Amy Coney Barrett, Stephen B. Clark and the Origins of “Covenant Communities”

Amy Coney Barrett, Stephen B. Clark and the Origins of “Covenant Communities” September 28, 2020

The recent nomination of Amy Coney Barrett has raised a lot of questions about her faith. People are particularly interested in her membership in one of the People of Praise. They were one of two Covenant Communities that emerged in the early 1970s and became epicenters for the movement, the other community was called the Word of God.  Both of these groups, and the many communities that eventually came to be associated with them throughout the world, all came from the same small group of people who met at Notre Dame in the 1960s and shared a common vision for a developing a context for Christian Life in which the overall pressure was towards a Christian worldview rather than towards an increasing secularisation.

A lot of attention has been placed on the abuses and failures of this movement. Headlines have focused on how one of these communities served as an inspiration for “The Handmaid’s Tale” as well as on the Pentecostal spirituality that eventually came to define the spirituality that fueled the movement.

I may write more on these elements later, but today I wanted to offer something that is missing in a lot of the discussion: context.

In its heyday (approx. 1971-1978) in the United States, the Catholic Charismatic Renewal  (also know as Catholic Pentecostalism) had two powerhouse covenant communities at its core. There was the Ann Arbor Community and the South Bend community. In this period the two communities worked very closely and were the primary voices of the charismatic renewal. They also had a strange way of life in which their members entered into a “covenant” with one another which impacted how they lived out almost every area of life.

The community in South Bend, called The People of Praise, hosted the annual charismatic renewal conferences each year and the community in Ann Arbor, which was called the Word of God, produced the content that would form the very life of the renewal in the early years. Both communities were linked by shared DNA. This was because the founders of the community in Ann Arbor had all been pivotal players in the formation of the community in Notre Dame.

This article seeks to highlight the path that led to the formation of these groups. If reflects much of my own research and I think presents some information that will be new and interesting even to those who are already aware of the movement and the literature surrounding it.


Although the Covenant Community Movement had no singular identifiable leader, Stephen Clark would be on the shortlist for the most influential. His leadership was unique. He had a vision for where he believed the Church should be going and he applied his whole life toward that goal. People within the movement he helped to lead and found often speak of him in mystical terminology. One leader in the movement wrote of Clark’s single-mindedness, stating, “He is a man who, like the Apostle Paul, did not count his life of any value nor as precious to himself, if only he could accomplish his course and the ministry he received from the Lord.”[1]  Another when reflecting on the work and ministry of Clark elevated his status to that of a living saint and Church Father, stating,

I personally consider that he has the spiritual stature of some of the founders of great movements in the history of the church such as Anthony of the desert and Benedict of Nursia. In my view, Steve, as a founder and a teacher, has the stature of a church father.”[2]

The life and direction of the Covenant Communities Movement (CCM), and with it the Catholic Charismatic Renewal (CCR) are tied to Stephen Clark in a deep and profound way. As sociologists Joseph E. Faulkner and Richard J. Bord write in their sociological study of the, “Clark was the principal seed that germinated and guided the growth of the CCR… the movement’s theoretician and master designer.”[3] Understanding his own story and the moments that drove and inspired his ministry are essential in understanding the life shared in the movements he led and inspired.


Among the handful of young leaders who were at the forefront of founding the Covenant Communities Movement in the early days, Clark’s own story and journey is one of the most natural places to start. It is also one of the more difficult stories to uncover. Stephen was born in New York City in 1940 and spent his early education at Bellerose public school system just outside of Queens. After his mother remarried following the death of his father, he was able to secure a scholarship to attend Peddie Boys School in Hightstown, New Jersey. After academic success at Peddie he enrolled in classes at Yale in 1958.[4]


His intention was to study history. Two years into his studies, in 1960, Clark came to a personal faith.[5] This conversion was rooted in the study of two books about Francis of Assisi, The Little Flowers of Saint Francis and The Mirror of Perfection.[6] This led to Clark’s decision to join the Catholic Church as well as his early decision to live “single for the Lord.”[7]

During these years he became somewhat concerned with the attitude of most Christians he encountered. As he states,

I knew that Christianity was true and I could see that other people who were in trouble needed it. My first big distress came when I discovered other Christians at Yale didn’t agree. Like many people raised as Christians, they tended to feel that everyone was basically a Christian and that all that was needed was an improvement in society’s moral tone. I didn’t see things that way at all.[8]

A vision of an evangelically-driven faith emerged in him, rooted in a transformation of the Church itself into a vehicle to transform lives entirely.

In his earliest years as a Catholic, while still at Yale, Clark became involved with the ministry of the Thomas More House Catholic Student Ministry, under the leadership of the new chaplain there, Fr. James T. Healy.[9] This group attracted Clark because of their emphasis on building a Catholic Community. He recognized that it was only in community that lives seemed to be transformed. Sunday attendance was not enough to effect life transformation. There needed to be more, there needed to be a Christian Community that could support the whole of Christian life.[10] This early interest in building “Christian community” would become the foundation of Clark’s life work.[11]

It was a dramatic time for Catholics at Yale. The chapel was expanded to accommodate growing numbers, as well as to accommodate the reorientation of the altar. Fr. Healy was an academically minded priest who had been greatly impacted by the liturgical movement and was known for saying “this is an altar-centered community.”[12] The ministry encouraged a lived faith. In the spring of 1961, a guest preacher came to Yale. His name was Rev. Felix McGowan, M.M.[13] He spoke to the student group and told them of the great need there was for lay involvement in the Church in Latin America. This sermon inspired many of the students and the Yale Catholics Abroad group was formed. They began to plan a mission trip to help with the construction of an adult education center with the Christian Family Movement in Mexico City. Stephen Clark accompanied this group to Actipan (a barrio in Mexico City), where along with 13 other students he assisted in building an adult education facility.[14]  The following year he returned to Mexico, this time working on a construction project in Huayacocotla (a small town in the mountains of the state of Vera Cruz north of Tulancingo, Hidalgo).[15]


It was through his work in Mexico that Clark first encountered the Cursillo movement.[16] Originally a movement that emerged out of the pastoral realities of Post-World War II Spanish Catholic life, the Cursillo was an innovative movement. Founded by Bishop Juan Hervas, Psychologist Eduardo Bonnin, and Juan Capo; the movement recruited men to be soldiers in a new militant approach to the Church. It abandoned old structures as ineffective and drew from modern understandings of psychology to inspire the life-conversion of participants.

It formed a framework that was appealing to Clark. The founders of the Cursillo were interested in fundamentally transforming the culture of the society they lived in. This, too, was Clark’s goal. Clark was impressed by the people who were involved and he began to wonder if this could be a useful tool for building Christian community.

Clark had noticed that, although there had been a strong emphasis on gathering around the Eucharist in the Catholic community at Yale, there had not been much life-change in the people who only went to Mass. Instead real life-change seemed to happen in the lives of those who formed a community of shared lives together that was rooted in their shared Catholic faith. Clark developed the belief that the Catholic Campus ministry was missing an essential community focus. He believed that Catholic life should impact every part of one’s life, and he was disturbed by reports he heard that this was far from the reality of most Catholic Campus ministry. He was known to say that at the National Newman Club convention, “apart from morning Mass, it was no different than a Jeweler’s convention.”[17] Clark wanted to see a complete reorientation towards Jesus in the lives of people and he wanted a community that empowered a sustained and total transformation.

Taking inspiration from models of the faith that he had seen in the likes of St. Francis of Assisi; he began to think more deeply about what it would take to grow a renewal movement within the church that was based in a community of believers. What he saw in Mexico gave him hope that such a community could be formed.


In 1962, Clark spent a year studying philosophy and learning German on a Fulbright Scholarship at the University of Freiburg in Germany.[18] He began to dig into theological studies during this year and emerged describing himself as a “pre-Vatican II liberal… but with faith.”[19] As he looked on the Church in America on his return he was uneasy about the future of the faith. Clark described the American Church of 1963 as “in the first stages of a nervous breakdown. Nothing really worked. There were only piecemeal solutions instead of effective plans. The edifice was starting to crumble.”[20] Clark began to have dreams of a totalistic solution that would be able to present a faith that could handle all the problems of the Twentieth Century Church. He envisioned a community that was rooted in the faith and directed as one towards the goal of social renewal.


In the fall semester of 1963 Clark returned to the United States. He enrolled in a graduate program at the University of Notre Dame, in South Bend, Indiana. He was still inspired by the participants in the Cursillo he had met in Mexico, and upon moving to Indiana he sought out the leaders of the movement in the United States. Thankfully, a new center had started that year. It was called the Archdiocesan Cursillo Center, then located at 1300 South Wabash Street, in Chicago.[21] Clark found a way to make the retreat there in his first semester, even though he was technically too young. In Clark’s words, “When I got back to the US, I found the Cursillo movement had started in English. There was a newly starting center in East Chicago and a plan afoot centering on the retreat house at Notre Dame.”[22] Clark seems to have jumped into getting involved with the Cursillo movement with both feet. Consider the following description of his activities in these years as recorded by Michael Shaughnessy:

Cursillo seemed like it might be a vehicle for forming mission communities with an evangelical focus. At that time Cursillo was only beginning in the United States and according to Cursillo rules, Steve was still too young to attend or lead a retreat. Nonetheless, he attended one in East Chicago, Indiana. Two months later he helped put on the very first Cursillo retreat to be held in South Bend. In less than two years he was asked to give the opening address at the National Cursillo Convention in Kansas City and to serve on the National Secretariat in East Lansing.[23]

Clark quickly had become a rising star in the Cursillo Movement. By the end of his first semester at Notre Dame he began to help organize Cursillo retreats. Soon he also began to author resources to help others implement the Cursillo.[24] He viewed these retreats as valuable tools for helping recruit and train leaders in the vision of a Christian Community he was beginning to form. As he states in his writings at the time, “it is important to realize both that the chief obstacle to a fuller Christian life is a man’s enslavement to a secular environment and that full Christianity involves being part of a Christian community.”[25]

In these years Clark began to meet with other leaders at Notre Dame and imagine with them the practical ways they might form the kind of Christian community that Clark had begun to envision. One of the leaders at Notre Dame in these early years described Clark saying, “Steve Clark came to Notre Dame with an amazing vision of pastoral renewal. I don’t know where it all came from.”[26] These conversations and ideas would eventually come to fruition in Clark’s book Building Christian Communities: Strategy for Renewing the Church.[27]


It is impossible to talk about the origins of the Covenant Communities Movement without first understanding the impact of the Cursillo Movement. It gave the leaders the experiences, methods, and rhythms which the Covenant Communities would be built upon. The Cursillo movement’s life and practices were the seeds that both rooted the early faith of the founding members of the community but also formed the network for expansion and the blueprint for community and spirituality that the early community was built upon.

The word Cursillo itself can be translated “minicourse.” It began as a training course in Christianity that was three days long and was completed over the course of a weekend. Participants were led through a series of short lessons on life and faith called “rolos.” The content of the retreat was spread across fifteen short talks, led by a mix of priests and laypeople. The format drew on modern advances in the understanding of human psychology and attempted to create a context where individuals would be receptive to the proclamation of the Kerygma.[28]

Stephen Clark had been drawn to the Cursillo because it helped initiate people into a context of intense Christian community. He defended the social manipulation and use of psychological techniques in the Cursillo by underscoring that there is no context in life in which humans are not subject to outside influences. Clark states:

To describe what the Cursillo is doing as subjecting a man to the pressure of the group is not quite accurate, because it implies that he was originally free of such pressure and that a man can be a Christian without any group pressure (that is, without being part of any group). The strategy of the Cursillo is to take a man out of a situation in which the group pressure is strongly secular and put him in a situation in which the group pressure is Christian and in which he can experience a true Christian community.”[29]

In other words, the Cursillo was a tool Clark thought could be useful in recontextualizing life for the participants. He believed that true Christian community was not something that came about because of some theoretical discussion but was something that had to be encountered in a lived experience. This conviction highlights a fundamental conviction that Clark would develop in much of his later work: namely, that a Christian life requires a community that is engaged in living their faith out together fully.

In order to accomplish the goal of a truly transformed community rooted in a lived experience, there needed to be a continued context of Christian community.  According to those who knew him at this time, Stephen Clark had an extraordinary gifting for envisioning Christian Community.[30] He began to identify key leaders in the Notre Dame community who he believed could be significant influencers and invite them to take participate in the Cursillo.

After Clark took them on the weekend Cursillo experience, individuals were encouraged to participate in the life of the community. There was a daily Monday evening Mass, there were weekly prayer meetings, weekly sharing groups, and monthly gatherings for Cursillo alumni. In the Cursillo movement, this community of individuals who had taken the retreat was called the “ultreya.” In the case of the group at Notre Dame this community began to have a distinctive, and vibrant life.

Prayer meetings within the group at Notre Dame had a strong emphasis on personal sharing and music.[31] The Cursillo weekend was based around short talks, and this element would find a place in the gatherings of the ultreya group too. They also formed small groups for personal accountability. In the Cursillo group these gatherings were opportunities to share about ones attempts at mission and evangelism.[32] The participants were asked to highlight both the successes and the failures of the previous week, review if they had kept up their commitment to spiritual life, and reflect on what had happened looking for God’s wisdom and voice.[33]

In these years throughout the late 1960s Stephen Clark began to think about how this movement could be governed and grow into a larger movement. As part of these reflections he began to think and write about what community would look like in the specifically Christian context he envisioned could take root within his Cursillo members.[34]

The community that was forming was small but passionate. People began to get connected to it both through invitations to the weekend, but also through the participation in some of the other activities that were happening around campus; like the prayer meetings and the weekly Monday Mass. One participant, a lifelong Catholic, described it as the first place that he had attended where people prayed as if they expected God to hear and even expected God to answer.[35]

The meetings were marked by an evangelical zeal and an emphasis on the participation of individuals. People readily invited both friends and strangers to the gatherings people were not only welcome, but encouraged to attend by all.[36]  In the prayer meetings everyone was given a chance to participate. There was communal singing, with a folk style. At key parts of the meetings a crucifix was passed around. When an individual received the crucifix, he or she was invited to share whatever prayer was on their heart or pass it along to the next person.

People described the group as beginning to feel like a family. Many who attended had a sense of their faith becoming their own. The community gained a reputation for being one of the most welcoming groups on campus and had a freshness to the spirituality they were promoting that seemed real and vibrant to many. In the words of one participant:

We met every Monday and Friday for Mass and usually one other night during the week. As we worshipped together and at our gatherings afterward, we grew closer as a community. Most of us became very close to one another, and I was beginning to realize that these people were becoming the most important people in my life.[37]


Many looked to Clark as the originator of the spiritual renewal that had taken hold at Notre Dame since he came to the university in 1963.[38] In spite of the success of the community at Notre Dame, Stephen Clark had a much larger vision for renewal in the Church. Clark wanted to take what they had learned at Notre Dame and develop a way to communicate the core ideas of the Cursillo in a context that was relevant to university students and which drew from the wisdom he had been able to learn from studying other university evangelistic efforts.

Clark took the lead in developing a program to facilitate transformation in the lives of others. It would be based on the Cursillo structure but would draw from other sources as well. The new program was called the “Study Weekend” but eventually that name changed to the “Antioch Weekend,” inspired by Acts 11:26 which state that in Antioch the disciples were first given the name “Christians”.

Like the Cursillo, which develop a kerygma informed by the insights of contemporary psychology; the Antioch Weekend looked to the insights of psychological research among students, drawing from materials developed for the “Young Christian Students” movement by their fellow student George Martin.[39]  Clark turned to those who had developed as leaders as a result of the renewal. He invited them to assist him in developing the lessons. Many of these men would become the leaders of the covenant communities that would form five years later.[40]

Clark began to dream of a network of communities born out of universities. He envisioned a new kind of university ministry. One that was not “resigned to the fact that they are not going to do very much to ‘stem the tide.’”[41] Clark had a vision for restoring Christian life at the university. He had developed a whole pastoral plan for it, and the Antioch weekend was designed to form the “cornerstone” of the endeavor.[42] The plan was laid, but before it could be implemented circumstances changed.


In January of 1965, while on Christmas break, Stephen Clark met up at his friend Ralph Martin’s parents’ home in Teaneck, New Jersey.[43] Martin was finishing up his first semester at Princeton studying philosophy on a Woodrow Wilson fellowship. Previously he had had a profound conversion experience through one of the Cursillo weekends that happened at Notre Dame. They decided that that upcoming summer they would both go to Mount Saviour Monastery, a Benedictine community of monks, just west of Elmira, NY. It had been founded just 15 years before and had experienced rapid growth.[44] The monastery was known for its ecumenical openness.[45]


They wound up spending most of the summer at the monastery. Their time there was transformative. They assisted with work on the farm and participated in the life of the community.

Martin and Clark discussed with the monks a great deal about the role of prayer in the Christian life. The monks described their time with Martin and Clark as “a grace all around and on many levels.” As Martin and Clark headed off to attend the National Cursillo Conference in Kansas City, on August 19, 1965.


The trip to Kansas City proved to be a decisive moment. As Martin puts it, “we were hitchhiking across the country and we felt like God was calling us to sell everything. This was pretty easy because we didn’t have much to sell.”[46] By the time Martin and Clark had arrived at the conference they had a conviction about how they wanted to live their lives and they were ready to share what God was doing with them. The participants in the conference were eager to hear.

Martin and Clark wound up giving the opening and closing talk at the national Cursillo conference. The U.S. National Secretariat was formed in 1965 at the national Cursillo convention in Kansas City to oversee the movement and help direct its growth.[47] Martin and Clark were invited to join the staff. They both agreed, dropped out of school and moved to Lansing where Bishop Michael Joseph Green, who was appointed the episcopal advisor to the Cursillo Movement USA, was serving.[48]


The Cursillo was experiencing its time of most explosive growth and Martin and Clark became primary architects in Bishop Green’s strategy to make the Cursillo a linchpin of church renewal beyond the Latinx populations where the movement had originally become popular.[49] Green began to work within diocesan structures and was successful in seeing it grow the years he partnered with Martin and Clark.[50]

While in Lansing, they were invited to also participate in the ministry of the Michigan State University Catholic student ministry. They were given housing as a part of their compensation for the work they were doing. Clark and Martin had experience with college ministry because of the efforts they had made at Notre Dame, but realized that in this university environment they would need to develop new skills. Michigan State was a state university and there was not the cultural Catholicism in the background. Many of the students came from backgrounds of other faiths or no faith at all.[51]

Martin and Clark achieved a great deal of success in recruiting a committed core of students in Lansing as part of the student ministry they were involved with, but also had to dedicate a lot of time and energy to speaking around the country on the Cursillo as well as writing materials for the movement. The student ministry needed help and when James Cavnar and Gerry Rauch (Students back at Notre Dame who had been impacted by the Cursillo in South Bend) came to visit them one weekend during their final year at Notre Dame, they invited them to come and work with them at MSU the following fall. Both Rauch and Cavnar were surprised by the offer, but also excited.[52] They had been deeply inspired by the testimony of the two men who had given up everything to pursue ministry, and they wanted to get involved too. They said yes, and plans began to form about how they would work together. Eventually it was decided they would meet up over the summer before the semester while Martin and Clark were connecting with protestant leaders in the south-west as part of some recent research they were doing in how to effectively minister to college-aged people.[53]


Stephen Clark and Ralph Martin began to look around them and seek out allies that would help them in their attempts to develop an effective college ministry as well as in their efforts to develop a model for Christian community using their network in the Cursillo and through the Antioch Weekend. They were inspired by some of the protestant evangelical groups they encountered. They got to know leaders in the local campus group, Campus Crusade for Christ, which was an evangelical group that empowered college students to lead people to “decisions for Christ” using a simple tool called the “four spiritual laws.”[54] In the summer of 1966 Martin and Clark even traveled to meet with Bill Bright in California.[55] They were also influenced by a group called the Navigators which had developed a system to empower biblical literacy among their participants through a curriculum of Bible memorization and one-on one discipleship.[56]

Clark and Martin developed friendships with leaders in these evangelical organizations and began to meet with them to learn more about the tools they were using and to explore how they might be able to incorporate the wisdom of these groups into their own work. It was during a conversation with a Campus Crusade leader that Clark encountered a book that would shift the trajectory of their ministry. Although Campus Crusade for Christ, at the time, was an organization that held to a theology of “cessationism;” which is the belief that the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit, such as tongues and prophecy, had ceased after the death of the apostles, one of the leaders had been reading an account of the practice of these gifts that had been developing in New York through the ministry of a man named David Wilkerson. The story of this new ministry in the gifts of the Holy Spirit was recounted in a book entitled The Cross and the Switchblade.[57]  The Campus Crusade leader told Clark about the book and Stephen Clark picked it up and read it. The subject had long been of interest to Clark and he was curious about how the Spirit might play a role in bringing vitality to the kind of communities he believed would be essential in developing the life of the Church. Clark states:

Before I first began to hear about the charismatic renewal, I had wanted to experience the life of the Spirit. I had always known that what happened in the New Testament and among the great saints could happen today. I never could see why it should not happen now, among us, if God is the same. And I was always unimpressed by the argument that the workings of the Spirit were only for the beginnings of the church—to get it started. If ever the church needed the work of the Spirit to make it effective and alive in the world, it is today. I also knew that the presence and working of the Spirit must be something more than just interpreting circumstances or events as the Spirit’s working.[58]


Stephen Clark was inspired by what he read, but he was not exactly sure what to do about the story he had heard. Clark had done some work as a youth in inner-city New York and was amazed by the changed lives the Wilkerson shared about.[59]  As Clark describes it:

In [The Cross and the Switchblade], I could see that the leading of the Spirit could be something a person experienced and not just something that he could deduce from circumstances. And I could see that it brought results. I could also see in that story that the Holy Spirit had the power to cure people from drug addiction much more effectively than psychological methods.[60]

Clark knew how hard it had been to see lives changed in the work he himself had done and believed that if people were really being changed by this ministry that there had to be something of God in it.

The fervor of the Pentecostal faith had been an inspiration for him and this interest was deepened after his move to Lansing.[61] Clark was motivated by his challenges. He was struggling. The group he had led in Notre Dame was beginning to die out in his absence, and the work with students in Lansing seemed to need something more to kick it off. Clark turned his interest to Pentecostalism. As Clark put it:

I was convinced at an early stage that we needed these workings of the Spirit if the church was to stay alive and make headway in today’s world. I knew from my own experience in trying to bring people to faith in Christ that some kind of power was needed.[62]

Clark was interested in more of God’s power so that he could be more effective in the work of building a transformative community. He began to believe he was missing something that could help and was open to experiencing Pentecostal worship if that could open the way to experiencing spiritual power. This conviction that there was something more deepened after he attended his first charismatic prayer meeting.[63]

I could pray with my hands lifted up, and did, somewhat self-consciously. But I still could not be fully part of what was happening there, because they had experienced something I had not. The Spirit was moving in them both individually and as a group in a way he was not moving in me.[64]

Clark began to believe there was something in the Pentecostal tradition that he couldn’t ignore, but he wasn’t quite sure what to do about it yet.

As Martin and Clark continued their work with the Cursillo movement they began to talk to other leaders about the neo-Pentecostal awakenings they had been reading about. One such conversation happened at the national Cursillo gathering in 1966. Martin and Clark were there sharing again about what they had learned and connecting with leaders of other groups around the country.  One such leader was a man named William Storey. He was a history instructor at Duquesne University. Martin and Clark had worked with him to facilitate a retreat for one of the campus groups in the past year and they reconnected at the gathering. Clark shared about what he was reading and recommended The Cross and the Switchblade to Storey and another faculty member named Ralph Keifer, a liturgical theologian.

Storey and Keifer returned to Duquesne and read the narrative of Wilkerson and were similarly inspired. They began to read other books about the emerging Neo-Pentecostal phenomenon. Storey and Keifer were both involved in the liturgical movement at the time and were passionate about empowering the laity in the life of the Church. Their own passion had fueled much of their work up to this point, including their involvement in the Cursillo movement.[65] Storey had helped lead the Chi Rho group in centering their life of action, particularly action in the Civil Rights movement, in liturgical prayer.[66] Storey had even developed an early adaption of the divine office for use by the laity that he used with students in the group at Duquesne.[67] Storey and Keifer found hope in what they were seeing in the pages of The Cross and the Switchblade as well as in another Book called The Speak in Other Tongues, which also recounted an investigation of the “Baptism of the Holy Spirit” by an Episcopalian minister.[68]

Storey and a team of faculty had been involved in helping to plan future events for the Chi Rho group. He shared what he was reading to the other leaders and they too became fascinated by the movement. They began to seek out local people who were experiencing these “charisms” of the Holy Spirit. In January they met with a group of Protestants who had recently become involved with the neo-Pentecostal movement and were prayed over to receive the “baptism of the Holy Spirit.”[69] After receiving prayer, they began to experience these charisms themselves. They weren’t quite sure what they were supposed to do about them but they thought it would be interesting if they could somehow link the new experience, they were having into the upcoming retreat they were planning for the Chi Rho group on campus.

Weekend retreats had been a part of the group’s life for a couple of years. In the past they had hosted an Antioch Weekend, where Clark and Martin had helped to lead students to a deeper understanding of community life in the ancient Church. This weekend, however, focused on the life of the spirit recorded in Acts; and it would change everything.


In the winter of 1967 Keifer and Storey held a retreat for students and former students that had been involved in the group. This retreat would become the most well-documented and most frequently cited moment in the history of the early Catholic Charismatic renewal.[70] The retreat planners had the students read The Cross and the Switchblade as well as sections of the book of Acts to prepare for the retreat and had some sessions where students began to learn and think about the role and power of the Holy Spirit.

Over the course of the weekend, a group of students experienced some of the expressions of worship in prayer typical of Pentecostal Christian worship, most notably glossolalia, as well as an incident with their water supply that some students deemed possibly miraculous.[71] For some of these students this was a life-changing encounter.[72] There was an energy that both the faculty and this group of students had coming back. They began to share that they had experienced the miraculous power of the Holy Spirit with others. Word quickly spread to Lansing where Stephen Clark and Ralph Martin were working. News also traveled back to Notre Dame, where the community there was also eager to hear more.


Martin and Clark were very curious about what they heard and traveled to meet with the leadership of the Duquesne group. Around this same time William Storey was traveling to Notre Dame to interview for a faculty position at the University. Ralph Martin had previously experienced manifestations in his prayer of glossolalia, but now with this new testimony of others he began to exercise these gifts intentionally.[73] Clark too received prayer to receive the “baptism of the Holy spirit” and began to manifest glossolalia.[74]

In South Bend, faculty and students at Notre Dame gathered to hear about what had happened in Duquesne with William Storey. A graduate student named Bert Ghezzi, who had helped to start the Chi Rho group at Duquesne invited people to meet and hear from Storey at his apartment. The meeting Storrey was invited to was one of the prayer meetings that had been happening at Notre Dame since the Cursillo movement had taken hold. After Martin and Clark had left South Bend things had slowed down at Notre Dame considerably. Meetings had been happening less frequently and there was a general sense from many that the energy that had been so essential to starting the movement was fading. This was all about to change.

At this meeting Storey prayed over students and faculty who were interested to receive the Holy Spirit. Among those present were Kevin Ranaghan, James Cavnar and Gerry Rauch. All of these men experienced a change after this prayer and began to explore this new manifestation in the Holy Spirit in earnest. The group at Notre Dame sought out guides who knew about Pentecostalism. They reached out to the head of the local Full Gospel Businessmen’s group. He invited the group to come meet with him and some other leaders at his home. They gathered and shared what had been happening among the Catholic groups they were connected to, and then the group went into the basement to be prayed over so that members might receive the “gift of tongues.” After the men were prayed with, they began to experience tongues, in the form of glossolalia, for themselves.[75]


Martin and Clark returned to Lansing from their meeting with the leadership in Duquesne and quickly began to implement the charismatic dimension into their work with students on the campus of Michigan State.  Prayer meetings began to incorporate glossolalia and prophetic statements. There also seemed to be an increase in fervor for God. Similar things were happening with the group back in South Bend, IN.

As Clark and Martin shared their ministry experience with the leaders at Notre Dame they decided that they should all get together for prayer and encouragement. Martin and Clark decided to take a field trip. They arranged for a group of students in their ministry to join them on a trip to Notre Dame. Soon word spread and people from across the region who were interested in exploring this new Pentecostal spirituality breaking into the Catholic Church showed up. As Martin states:

When the Charismatic movement broke out we immediately shared it with our campus ministry and drove about forty Michigan State students down to Notre Dame for the first big conference down there. We called it an international conference because one nun from Canada came.

Martin and Clark were also active leading groups and doing research on methodologies for using the Cursillo all over the country. Martin and Clark began to incorporate their experience of the Charismatic gifts into that work as well. As Martin states:

We were doing these Cursillo leaders workshops across the country and while we were doing it we began sharing with people about things like life in the spirit and while we were praying with people the started experiencing life in the spirit. One of the things that it took me a long time to figure out was that not everyone who made the Cursillo had the same experience that I did, but it turned out not everybody did. We started praying with people that more of the Holy Spirit would come into their life.[76]

It was during one of these trips for developing leaders and strategy for the Cursillo that all Martin and Clark’s plans changed.

Back in Lansing, leaders in the student ministry that Martin and Clark had been working with had become increasingly uncomfortable with the Charismatic dimensions of their work. They had been providing housing for Martin and Clark in exchange for their work with the students and decided over the summer break that they would not be inviting Martin and Clark back to do ministry with them in the fall semester. Martin, Clark and Rauch were in the on a trip throughout California and the South-west at the time meeting with leadership in the Cursillo. Bishop Green had recently moved from his role as auxiliary bishop in Lansing to becoming the Bishop of Reno. He was in the process of developing plans to move the Cursillo Secretariat to Reno the following year.[77] Clark and Martin also had made arrangements to meet with leaders in Campus Crusade and the Navigators.[78]

While Martin and Clark were traveling; they met up with Gerry Rauch and James Cavnar. As the prepared to return home, they received word from a friend that their belongings had been removed from their apartment and that they were no longer welcome to do ministry at Michigan State.[79] The four young men returned to Michigan without a place to live and so they began to work digging ditches for a friend to make money to cover expenses and praying about what to do next. They received offers at this time from Catholic Student ministries at four Universities to come and help: Perdue, Ferris State, Kansas University and University of Michigan. They eventually discerned that Michigan was there they felt led to go. They were invited by Fr. John Faucher who offered to pay them, but Clark and Martin decided not to. They believed that having the freedom to earn their own way would help prevent getting into a sticky situation again.[80]


The arrival of Martin, Clark, Cavnar and Rauch at the University of Michigan in the fall went mostly unnoticed by the general student population.  They had spent the first weeks of the semester reaching out to students in the dorms and building relationships with some of the Catholics and other Christians on campus.  Soon students began to hear about their role as leaders in the Catholic Pentecostal movement and asked to see what this worship looked like. Thursday night was selected because it was the only evening that didn’t have conflicts for anyone.

On a Thursday night in November 1967, a small gathering of University of Michigan students gathered in a small apartment above the “Campus Corner” store at the corner of State Street and Packard Avenue near, the University of Michigan central campus. It belonged to Martin, Clark, Rauch and Cavnar. The University students who attended the meeting students were unsure about what to expect. They had heard of a new kind of worship which had begun to sweep across the campuses of Michigan State and Notre Dame. Now leaders from those movements had moved to Ann Arbor.

At the first meeting, Clark and Martin were not even present. They had to travel for their Cursillo work. Cavnar and Rauch confessed that it was possibly the worst prayer meeting they had ever attended. The music and flow were stilted and they felt like they were putting on a show; however, at the end of the day the students who attended were hooked. They asked if they could do it again the next week. Little did they know that these Thursday meetings would soon become the model for worship for a movement that would cross continents and impact the lives of millions.

The worship experience of these early “Catholic Pentecostals” fueled the explosive growth of the movement.[81] The prayer meetings were the primary entry point for people. People came to hear Catholics speak in tongues.  Participants recount how different the experience of corporate praise was in the environment of the early prayer meetings. They were intrigued by the prophetic words that were offered. The prayer meetings offered a doorway into the movement, and many people chose to enter though the gate.[82]

The earliest prayer meetings in Ann Arbor were hosted in a small apartment above a local drug store called the Campus Corner.[83] The meetings were held on Thursdays because that was the only day that the small group of interested students were available.[84] The small space quickly filled with people as word spread about the meetings and interest grew. Soon the main room was filled. Weekly attendance began to exceeded 100 people.[85] People began to pour out into the halls of the apartment. When these were full folks would fill the stairs leading upstairs, and the bathroom. Eventually attendees would even be in the bathtub because there was no more room.[86]

The fire marshal eventually intervened in early 1968, stating that continuing to meet in the apartment would pose a safety risk to participants that they could no longer allow.[87] As a result, it was determined that the prayer meeting would move to St. Mary’s student center where there was a large room that the participants could meet in. This would take care of the space issue, but it raised new concerns among the leaders.[88] They feared that changing the worship environment would fundamentally change the worshipers experience. There was a fear that the prayer meeting would not “work” without the domestic setting it had been birthed out of.

Up to this point, prayer meetings had mostly been held in domestic spaces. The early prayer meetings with the Cursillo group at Notre Dame had been in the apartment of Ralph Martin. The early exposure to Pentecostal spirituality that had helped form the experience of Cavnar and Rauch had been in the home of Full Gospel Businessmen leader, Ray Bullard.[89] The prayer meetings that the founders of the Word of God had been a part of, up near Lansing, Michigan, had happened in the home of a friend.[90] There was a serious concern that a prayer meeting would not work in a larger, more formal setting.

In order to assuage their fears, the leaders determined to bring domestic items to create a homey feel to the new space. They added floor lamps to the center of the room and formed a circle around the items. They believed these items would help to maintain a homey feel in the middle of the large room they worried would lack the essential intimacy.[91]

For a few weeks they used the floor lamps, but soon the new space began to change the worship in its own way. What the new space lacked in intimacy, it made up for in energy. With a room full of hundreds of people each week it became clear that something significant was underway. The meeting began to grow at rapid speed. Word was spreading all-over south-east Michigan about the group of “Catholics who prayed in tongues.” The initial circle that formed around the leaders expanded each week. New circles of chairs were added weekly.[92] At this point the meetings began to expand from their primarily student make up into a greater variety. Older folks were showing up. There were also more protestants participating as well as people from further away. People were coming from Detroit, Ohio and even further.


By 1970 people were traveling hundreds of miles just to see what was happening in places like Ann Arbor and Notre Dame.[93] A shared community life had become an important contributor to the content of the prayer meetings. It wasn’t as obvious as someone speaking in tongues or a leader giving a teaching, but it was a significant part of what made up the prayer meetings none the less. It was also in 1970 that the Ann Arbor community took on the name the “Word of God” and soon after decided to become a community where people intentionally entered into a “covenant” with one another.[94] This step would be a major move towards developing the kind of Community that Stephen Clark had desired to see built.

Stephen Clark had been formulating plans on how he envisioned the formation of community life since his conversion.[95] This community would become the exemplar for a new movement which would work to build communities throughout the world. This kind of community would be called a “Covenant Community” and would eventually become a movement in its own right.

The Covenant Community movement would be popularized through the Catholic Charismatic Renewal that brought people together into a “covenant” relationship where the whole context of their life was framed by the life community.[96] These communities were formed to create a context where the social pressure of the group would help move people into a lifestyle of conformity with a vision for human flourishing instead of towards the perceived dangers of “secularism” in society.[97]

The new dimension of “covenant” would greatly influence the worship and practices that made up the life of the community. Much of the early theory about Covenant Community predated the Pentecostal experiences. Stephen Clark had been the architect behind much of what had happened at Notre Dame, Lansing, and now in Ann Arbor.[98] His vision for a Christian community had been the foundation upon which the charismatic renewal was built.

Clark lamented that the culture of the USA in the 1960s was not a force that pushed people towards God but he believed exercised such a strong pull away from God that the Christian life was nearly impossible to peruse without a counter-culture made up of Christians in community with one another. He had attempted to build a community like this at Notre Dame as well as in Lansing. By the time he came to Ann Arbor he had seen what worked and what didn’t and went about intentionally building the kind of community that he had long envisioned.

The playbook for how he would do this was already written. Clark had begun to formulate a plan as early as 1964 and most of his method had been formulated by 1967.[99] Clark began to share his thoughts on community and would go onto eventually publish much of his writings on the subject in the book Building Christian Communities.[100] This book served as an early blueprint for the Word of God and also influenced the groups that were forming in South Bend.  According to Clark, “A basic Christian community is an environment of Christians which can provide for the basic needs of its members to live the Christian life.”[101]

In South Bend, people were also looking to form a common community life. A group formed called “True House” but it quickly fell apart after it was rocked by a number of scandals. At around the same time a group called “People of Praise” was also born. Led by Kevin Ranaghan, they believed much of what Clark did. The leadership sought to establish a community of “mutual commitment, submission, humility, respect for the leadership gifts as they emerge.”[102] As the groups began to form into covenant communities, participants in prayer meetings were asked to discern if they were being called into a committed form of life together. Those who decided to join would make a public commitment to the community and would dedicate themselves to living out their lives in submission to the way of life of the community. This would include meeting when the community met, and eventually included an intricate system of “spiritual headship.”  There were unfortunately instances of abuse that happened in the context of these covenant communities. There were also many instances of lives that were changed for the better. There is much more to be said on this, but that will have to wait for another day.

The goal of this article was to give this historical background on where Covenant Communities came from and to hopefully ground the conversation on a more solid foundation. I don’t personally feel I am equipped to judge the qualifications or disqualifications of Amy Coney Barrett to serve as on the SCOTUS. Some of what I have read seems to be far to sensationalist about these communities, however, I do think that it will be important for those tasked with confirming Amy Coney Barrett to take seriously this part of her life along with the many instances where these communities were overly controlling and cult-like. Covenant Communities are complex.

As people begin to wake up to this movement my hope is that this article can help those who want to dig a little deeper. If people have further questions about any aspect of this movement, please reach out to me.



[1] Jean Barbara, “A Great Man of God,” Living Bulwark, May 2009, Volume 30 edition, accessed August 25, 2018,


[2] Carlos Alonso Vargas, “A Founder and Spiritual Father,” Living Bulwark, May 2009, Vol. 30 edition, accessed October 9, 2017,


[3] Richard J. Bord and Joseph E. Faulkner, The Catholic Charismatics:  The Anatomy of a Modem Religious Movement (University Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1983), 60.


[4] Michael Shaughnessy, “A Vision for Christian Community: A Brief Overview of Stephen B. Clark’s Life in the Development of Covenant Community,” Living Bulwark, May 2009, accessed October 8, 2017,

[5] Ibid.


[6] Michael Shaughnessy and Don Schwager, “The Beginnings of the Servants of the Word,” Living Bulwark, August 2011, Volume 51 edition, accessed October 9, 2018,


[7] The phrase “single for the Lord” used as the primary nomenclature to describe the choice of remaining single that was a cornerstone of community life. Future chapters will touch on this with more depth. The main thing to understand is that Steve Clark had discerned that this was the path he was going to follow. See Shaughnessy, “A Vision for Christian Community: A Brief Overview of Stephen B. Clark’s Life in the Development of Covenant Community.”


[8]This quote can be found in  James Manney, “Before Duquesne: Sources of the Renewal,” New Covenant February (February 1973): 13–14.


[9] Virginia Wilkerson, Saint Thomas More Chapel: A Historical Sketch of the Catholic Chapel at Yale (New Haven, CT, 1978), 9.


[10] Shaughnessy and Schwager, “The Beginnings of the Servants of the Word.”

[11] Although both Clark and The Word of God are often cited as primary influences within the charismatic renewal, it may be more accurate to locate Clark as primarily a leader and founder of the the so-called “covenant community movement.” This movement found most of its followers within the broader charismatic renewal but its roots and much of its underlying goals developed in the years before the outbreak of the Charismatic renewal in 1967. This movement, as summarized by a member of Clark’s own “Servants of the Word,” is a movement that believes that although they do not want to abandon “the parish as the primary locus liturgicus, other forms of ‘being Church’ are necessary today in the light of the progressive fragmentation of the family, of society, and even of the Church” This evaluation comes from Servants of the Word brother Joaquin C. Yap in his Oxford University Dissertation. See Joaquin C. Yap, “Word and Wisdom in the Ecclesiology of Louis Bouyer” (Oxford University, 2003), 138.

[12] Wilkerson, Saint Thomas More Chapel: A Historical Sketch of the Catholic Chapel at Yale, 10.

[13] A Maryknoll Missionary, hence the “M. M.” Father McGowas was a native oFf New Rochelle, New York and was in his mid-30s at the time. He had been assigned to do mission work in Bolivia shortly after his ordination in 1950. By 1961 he had returned to the United States to begin student work. This Fr. McGowan would, 2 years later, disobey his superiors and eventually become suspended after bringing another group of students on a trip to Cuba.  “Priest Associated with Students in Cuba Dispute Suspended by Superiors,” N. C. W. C. Catholic News Service (Washington DC, September 16, 1963), Friday edition.

[14] “Students Help to Build an Adult Education Center,” The Catholic Advocate 10, no. 39 (September 1961).


[15] Stephen B. Clark to Billy Kangas, “Re: A Few Quick Questions,” October 19, 2018.

[16] Ibid.


[17] Phil O’Mara, “Interview,” November 12, 2018.


[18] Shaughnessy, “A Vision for Christian Community: A Brief Overview of Stephen B. Clark’s Life in the Development of Covenant Community.”


[19] Manney, “Before Duquesne: Sources of the Renewal,” 14.


[20] Ibid., 15.


[21] Kristy Nabhan-Warren, The Cursillo Movement in America: Catholics, Protestants, and Fourth-Day Spirituality (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2013), 71.


[22] Clark to Kangas, “Re: A Few Quick Questions.”

[23] Shaughnessy, “A Vision for Christian Community: A Brief Overview of Stephen B. Clark’s Life in the Development of Covenant Community.”


[24] Resources authored by Clark on the Cursillo include:
Desarollo (The Evolution of the Cursillo Literature), An Official Publication of the National Secretariat (Dallas: National Cursillo Center, 1971).

The Evolution of the Cursillo Literature: A Study Guide for Leaders, An Official Publication of the National Secretariat (Dallas: National Cursillo Center, 1971).

Stephen B. Clark, The Purpose of the Movement, The National Secretariat of the Cursillos in Christianity, Box 304, Reno, Nevada, 1969.

Stephen B. Clark, The Work of the Cursillos and The Work of Renewal (Phoenix, AZ: Ultreya Publications, 1967).

According to the Stephen B. Clark bibliography published by The Servants of the Word, which is the ecumenical, men’s religious order Clark would later found, Clark also produced a 13-volume series of commentaries on the Cursillo talks. See “Bibliography: Stephen B. Clark” (The Servants of the Word, 2015), accessed April 12, 2018,



[25] From Stephen B. Clark, Freedom in the Cursillo (Lansing, MI: National Cursillo Secretariat Publications, 1965). as quoted in Bord and Faulkner, The Catholic Charismatics:  The Anatomy of a Modem Religious Movement, 66–67.


[26] Bert Ghezzi, quoted in Manney, “Before Duquesne: Sources of the Renewal,” 14.

[27] This book became a foundational text for the Word of God and many communities within the renewal who put its teachings into practice. Stephen B. Clark, Building Christian Communities: Strategy for Renewing the Church (South Bend, IN: Ave Maria Press, 1971).


[28] The impact of psychology in the development of the Cursillo as a retreat methodology is well documented. For a concise guide to how to structure the 15 talks on the retreat to achieve the  desired outcomes utilizing psychology see the notes from a guide used around this period in Ohio which is reproduced in American Catholic History, Second Edition: A Documentary Reader see Mark Massa and Catherine Osborne, eds., “The Psychology of the Cursillo,” in American Catholic History, Second Edition: A Documentary Reader, 2nd ed. (New York: NYU Press, 2017), 250–254.


[29] This is from a defense of the Cursillo from 1965 quoted in Bord and Faulkner, The Catholic Charismatics:  The Anatomy of a Modem Religious Movement, 66.

[30] The phrase “gifting for envisioning Christian Community” comes from my interview with a student who attended one of the early Cursillo weekends Clark helped organize. From Gerry Rauch, “Interview,” June 19, 2019.


[31] The gatherings of these Christians formed the blueprint upon which much of the future life of the Word of God would be modeled. The basic format of the prayer meeting is one example of this.


[32] This model translated over to the Word of God men’s and women’s groups where there continued to be a strong focus on looking at one’s life own life in light of commitments one has made and looking for successes to share as well as failures to reflect upon. Ralph Martin, one of the Word of God founders and an important leader in the Charismatic Renewal, talks about this as forming a pattern that would stay with him for the rest of his life. See Ralph Martin, TheFulfillment of All Desire: A Guidebook for the Journey to God Based on the Wisdom of the Saints (Steubenville, Ohio: Emmaus Road Pub., 2006), 333.


[33] Rauch, “Interview.”


[34] These initial thoughts formed as foundational blueprint for his later publications on community as well in the governing structures the Word of God and later international community called the sword of the Spirit, which would be the international community rooted in the life forged among the people in Ann Arbor. These later developments will be expanded on in greater depth in later chapters.


[35] Rauch, “Interview.”


[36] Ibid.


[37] Anne Johnson, “Bearing Witness: Anne Johnson,” in Catholic Pentecostals, ed. Kevin Ranaghan and Dorothy Ranaghan (New York, NY: Paulist Press, 1969), 72.


[38] Manney, “Before Duquesne: Sources of the Renewal,” 13.


[39] Martin would later come to be a significant leader in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. Ibid., 16.


[40] Rauch, “Interview.” Another significant contributor was a faculty member named Fr. Charles Harris, C.S.C who helped to edit the materials. Manney, “Before Duquesne: Sources of the Renewal,” 14. Harris would bring this with him to the University of Portland. Richard Thomas Hughes and William B. Adrian, Models for Christian Higher Education: Strategies for Survival and Success in the Twenty-First Century (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1997), 52.


[41] Manney, “Before Duquesne: Sources of the Renewal,” 14.


[42] Ibid., 16.


[43] Ibid., 17.


[44] “Our Story,” Mount Saviour Monastery Poverty Hill, accessed August 6, 2019,

[45] Linda Kulzer and Roberta C. Bondi, Benedict in the World: Portraits of Monastic Oblates (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2002), 71.


[46] Ralph Martin, “Interview,” April 26, 2018.


[47] Nabhan-Warren, The Cursillo Movement in America: Catholics, Protestants, and Fourth-Day Spirituality, 69.


[48]Bishop Green had been serving as an auxiliary bishop for the diocese of Lansing, assisting Bishop Joseph Henry Albers during a period of failing health. “History of Lansing’s Bishops,” Diocese of Lansing, accessed August 7, 2019,

[49] For research into Bishop Green’s vision of a diocese-affiliated and non-Hispanic Cursillo, see Nabhan-Warren, The Cursillo Movement in America: Catholics, Protestants, and Fourth-Day Spirituality, 69–72.


[50] Martin and Clark relied on the Cursillo office as their primary income in their years in Lansing and their early years in Ann Arbor. By the time they left working for the Cursillo the movement had been incorporated into the life of over 115 dioceses in the United States. Ibid., 68.

[51] While in Lansing, Ralph Martin met a young woman named Anne as a part of the campus ministry he was doing at Michigan State University. The two of them eventually were married. Anne has remained a part of Ralph’s ministry in the five decades that have followed. Together they have had six children and continue to work together in ministry.


[52] Rauch, “Interview.”


[53] Ibid.


[54] These four spiritual laws had evolved from a talk originally given by Campus Crusade for Christ’s founder, Bill Bright throughout the 1950s. The talk was entitled “God’s Plan.” It was a powerful talk that was given at the end of evangelistic meetings. After introducing the talk, Bright stated that the ministry had grown 100-fold. Originally, staff members were supposed to memorize the whole thing, but found it challenging because of the length of it. By 1959 Bright had condensed the talk into a small booklet that highlighted four basic points. I. God loved you and has a wonderful plan for your life. II. Man is sinful and separated from God, thus he cannot know and explain God’s plan for his life. III. Jesus is God’s provision for man’s sin through whom man can know God’s love and plan for his life IV. We must receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord by personal invitation. See John G. Turner, Bill Bright and Campus Crusade for Christ: The Renewal of Evangelicalism in Postwar America (Univ of North Carolina Press, 2009), 100.

[55] Ralph Martin, Hungry for God: Practicle Help in Personal Prayer (Garden City  N.Y.: Doubleday & Co, 1974), 11.

[56] Interestingly in 1933, on Bill Bright’s own journey to faith he encountered a hitchhiker who was a Navigator and introduced Bill to Navigator’s founder Dawson Trotman. Bright would eventually use the materials developed by Trotman to assist in the development of his own Campus ministry.  Turner, Bill Bright and Campus Crusade for Christ, 20, 60.


[57] David Wilkerson, The Cross and the Switchblade (New York: B. Geis Associates, 1963).


[58] Stephen B. Clark, Baptized in the Spirit and Spiritual Gifts (Pecos, New Mexico: Dove Publications, 1976), 12.


[59] Clark to Kangas, “Re: A Few Quick Questions.”


[60] Clark, Baptized in the Spirit and Spiritual Gifts, 13.


[61] O’Mara, “Interview.”


[62] Clark, Baptized in the Spirit and Spiritual Gifts, 14.


[63] The term “Charismatic Prayer meeting” here is used because it is the term Clark uses in his writing about this event. It is somewhat anachronistic, however, because at the time the burgeoning charismatic movement was simply called “Pentecostalism” or in come cases “neo-Pentecostalism.”

[64] Clark, Baptized in the Spirit and Spiritual Gifts, 23.

[65] Bert Ghezzi, “Conversation about William Storey,” interview by Billy Kangas, August 23, 2019.


[66] Bert Ghezzi, “Conversation About the Word of God,” interview by Billy Kangas, September 24, 2018.


[67] Bert Ghezzi, Adventures in Daily Prayer: Experiencing the Power of God’s Love (Baker Books, 2010), 16.


[68] John L. Sherrill, They Speak with Other Tongues (New York: Pillar Books, 1964).


[69] The Neo-Pentecostal movement, later called the charismatic renewal, was a precursor to the Catholic Charismatic renewal.


[70] Although it is regularly told, in some ways the story has been very one-sided. A deeper examination of the retreat is beyond the scope of this project but presents a fascinating opportunity for further research. For example, Storey quickly became an outspoken critic of the movement as he was abuses of authority begin to cement in the early 1970s in the years following this, his name was redacted out of many accounts. Keifer similarly had his name removed after he distanced himself from the movement. There needs to be more efforts made to highlight the lives and experiences of those who did not choose to continue in the Charismatic Renewal and to ground the weekend retreat in the human elements at work that laid the foundation for the spiritual experiences of participants.


[71] The main sources for accounts of this weekend come from Patti Gallagher Mansfield, As By A New Pentecost (Phoenix, AZ: Amor Deus Publishing, 2016). There are also some accounts of the weekend in Kevin Ranaghan and Dorothy Ranaghan, eds., Catholic Pentecostals (New York, NY: Paulist Press, 1969). Mansfield, a student on the retreat,  has produced the definitive account within the renewal, with support from David Mangan who also attended.


[72] For others at the retreat the experience was less impactful. There were some who found the Pentecostal worship elements as frightening. There were others who didn’t even know that anything had happened. For example, there was a woman who felt ill during the retreat and spent the whole thing mostly in her room. She had no idea that the retreat had any significance until nearly 50 years later when she discovered that she had been at a retreat that had sparked a movement involving millions of Catholics around the world. This anecdote was shared with me in a conversation I had in the Spring of 2019 with one of the original retreat participants named David Mangan.


[73] Martin, “Interview.”


[74] Rauch, “Interview.”


[75] Ibid.

[76] Martin, “Interview.”


[77] These plans would be revealed in September 23, 1967. 1968 National Catholic Almanac (Garden City, N. Y.: Doubleday & Co, 1968), 631.


[78] Rauch, “Interview.”


[79] The friend was George Martin, who was also in Lansing at the time. He had been one of the developers of the Antioch Weekend with them.


[80] Rauch, “Interview.”

[81] The term “Catholic Pentecostals” was used in these early years. It would also become the title of  the 1969 book which introduced many to the movement for the first time. Ranaghan and Ranaghan, Catholic Pentecostals.


[82] Seeing often turned to participating. Even in the earliest days new participants were asked to stay after the prayer to receive instruction on the “baptism of the Holy Spirit” in one of the bedrooms while others who had received instruction were prayed over to receive it in another bedroom. In 1970 this would evolve into a curriculum which would be published by the Word of God called the “Life in the Spirit Seminar.” This method of initiation into the movement became the standard for the Catholic Charismatic Renewal throughout the world for many years and continues to be widely used, even being seemingly promoted by Pope Francis in July 2015. Pope Francis, “Discorso Del Santo Padre Francesco al Movimento Del Rinnovamento Nello Spirito,” July 3, 2015, accessed August 4, 2020,


[83] Don Schwager, “Some of the Early Pioneers from Cursillo and the Charismatic Renewal,” Living Bulwark 90 (March 2017), accessed October 9, 2018,


[84] The Thursday night prayer meeting became a common thing through-out the Catholic Charismatic movement around the world. One leader reflected on how he thought it was funny how ubiquitous it became. People had begun to emulate what they saw working in Ann Arbor, but he reflected there was nothing particularly strategic or spiritual about the night they chose. It simply was the most convenient time for most people’s class schedules that semester in 1967. Ellen Gryniewicz and Thomas Gryniewicz, “Interview,” June 4, 2018.

[85] Mary Ann Jahr, “An Ecumenical Christian Community: The Word of God, Ann Arbor, Michigan,” New Covenant 4, no. 8 (February 1975): 5.


[86] Gryniewicz and Gryniewicz, “Interview.”


[87] When he entered the apartment, he had expected to see a big party or something and was surprised to find a prayer meeting. He’s reported to have commented, “You must really love God” before encouraging the participants to move onto a safer venue.  Ibid.


[88] Tom Yoder, “Interview,” March 24, 2018.


[89] Rauch, “Interview”; James Cavnar, “Interview,” August 25, 2017.

[90] This home, Belonging to Fr. George Martin, was where the founders of the Word of God would meet and worship after they lost their apartment in Lansing. They would refer to these early prayer meetings as a “Williamston” because they took place in Willamston, MI.  Eventually these became monthly gatherings that would draw people from all over the region and would become known as “days of renewal.”  Gryniewicz and Gryniewicz, “Interview.”

[91] The floor lamps were purchased out of an impromptu collection taken and bought at the local salvation army. Ibid.


[92] Phil Tiews, “Interview,” March 29, 2019.


[93] Jahr, “An Ecumenical Christian Community: The Word of God, Ann Arbor, Michigan,” 6.


[94] Gryniewicz and Gryniewicz, “Interview.”

[95] As discussed, earlier Clark had been inspired by the Cursillo movement before because he believed it could help create a context of Christian life. The language of “covenant” has been contested by some who argue that what was called a “covenant” was not a “covenant” in a biblical sense, but something else. Yoder, “Interview.”

[96] As one former member, musician and composer within the Word of God put it, the covenant “mandated common pattern of life which affects the whole range of human existence, bound together by a solemn public promise to God and the rest of the members.” Jerry Custer, “A Definition of Covenant Community,” Covenant Community: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, last modified September 23, 2020, accessed September 23, 2020,


[97] The vision for human flourishing was defined, by in large, by the teachings of early leaders in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, most notably Stephen Clark.


[98] This early period formed a foundation of what would come to be known as  “Clarkian Thought.” The term “Clarkian” is taken from Thomas Szyszkiewicz, “Covenant Communities and the Impact of Steve Clark,” National Catholic Register, May 10, 1992, 5.


[99] Clark was already far along in his mission to build Christian communities at the time of the Charismatic renewal’s outbreak in 1967.  He seems to have seen the Charismatic renewal as a power to fuel the work of building communities which he saw as much more foundational work. Gerry Rauch and Bruce Yocum, “On Behalf of the Council of the Sword of the Spirit,” December 9, 1991.

[100] Clark, Building Christian Communities: Strategy for Renewing the Church.


[101] Ibid., 70.


[102] Cristina Rocha, Kathleen Openshaw, and Mark P. Hutchinson, eds., Australian Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements: Arguments from the Margins (Boston, MA: BRILL, 2020), 78.


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