The CCRN, as a movement, that comprises of the laity, the priests, the religious, and many bishops within the Catholic Church in Nigeria. In Nigeria, she has led and is still leading to mass evangelization, and has gained authenticity, acceptance and ecclesial support. She has also reduced the tide of Catholics drifting to Pentecostal Churches, and has increased the number of Bible-reading, committed and zealous Catholics.
CCRN is not a sect or a parallel Church, but a movement of the Holy Spirit within the Catholic Church.
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As a pious movement of the Holy Spirit within
the Catholic Church, CCRN achieves her aim and object
The Catholic Charismatic Renewal started in February 1967 in Duquesne University, Pennsylvania, USA. Like a grain of mustard seed, it has spread all over the world with a membership of about 115 million Catholics. It was birthed by the Holy Spirit and its growth has been powered by the Holy Spirit.
The Catholic Charismatic Renewal of Nigeria (CCRN) is a lay organization which started in Nigeria in 1967. Within her 50 years of existence, she has spread to virtually all the parishes in the nine Archdioceses, forty-four Dioceses, and two Vicariates of the Nigerian Church. Using our most recent information, she has about 2,100 Prayer Groups (PG) and Coordinators, four hundred and forty-four executives of the Diocesan Service Team (DST), seventy two leaders of the Provincial Service Team (PST), and over 250,000 members across the country.
The Administrative structure of the CCRN starts from the PG Service Team to the DST, PST, and finally the National Service Team (NST) under the governance of the National Executive Council (NEC), which is the highest governing body of the organization in Nigeria.
OUR VISION AND MISSION
The vision and mission of the Renewal are expressed in its aims and objectives, as stated by the International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services (ICCRS):
Charismatic Spirituality centers on ‘Life in the Spirit’ that transform members inside out and dispose them to the searching sword of the Word of God, the truth that sets free, and to the anointing of the Spirit. This spirituality revolves around ones fruitful response to the Holy Spirit, and His Gifts, by commitment to Jesus and the Catholic Church.
Charismatic Spirituality goes beyond frenzied gathering characterized by outbursts, shouting and clapping, prophetic utterances and healing. It extend to acts that build the faith of here members based on free, conscious, and personal choice.
By virtue of the ‘Charism’ of her foundation, the Catholic Charismatic Renewal movement is destined to be militant, god as sentinel or combatant soldiers in rescue operations. So, members of the Renewal engage in the battle of faith against the wicked principalities and power at work in this life (cf. Ephesian 6:12). One’s membership into the Catholic Charismatic Renewal begins with participation in “Life in the Spirit Seminar”, which aims at teaching members the basis truth of our faith and lead them to personal relationship with Christ.
The Catholic Charismatic Renewal is a movement of the Holy Spirit. For Human action is deified
Without the Holy Spirit;
· God is far away
· Christ stays in the past,
· The Gospel is a dead letter,
· The Church is simply an organization
· Authority is a matter of domination,
· Mission, a matter of propaganda,
· Liturgy, no more than an evocation,
· Christian living: a slave morality
But with the Holy Spirit;
· The Cosmos is resurrected and groans with the birth-pang of the kingdom
· The Risen Christ is here,
· The Gospel is the power of life,
· The Church shows forth the life of the trinity,
· Authority is a liberating service,
· Mission is a Pentecost,
· The liturgy is both memorial and anticipation,
The Catholic Charismatic Renewal (CCR) was originally known as the Catholic Pentecostal Movement because it has a lot in common with the Pentecostal spirituality. The term ‘Pentecostalism’ points back in time to the original Pentecost described in the second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. That outpouring of the Holy Spirit was necessary for the ‘planting’ of the Church.
The Catholic Charismatic Renewal in Nigeria owes its origin to the Dominican Order. In 1967 the novitiate at Ibadan was opened. By 1969, there were four American Dominicans in the house: Frs. Ed. Riley, Mathias Walsh, Bertrand Ebben and Br. Gilbert Thesing. Another American Dominican, Richard Farmer, was assigned as chaplain to the University of Ife, Ile-Ife.The Catholic Charismatic Renewal in Nigeria owes its origin to the Dominican Order. Fr. Riley had the Baptism in the Holy Spirit when he went on home on leave in 1970. On returning to Nigeria, he gave a talk to the novices about the Catholic Charismatic Renewal.
The interest generated by that talk led to the decision to hold a Pentecost novena in 1971. The novena was concluded on the eve of Pentecost, and the participants, including Frs. Riley and Walsh, Sr. Maura, and Brothers Nonye, Calistus Iheme, Gilbert Thesing, Chukwubikem Okpechi, Clement Tyulen, Jude Mbukanma, John Ekekwe-Nwanze, prayed with one another on Sunday evening. There were no spectacular outcomes from that novena but a weekly prayer meeting followed. Before long, some individuals from outside the Dominican house started participating in the prayer meeting. Among the early lay people that joined the group were, Justina Odogwu, Fred Isichie, Pius Molokwu, Akin Otiko, and Mrs Chinwuba.
The growth of the group was facilitated with the two series of Life in the Spirit Seminars that were organized in 1973. Clear manifestations of charismatic gifts followed. It must be noted that the Prayer Group at the Dominican Institute in Ibadan, which adopted the name ‘Glory Bound Community’ became a watershed for the spread of the Renewal to parishes in and outside the present Archdiocese of Ibadan. Also significant in the history of the Renewal in Nigeria was the starting of a prayer group at the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) in October 1972.
The Catholic Chaplain, Fr. Richard Farmer, O.P., had experienced the ‘Baptism in the Holy Spirit’ earlier that year when he went on leave in the United States. When he invited some staff members and students to a prayer session, none of the persons invited knew what it was all about. Nevertheless, a few people turned up. They included Mr Basil Amaechi, Mr Simeon Malaka, one expatriate female religious, and several students including, Fabian Ehikhamenor, Vincent Ekeruche, and Rev. Srs. Evangeline Ezeanya, and Claire Idahosa.
The chairs were arranged in a circle with a big candle in the middle offering a small wavering flame to the classroom. Fr. Farmer led the group in solemn songs of praise and adoration, Bible readings and prayer. That was the beginning of a weekly prayer meeting at the University of Ife. Many participants left the University and carried the torch of the Renewal with them to other places. Fr. Farmer himself played a crucial communication role that took the news about the Renewal across the country. He wrote a column in the weekly Catholic Newspaper The Independent entitled ‘Life in the Spirit’. He also circulated a bulletin entitled Praise God beginning from 1975.
The third prayer group to come into existence was the “Upper Room Community” at St. Dominic’s Parish in Yaba, Lagos. The founding of this group early in 1973 was the work of Frs. Gilbert Thesing, O.P. and Ed Riley, O.P., Sr. Jean of the Medical Missionaries of Mary (MMM), and Bro. Stephen Lucas. For several years, Bro. Stephen Lucas rendered assistance to the prayer group on a weekly basis.
On retiring from the University of Ife, Fr. Farmer was transferred to the parish, where he continued to provide the needed guidance and leadership to the prayer group. The growth of this group was far more spectacular than those of the two earlier groups. The impact of the Renewal in the parish was quite tremendous, sending ripples to other parishes.The Catholic Church in Nigeria was obviously ready for the Renewal, and indeed prayer groups started springing up in quick successions across the country. One started in Gusau at our Lady of Fatima Church in Sokoto Diocese in September 1973. The prayer group at SS Peter and Paul Major Seminary, Ibadan, was started about October the same year by the students who had been attending the prayer meeting at the Dominican Community, Ibadan. The role of that prayer group in the history of the Renewal in Nigeria has been very significant, especially in producing priests that are active in the Renewal. Before the end of 1973, a number of prayer groups sprang up in other places in Nigeria, including Uturu, Okigwe, Benin City, Onitsha, and Kano. From October 1974, the history of the Renewal in Nigeria entered a new phase.
At the invitation of Fr Ebben, O.P., a team of five Americans visited Nigeria and conducted workshops on the Charismatic Renewal and healing ministry in Ibadan, Benin City, Onitsha, and at the University of Ife. One beautiful thing about the team was its ecumenical thrust. It comprised Catholics, including Fr. McNutt (the leader), Sr. Jeanne Hill, Fr. Gus Biehl, Fr. John Healey, and a Methodist, Rev Joe Petree. Many people, both clergy and lay faithful, attended the workshops and healing sessions and contributed to the growing awareness about the Renewal. A rapid proliferation of prayer groups and growth of membership followed. This growth was not without some problems. Some non-Catholics that joined the prayer groups and Catholics who participated in non-Catholic fellowships precipitated doctrinal controversies. A few prayer groups had to be closed down across the country. Nevertheless, the Catholic Church in Nigeria, recognizing the positive potential of the Renewal, gave cautious support to it. In order to enhance the relationship and communication between it and the Renewal, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria, in 1977, appointed the Bishop of Benin Diocese, Rt. Rev. Dr. Patrick Ekpu, as the Episcopal Liaison for the Renewal. Another landmark event in the Renewal in Nigeria was the First National Leaders’ Conference held in Benin City in August 1976.
The high point of the conference was the decision to create the National Advisory Council and the National Service Board for the Renewal in Nigeria. The former was to be the national policy making body. It was to serve as a coordinating and advisory body as well as a bridge between the Renewal and the Catholic Bishops Conference. The National Service Board was to be the executive organ of the Renewal. A National Service Centre, headed by a director, had earlier been created to serve as the secretariat of the Renewal and to provide various services such as communication and distribution of literature and cassettes. The first director, Fr. Ebben O.P., was in office from 1974 to 1978. He operated from Funtua in present-day Katsina State. He was assisted by Mr. Paul Anie, who later succeeded him and moved with the Centre to Ibadan, and then to Benin City. Fr. Jude Mbukanma, O.P. took over from Paul Anie in 1983 and operated from the Dominican Community for the duration of his tenure. By the time he left office in 1989, the Renewal had become a dominant force in the Catholic Church in Nigeria. It was during his tenure that Bishop Anthony Gbuji of Issele-Uku Diocese donated acres of land at Ubulu-Uku to the Renewal for the site of the National Service Centre. There were also regional champions among the clergy and religions, who contributed a great deal to the growth of the Renewal. These included Fr. Jim Birmingham in Lagos, Frs. G. Abiebhode and Bob Dundon in Benin, Fr. Matthew Obiukwu in Onitsha and Rev. Sr. Terence in Yelwa in Sokoto Diocese.
The period 1989 to 1996 was that of structural changes in the Renewal in Nigeria at the national level. Bishop Gabriel G. Ganaka of the Diocese of Jos had succeeded Bishop Ekpu as the Episcopal Liaison and National Chaplain, a position he held until his death in 2000. In 1989, Fr. Stephen Nagba took up a national coordinating role in succession to Fr. Mbukanma, not as Director of the National Service Centre but as National Coordinator. In effect, the office of the Director of National Service Centre became vacant until it was re-designated as that of ‘Executive Secretary’ with Mr. Francis Mary-Okwum, as the first incumbent from March 1996. Within the same period, the national policy-making body, the National Advisory Council (NAC), and its executive arm went through a process of redefinition and restructuring.
The name National Advisory Council was changed to National Administrative Council and later to National Service Team. The National Service Board became the National Executive Committee (NEC). The diocesan chaplains who had been a prominent voice in NAC formed the Committee of Chaplains.
The Catholic Charismatic Renewal has never been accepted by all the Clergy and, understandably, by all the lay people. At the root of the resistance and rejection were problems of ignorance, jealousy and resistance to changing one’s life which a deeper contact with the Lord required. In other cases, it was a refusal to repent. The enthusiasm and drive of members of the Renewal posed a disturbing challenge to the complacency of a lot of Catholics. Some of the expression used by the members of the Renewal proved to be irritating because they were believed to have Protestant origin. There were also genuine concerns by many in the Church about the possibility of this new group eroding authentic Catholic values.
Sometimes, members of the Renewal were to be blame for the hostility. Some members were found wanting in charity while they assumed a ‘holier-than-thou’ attitude. Unnecessary criticisms of their Priests and other members of the Parish did not help matters. Some could not manage their spiritual gifts and were led away by pride to found their own private ministries and churches or else defected to non-Catholic churches where they could be recognized.
The catholic Charismatic Renewal has a short but rich history; both in
Nigeria and the world over, and its importance and value have been acknowledged
by various leaders of the Church since its inception. Most fundamentally, the
Charismatic Renewal has been described as a movement of the Holy Spirit, for
the renewal of the Church and the individuals within it, leading to a richer
and fuller Christian life and relationship with Christ.