LACEY – When Felimon Hinojoza went to his first charismatic prayer service, he had no idea what to expect.
“You hear the music and see people lifting up hands and dancing for the Lord,” Hinojoza said. “The first time you think, What is this?”
For Hinojoza and fellow parishioners at Sacred Heart Parish in Lacey, “this” is the Hispanic charismatic prayer group known as Los Ángeles de Dios. Every Thursday evening, 80 to 100 families (child care is available) gather at the church to pray the rosary, followed by singing, listening to speakers explain the Sunday Gospel reading, and prayer.
“We bring all the gifts of the Holy Spirit: visions, talking in tongues, deeper adoration,” said coordinator Eddy Carillo. “We’re a little different than other movements, but it’s still the same Lord.”
The prayer time can be a powerful experience, said Luis Ramos, who recently joined the group. “You are filled with a feeling, you don’t know what it is, but you don’t get scared,” Ramos said. “You just feel happy. That’s the thing that makes you keep going and want to change the way you live and the way you treat people,” he explained.
Members of the group are also involved in the greater parish, planning social and outreach activities in partnership with other parish ministries, said Ferrell Gilson, Sacred Heart’s pastoral associate for administration and stewardship.
“They’re so giving and so dedicated,” Gilson said. “They pray for all the intentions of the individuals and groups in the parish.”
‘We felt the need of God in our lives’
Los Ángeles de Dios has been meeting at the parish for a decade, but its origins go back to August 2007.
That’s when Hinojoza and his family were driving home to Washington state after a vacation in Kentucky. While driving through Montana, they were in an accident and their son was killed. After that, “We felt the need of God in our lives,” Hinojoza said. “We started going to Mass every week.”
Estevan Rodríguez invokes the Holy Spirit during a meeting of Los Ángeles de Dios, a charismatic prayer group that meets at Sacred Heart Church in Lacey. Photo: Courtesy Eddy Carillo
Then, Hinojoza said, his brother Jesús suggested the family start praying the rosary or studying the Bible in their homes. Hinojoza said he thought, “Here’s my brother, who never goes to church, suggesting that we get together to pray. OK, this is serious.”
Soon, 30 to 40 family members and friends started gathering each week at different homes. A friend suggested starting a more formal prayer group, Hinojoza said, and told them about the charismatic renewal as a way to get started.
The group leaders took classes being offered by the Western Washington Catholic Charismatic Renewal, said Gilson, who was Sacred Heart’s pastoral coordinator at the time. The prayer group soon found a new home at the parish.
Since 2007, the Hispanic charismatic prayer groups have been building their own network of about 28 parishes called Renovación Carismática Católica Hispana de Seattle, according to Father Milhton Scarpetta, the group’s spiritual leader and pastor of St. Michael Parish in Snohomish.
The group offers monthly formation classes for leaders, as well as retreats twice a year. Every September, leaders and their prayer groups are invited to two days of worship, songs and adoration at a gathering called Congreso Carismático.
Father Scarpetta described the prayer groups as good resources for their parishes. “They are evangelizing and bringing more people to the parishes,” he said.
To that end, Los Ángeles de Dios holds a retreat four times a year to invite new members (the next retreat is June 8–10). “The retreat will change your life,” Hinojoza said.
That proved true for Carillo, who went to one of the retreats with his family in 2009. “We felt touched by the Holy Spirit,” he said. “I felt changed in my life and decided to get involved in the church.” Carillo has helped build up Sacred Heart’s Hispanic choir, serves as a lector and eventually became the prayer group coordinator.
Hinojoza said participating in the prayer group has brought him closer to Jesus and taught him more about what the Mass means.
“Going to Mass every week is awesome, but if you haven’t had an experience with the Lord, you’re not going to get much out of Mass,” Hinojoza said. “If you read the Bible without experiencing the Lord, it’s just a book.”
Join Los Ángeles de Dios