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Let the Lord 'move you'

Black Catholics host annual revival, with final night aimed at young people

MIAMI | Phillip Fletcher of Holy Redeemer Parish stepped up to the pulpit, and after greeting everyone, presented a strong call to worship: “If the Lord moves you, move with the Lord,” he said.

That’s how “Revival 2020” kicked off Feb. 16 at host Holy Redeemer in Liberty City, with an evening of soulful music and songs, prayer, fellowship and preaching at its best.

St. Helen in Fort Lauderdale hosted the second revival evening Feb. 17. That was to be followed by an evening program Feb. 18 at host St. Philip Neri in Miami Gardens. The final evening, set for Feb. 19 at Visitation Church in North Miami, is designed to touch the hearts of children and young adults. The evening will begin at 4:30 p.m. with refreshments followed by praise and worship and a 6 p.m. service.

“The final program will have a good message for the young people,” said Katrenia Reeves-Jackman, director of the Office of Black Catholic Ministry, which is organizing the evenings. “The message is dream it. Believe it. Live it.”

Participants join in to praise and worship the Lord during 
Revival 2020's opening night, Feb. 16 at Holy Redeemer Church in Miami.

Photographer: LINDA REEVES | FC

Participants join in to praise and worship the Lord during Revival 2020's opening night, Feb. 16 at Holy Redeemer Church in Miami.

The annual revival — a tradition that dates back decades — binds generation to generation and blends different cultures of people of African descent as one Catholic family, according to Reeves-Jackman.

The message to be presented on the last night ties in well with the overall theme, “Anchored in Hope,” that has been at the center of all the revival evening messages.

Father Chester Smith, a Society of Divine Word missionary priest, is the guest preacher from Indianapolis. His twin brother, Father Charles Smith, also a Society of Divine Word missionary, was scheduled to be on hand as well to help with the evenings.

“Unfortunately, he couldn’t make it,” said Reeves-Jackman. “He had an airline ticket. He had made plans to come, but he had a sudden, unexpected circumstance and couldn’t make it.”

The weeklong revival is traditionally held at the beginning of Lent and coincides with Black History Month, the celebration of the great achievements of African Americans. Father Charles and Father Chester made the pages of black Catholic history themselves when they were ordained in 1988 and became the first African American twins to be ordained as priests of the U.S. Catholic Church.

Born in Chicago and raised in a housing project, the twins entered seminary at age 13. They continue to stand out as Catholic leaders and are well known for their more than 30 years of ministry in evangelization, spiritual development and outreach to youths, young adults and adults of African descent.

On opening night of the revival, Father Chester preached and led prayer the entire evening, not missing a beat without his brother at his side.

Father Chester Smith, of the Society  of the Divine Word, preaches and inspires all during Revival 2020's opening night, Feb. 16. The theme for the four evenings was Anchored in Hope.

Photographer: LINDA REEVES | FC

Father Chester Smith, of the Society of the Divine Word, preaches and inspires all during Revival 2020's opening night, Feb. 16. The theme for the four evenings was Anchored in Hope.

“He is a great speaker,” said Reginald Munnings of Holy Redeemer. “He is a dynamic preacher and delivers a good message.”

Father Chester began by challenging the faithful to prepare and participate fully  in Lent. “We ask you to pray, fast and take one day to go to confession to get your house in order,” he said.

He petitioned everyone to strive to be the person God intended, especially during the Lenten season. “We ask you to serve, to be a better Catholic, to be a better witness of your faith.”

As the evening continued, he preached on the key to living a joyful life and having peace and success. “God has given you everything you need to enjoy life. Stop complaining. Stop comparing or it will steal joy, peace and happiness. You have to stay in faith. Focus on God. Jesus has to be the center.

“God has given you skills and talents that no one has. God has a plan for you. He only asks that you trust in him. We should always be courageous. Look towards Jesus. Live boldly so you can live the life God has planned for you. With God on your side, all is good.”

The opening session ended with a call-to-the-altar ceremony. Everyone stood and joined Father Chester in the sanctuary. He asked all to hold hands as he prayed to the Holy Spirit for help and healing.

People were moved to tears. Some fell to their knees — signs of the presence of God, moving and touching hearts, lifting spirts and perhaps changing lives. 

The evening ended with a closing prayer and recessional song by the Office of Black Catholic Ministry Choir, “I’m So Glad Jesus Lifted Me.”

“Revivals are important,” said Bernadette Poitier of Holy Redeemer Parish. “Revivals provide and opportunity for individuals to rejoice in their spirituality. Revivals help us grow in our faith.”

Faithful gather in prayer around the altar during Revival 2020's opening night, Feb. 16 at Holy Redeemer Church in Miami. Anita Victor is shown in the center wearing a purple dress. This was the first time she had participated in the annual event and appeared moved as she prayed.

Photographer: LINDA REEVES | FC

Faithful gather in prayer around the altar during Revival 2020's opening night, Feb. 16 at Holy Redeemer Church in Miami. Anita Victor is shown in the center wearing a purple dress. This was the first time she had participated in the annual event and appeared moved as she prayed.


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