by Al Mansfield

The Catholic Charismatic Renewal in the New Orleans area began in April 1969 when Fr. Harold Cohen, S.J., chaplain at Loyola University, was baptized in the Holy Spirit. Fr. Cohen’s office at Loyola became the office of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal of New Orleans (CCRNO), the central office for coordinating Catholic Charismatic Renewal ministries. Although it has relocated several times since then, the CCRNO office has always been a regional renewal center.

The CCRNO office administrates the following:
– weekly prayer meeting with Mass, teachings and prayer ministry;
– youth ministry with a weekly meeting and other activities;
– ministry to leaders through Regional Leaders Gatherings;
– Days of Renewal with guest speakers;
– Retreats: ( Youth, Women’s, Men’s, General);
– Southern Regional Conference;
– Life in the Spirit Seminars in seminaries and parishes.

There have been certain “spin-offs” from CCRNO through the years, such as Magnificat Ministry to Catholic Women, founded by Marilyn Quirk.

CCRNO has been the source of much apostolic ministry as well. Fr. Cohen traveled widely to countries in Central and South America, to Europe and Australia, spreading the good news of renewed life in the Holy Spirit. Patti Mansfield has continued this tradition of apostolic mission with worldwide travels, especially to Brazil, Europe and Southeast Asia.

The CCRNO office, which occupied the entire second floor of a three-story brick building, suffered severe damage from Hurricane Katrina. Thanks to the kindness of the pastor, we were able to relocate the CCRNO office to St. Benilde Parish in Metairie, where we have held our weekly prayer meetings since 1981. We are also grateful that we were able to resume our prayer meetings only five weeks after the hurricane.

Another great loss to us was a Baptist retreat facility on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, which we had rented since 1984 for four retreats yearly. Although this facility had been constructed specifically to withstand hurricanes, it proved no match for Katrina and was rendered unusable.

We were blessed to be able to relocate our retreats to the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux and the Diocese of Lafayette. We are very grateful to the Catholic Charismatic Renewal offices in those two dioceses for their welcome and help to us.

Effects of Hurricane Katrina have been felt in other ways as well. For example, attendance at our weekly prayer meeting is 50-75, about half of what it was before the hurricane. Attendance at the Southern Regional Conference in recent years has been 2000-2500; this past conference after Katrina, we drew barely 1000. The Steering Committee felt strongly that we should go ahead with the Conference in spite of early indications of a low turnout. We did so in faith, incurring a deficit of $37,000. We are trusting the Lord and faithful donors to help erase this deficit.

A bright spot since Hurricane Katrina, however, has been our CCRNO Youth Ministry. Pre-Katrina, we had been struggling to gather 5 to 10 young people each week for our youth meeting. For four months after the hurricane until January 2006, no youth meeting was held. Our youth minister left the area. But some young adults, who had been members of the youth group as teenagers, generously volunteered to provide leadership and organization. Thanks largely to their efforts, the youth ministry has revived. Approximately 400 attended the Youth Retreat in January 2006. Our youth meeting now draws 40-60 each Sunday night.

Mary said at Cana: “Do whatever he tells you” (John 2:5). This is the best possible advice , especially in difficult times when we might be tempted to give up. A practical application of this word for the CCRNO office is simply to continue doing what we have been doing since 1969. For over 35 years, CCRNO has served the region and intends to continue as long as the Lord allows.

Having endured the ravages of Hurricane Katrina, CCRNO can identify with the words of Isaiah 54:11: “O afflicted one, storm-battered and unconsoled…”. But we also take comfort and hope from Isaiah 43:2: “When you pass through the water, I will be with you; in the rivers you shall not drown. When you walk through fire, you shall not be burned; the flames shall not consume you.”

© Al Mansfield, 2007, www.ccrno.org