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5/2/2013 9:01:00 AM
Keynoter to explain belief in Holy Spirit
FATHER GITTINS. His keynote will be May 13, 9:30 a.m., at The College of Saint Rose in Albany. He'll also talk about discipleship during a keynote May 13 at 7 p.m. and lead a workshop for priests. For information, see www.rcda.org/springenrichment.
FATHER GITTINS. His keynote will be May 13, 9:30 a.m., at The College of Saint Rose in Albany. He'll also talk about discipleship during a keynote May 13 at 7 p.m. and lead a workshop for priests. For information, see www.rcda.org/springenrichment.

This year's www.rcda.org/Offices/OECFL/spring_enrichment.html">Spring Enrichment keynote speaker will touch on the most mysterious person of the Trinity: the Holy Spirit.

Catholics can easily connect to the Father and the Son, but when it comes to the Holy Spirit, they're lost, says teacher and author Rev. Anthony Gittins, CSSp.

He'll deliver a May 13 keynote address on "Looking for and Listening to the Holy Spirit" during Spring Enrichment at The College of Saint Rose in Albany. Spring Enrichment is a four-day series of courses and workshops on different aspects of faith, open to anyone.

"For the vast majority of Christians, the Holy Spirit is an elusive member of the Trinity and something to which we don't relate," Father Gittins told The Evangelist. "One of the curiosities of the New Testament is that there's a reference to the sin of the Holy Spirit [in Mark 3:29], but there is no certainty."

What's Spirit? The keynoter argued that many Catholics don't actually believe in the Holy Spirit because they don't understand it.

"We are a Trinitarian faith. We say we believe in the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, but we are Christomonists very often, or we are monotheists," he said, referring to tendencies to identify Christ as the singular representation of God or to believe in the non-trinitarian oneness of God.

Father Gittins will cover the section of the Nicene Creed that deals with the Holy Spirit, reasons Catholics are not people of the Spirit ("We do nothing and expect God to solve our problems," he explained) and advice about how to be more open to the Spirit.

That advice could involve ecumenism, community service and a "desire to be led rather than simply to lead," he said.

Change also needs to happen within all levels of the Church, Father Gittins added, starting with demanding accountability and answers for such phenomena as the sexual abuse crisis and the silencing and marginalization of women, theologians and others.

Church needs change
Father Gittins believes the Church's hierarchy often hinders or tames the Holy Spirit.

"When the Church gets itself into problems, it's because it's not inspired," he said. "The sin of patriarchy is the sin of not taking the people of God seriously," which results in frustration or apathy: "If you don't believe you can change the world, you won't change the world. The problem is top-down and bottom-up."

The Church needs to be called to conversion, Father Gittins said. "We've got to preach to ourselves first. It always should start with me. You've got a lot of silent members or sleeping members. There are card-carrying Christians, but that doesn't make them disciples of Jesus."

Father Gittins was ordained a priest of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit in 1967. He spent summers between 1969 and 2000 serving as a hospital chaplain in Albany, which he recalled as "so fulfilling and so satisfying."

He then spent almost a decade as a missionary in the West African country of Sierra Leone and nearly 30 years teaching theology from an anthropological perspective at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, while working with the homeless.

Speaker's schedule
He still does missionary work and, having retired from teaching, leads workshops on theology in Australia, New Zealand, Europe, the U.S. and Canada.

Spring Enrichment's theme this year is "Filled with the Spirit;" a number of other presentations will shed light on the topic. Attendees will wear red on Wednesday, and the gym will be decorated with cloth shaped like flames - one representation of the Holy Spirit.

Stephen Mawn, associate director of catechist formation for the diocesan Office of Evangelization, Catechesis and Family Life, which sponsors Spring Enrichment, is excited about Father Gittins' appearance: He is "a challenging speaker. His perspective could get people to rethink things."

Father Gittins countered: "Spring Enrichment speaks for itself. They're not going to come because of me; they're going to come because of the possibility of being enriched."

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