SINGAPORE – Gerard Francisco is the immediate past chairman of the Singapore Archdiocesan Catholic Charismatic Renewal (SACCRE).
He and his wife Jessica put God in the centre of their family life, and they get their three children, aged nine, seven, and five, involved. Testimonies that the parents hear and what they experience and witness in their ministry are shared with the children, who are even encouraged to pray spontaneously and to pray over one another.
“It has always been my desire to have a deep, personal relationship with God,” said Mrs Francisco, 45. “Soon after I was baptised in 1991, I joined the Life in the Spirit Seminar (LISS) and was led by the Holy Spirit to be involved in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal.”
The Life in the Spirit Seminar is a spiritual programme comprising talks, sacraments, sharing, prayer, Scriptures and ministering to deepen a person’s relationship with Christ and be open to the working of the Holy Spirit.
Mr Francisco’s story is different. “I was away from church for 12 years,” he said. “All this time, my mother was constantly praying for me. One day, in 1985, a friend invited me to attend a charismatic prayer session with him. I was then very much a man of the world, seeking things that are ungodly. Life seemed aimless; deep inside I felt an emptiness, and I decided to give it a try.”
Charismatic prayer meetings begin with praise and worship; talks and Masses are held; Scripture and testimonies are shared; people are encouraged to intercede for others and to pray over one another.
“At first, I was uncomfortable at the prayer meetings because, being a traditional Catholic, I was unfamiliar with the open atmosphere and spontaneous expressions of joy,” said Mr Francisco. “But I felt a strong calling to be involved in the charismatic renewal movement because of the profound transformation in me. I then felt a sense of gratitude to Jesus, and my passion was to bring others to Him through this movement. I found that I started to go back to church. My faith started to deepen, and I began to have a real relationship with Jesus. I have been active in church ever since.”
The Franciscos met when they served in the Risen Christ Charismatic Prayer Group and Children’s League in 1991. Some members of the group became good friends. In 1995, they went on a pilgrimage to France and Italy.
During the pilgrimage, Gerard and Jessica Francisco say, they separately received a prompting from the Holy Spirit to be together. When they returned home, they were told that two other persons in Singapore had received a similar message. This led to their relationship being taken a step further and they married in 1997.
Today the couple continues to serve in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal movement to bring others to Christ through the Holy Spirit.
The Catholic Charismatic Renewal movement in Singapore first began in early 1976 at an Infant Jesus Convent at Martha Road in Katong. It was known then as a Shared Prayer Group, and led weekly by Sister Josephine Healy from the Sisters of the Infant Jesus.
In September 1976, Father Paul Goh started a Charismatic Prayer Meeting at the parish of Our Lady of Lourdes. It began with eight people attending the weekly sessions. Its popularity grew and now, 33 years later, 22 parishes in the archdiocese are involved. There are also language groups and youth groups participating in charismatic prayer meetings.
“I hope every Christian will be more open both to the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Holy Spirit,” said Father William Goh, spiritual director of SACCRE.
By Junita Decruz and Daniel Tay