By Christine Bordelon
“The Lord is not looking for many, where there are two or more of you, he is in our midst,” said Mary Johnson, who is leading the new Westwego-based charismatic group, El Shaddai Prayer Partners Fellowship International with her husband Eric, at Our Lady of Prompt Succor parish.
On Nov. 4, El Shaddai in New Orleans, whose motto is “The God who is more than enough” held its first formal gathering. “Shaddai,” appearing in the Old Testament 41 times, is roughly translated to “the All-Sufficient One.” Group members pray Psalm 91: “We know God is our protector, he will never leave us” at every meeting during praise and worship.
Johnson, a music minister, said the Lord is leading her to nurture this ministry as she did with an El Shaddai group in Lebanon (now 100 members strong) and in Baton Rouge. El Shaddai’s forming of prayer partners models the Lord sending out the apostles two by two to spread his word, Johnson said.
Holy Spirit-led since 1981
The El Shaddai charismatic movement began in the Philippines in the 1980s by Brother Mariano Velarde as a Sunday morning radio show called “To God Be the Glory” but shortly thereafter changed to El Shaddai. It has grown into the “largest Catholic charismatic group there,” Johnson said. It now has branches worldwide attracting more than 8 million.
Father Buddy Noel, pastor of Our Lady of Prompt Succor in Westwego, stopped by Nov. 4 and preached a Scripture about St. Paul’s exodus to Damascus to encourage members to reflect on their ardor for the way of a Christian life, the pilgrim’s road on the way to God in heaven. He said God loves them so much, as he did Paul, that even when they stray, he keeps bringing them back on the right path.
“The Lord doesn’t want us to ‘kick against the goad (a spiked stick used to keep oxen on the right path),’ he wants us to follow the way,” Father Noel said. “God is a merciful God.
“It is the Lord himself … who brings us gently back to the path because the Lord loves us … he knows we will be happy when we stay on the path.”
God’s mercy is infinite
Father Noel said the sacrament of baptism creates the way for us, setting up a life of faith to eternal salvation. Confession works through our issues and lets us receive the mercy of Christ. The Holy Spirit, which inspires the charismatic movement, nurtures us on earth.
He used the “Prodigal Son” metaphor of a father never giving up on the son who strays. When Christians commit themselves to God and open their hearts to him, “He isn’t going to let us go. He will look for us when we stray. The way of Jesus is the way to follow. … Ask him for the power to live as Jesus lived.”
Johnson said she has been an El Shaddai member for 33 years and rejoices that Father Noel gave El Shaddai a permanent home at Our Lady of Prompt Succor.
“I try to be open to any movement of the spirit and the wonderful riches of the Catholic Church,” Father Noel said about helping El Shaddai get established. “The Catholic Charismatic movement is one of them.”
There also is a group dedicated to Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos that meets monthly. “A praying parish is a successful parish,” he said.
For details about El Shaddai, call Johnson at 919-5837.
Christine Bordelon can be reached at email@example.com.