus gave to his followers.

When those attending the congress reconvened after the language tracks, they had the opportunity to share prophecies they had received in prayer and testimonies about their experiences that day.

The closing Mass for the congress was the parish's usual Saturday vigil Mass. After the Liturgy of the Word, the new CRSB officers were installed. Romanus Ajaero, who currently coordinates CRSB's healing ministry, was installed as the new director.

Ajaero said he was "happy to serve" in this role. He has previously served the national Charismatic Renewal for two terms.

"I can tell you categorically that what we do here is unique and very good. And it's worth emulating. So what we need to do now is to let people know what we do, so that they can learn. Because the type of unity we have here is very attractive, very infectious," Ajaero said.

More information about Charismatic Renewal Services of the Archdiocese of Boston is available at