In 2014, the first English-language Shalom Catholic charismatic TV station is being launched in North America. The first "Shalom Festivals" were held in Chicago, Houston, Miami, Orange and New York from August through September this summer, with a final festival scheduled for San Jose Saturday, September 28, 2013.
A month ago, just 25 people had registered for a conference hosted by a Catholic non-profit called Shalom World Ministries. In a grassroots effort, locals told friends and family, notices appeared in parish bulletins, and teams visited prayer groups and parishes across Chicagoland – all with this invitation: "Something is coming to Chicago that will impact the world. Come see."
On Saturday August 24, 2013, on the Feast of St. Bartholomew the Apostle, 700 people, natives of Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas, gathered in a high school auditorium in Chicago suburban Park Ridge. Flanked by flags of all nations, they spent 12 hours in praise, worship and reflection, led by a team of internationally-known clergy and religious, musicians and lay evangelists called by a new term – techno-evangelists.
A prayerful worship band from Canada called All4Him played, as participants gathered singly, in twos or threes, in families, until the auditorium was packed shoulder-to-shoulder. I was there because I’m a Facebook fan of Catholic singer songwriter Danielle Rose. A Facebook friend of Danielle’s sent me an invitation and some exciting news. Joe Scaria wrote:
"I belong to a new Catholic ministry in USA named Shalom World Ministries. Our mission is to use all sorts of media to evangelize and spread the gospel. Our roots are from India and our television channel 'Shalom TV' is the biggest catholic TV in India…We are launching Shalom TV in English next year beginning in USA and our first regional conferences are starting this year. I request your prayers and support for our ministry. Please consider joining our upcoming conference in Chicago."
I went alone and had those awkward first moments when everyone around seems to know everyone else. But then a woman who hailed from Kerela, India, sat next to me. This set us chatting, since I have missionary priest friends from Kerala and Pondicherry. We laughed as I tried reading the many-syllabled name off her name tag and pronouncing the name of her identity and language. The Malayalese from Kerala speak Malayalam.
My new friend said to call her "Kathy," and explained that her “house name” ended with Amma, an affectionate term for female relatives, often used for a mother or grandma.
As the day progressed, I learned Shalom World Ministries was rooted in a remote village in Kerala. Young Catholics in prayer received this Holy Spirit message: Global troubles stem from a lack of peace within families and human hearts. The world needs Christ’s peace, spread through every means of modern communication. This echoes the call of our beloved Pope John Paul the Great, who urged Catholics to not be afraid, to step out into the deep in spreading the light of Christ to the world, using every modern means.
Shalom means peace and the growth of Shalom World Ministries over the past two decades has been miraculous, with the founding of a publishing house for faith-filled books and Shalom Tidings Magazine, and the launching of Catholic television stations in India and across the world. In 2014, the first English-language Shalom Catholic Charismatic television station offering high definition programming is being launched in North America, with eight production houses in the U.S. and four in Canada. Operating 24/7, the network will be bolstered by prayer teams interceding around the clock before the Blessed Sacrament and receiving prayer intentions from faithful viewers.
The Vatican and bishops around the world are blessing and praying for this new outreach, which bears the marks of a fresh breath of the Holy spirit. Speakers at the Chicago conference included Bishop Francis Kane, an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Chicago; Fr.George Kumblumootil, Dean of Theology at St. Charles Seminary in the Archdiocese of Nagpur, India; former volleyball star turned nun Sister Miriam James Heidland, of the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity out of Ohio; international model-turned lay-evangelist and media producer Mario St. Francis; and Robert Canton, fondly called “Brother Bob,” a native of the Philippines, who has an international ministry of healing and is Council Member of the Vatican-based International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services, representing English-speaking North America, Central America, and Caribbean countries. The absolute highlights of this Shalom Festival were the solemn Mass that launched the event, and the healing service that evening, centered around Eucharistic adoration. Hundreds of people dropped to their knees and reached hands toward the Eucharist in abandonment to God’s Will. The theme throughout the day centered around Romans 8:31: "If God is for us, who can be against us?"
Bishop Kane spoke of Paul’s audacity in spreading this message, when he himself had suffered shipwrecks, stoning, imprisonment -- and how that pointed to a deep, abiding and supernatural trust in God’s workings. Sister Miriam spoke of every person’s desire for greatness as children of an infinitely great God, and how the Church leads us to harmony of intellect, will and emotion. Bob Canton described the gifts of the Holy Spirit just waiting to be unleashed in our lives, and how the key to true healing is forgiveness, of others and ourselves. Fr. Kumblumootil gave a powerful talk about the right and obligation of every Christian to evangelize, and that our spiritual anchor must be Christ in the Eucharist.
In fact, every speaker highlighted this theme: when we awake each morning, we must first run to the Eucharistic Lord with a childlike faith. Also, to spread peace in the world and reach a state of true forgiveness, we should consider that when someone is hurting us, God is asking us to cooperate with their salvation.
In the sweet, uplifting way of the Holy Spirit, encounters through the day form some of my best memories. One Filipino lady named Nieva, which she explained means, “new,” invited me to her Carmelite prayer group. A mother of six in the restoom line, told me a powerful story of converting to the Catholic Church, after dreaming about men in funny hats -- who she later learned were bishops. She also described being drawn into a deep love of Jesus through the Blessed Mother. She now feels compelled to share her story, in spite of a fear of public speaking. I took a photo of a young woman in a beautiful Indian trousers outfit called a Salwar Kameez, who worked with computers, but had turned to writing to share her story of conversion for the March Shalom Tidings Magazine.
At 9:30 PM, I reached my car and sat for ten minutes. I could not drive away, until I walked back in and told several Shalom workers of how priests from India had changed my life -- one priest from Pondicherry serving at my parish had asked me to "write for India." Another from Kerala echoed this call, sharing tales of his spirit-filled outreach to the poor in his adopted mission diocese of Visakhapatnam.
Shalom -- an intiative sprung from a hidden group of young adults from that remote village of Kerala, is setting many hearts on fire with love for God. The bishops are doing it and we should too…pray for Shalom World Ministries to spread Christ’s peace across the globe.
(This article is adapted from a post that first appeared in the author's finerfields.blogspot.com and from her podcast on SQPN-affiliated "Catholic Vitamins" show, Vitamin X -- for eXtra5, in the Missionary Moments segment.)