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What are charisms? Do I have any? And how do I discern them?

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“The manifestation of the charisms through us is one important way that the presence and work of the Holy Spirit is revealed to us in this life.” Photo: CNS, Michael Alexander, Georgia Bulletin

World-renowned evangelist Sherry Weddell, author of best-seller Forming Intentional Disciples: The Path to Knowing and Following Jesus, is returning to Sydney in May.

Visiting at the invitation of the Sydney Centre for Evangelisation, the international speaker will appear at two exclusive events dedicated to helping people explore the power of the Holy Spirit working in our lives and renewing the church for mission.

But what will she share that will enable parishes and the wider church to become revitalised?

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Following on from her hugely popular visit in 2019, the co-founder and executive director of the US-based Catherine of Siena Institute, will present her highly acclaimed Charisms: The Power of the Holy Spirit Unleashed, and here unpacks how they are within us all and can build up the Church

What are charisms?

To put it very simply, personal charisms are gifts of the Holy Spirit that we are given so we can give them away. Charisms are gifts that pass through you and me—with our cooperation—and channel God’s truth, beauty, provision, healing, and mercy to someone else.

Charisms don’t belong to us; they are for others. We are merely the stewards of these gifts. The manifestation of the charisms through us is one important way that the presence and work of the Holy Spirit is revealed to us in this life.

Do all baptised Christians receive charisms?

Yes, but those charisms may still be like seeds underground in winter. They are full of the life of God, but they haven’t germinated yet. They haven’t broken ground and can’t be seen.

Even if some of our charisms have emerged, we may not acknowledge them because we are afraid of “showing off” or seeming “proud”.

Some Catholics still think of supernatural charisms as being only for saints and not for ordinary people. Fortunately, the question of “are the charisms given to all through baptism” was debated during Vatican II and the answer was “yes”.

The importance of the charisms of the baptised for the life and mission of the whole Church has been part of our tradition for 2,000 years and is formally taught in numerous places, including the Catechism.

What connection is there between living as intentional disciples and exercising our charisms?

Charisms emerge out of our lived relationship with Jesus Christ. They manifest in Christians who are trying to follow Jesus as a disciple so we can be channels of God’s redemptive love and mercy for others.

There are two times in which charisms typically emerge, firstly after we have gone through some kind of conversion or spiritual awakening and our Catholic identity has grown into a personal relationship with Jesus and, secondly, when we meet the person or situation that needs the gift.

These gifts only have one purpose: to serve the Kingdom and the purposes of God. That is why we cannot use a charism deliberately for evil because they are a supernatural empowerment for the purposes of God alone.

Why should I discern my charisms?

Discerning charisms can have such a powerful impact on our lives in many ways including:

  • They help people grow spiritually and nourishes a Catholic’s sense of being personally called by God who sees and loves them. Nothing says that God is real, loving, and active in this world like witnessing his grace and healing.
  • The joy and energy that you experience while exercising your charisms is a great remedy for burn-out, discouragement, and cynicism. Even though your charisms are first and foremost for others, exercising them is indirectly healing and transforming for us as well.
  • Understanding where you are gifted and where you are not are both essential. It helps you discern where best to invest your time and energies in ways that will bear the most fruit for the Kingdom.
  • Discernment gives the freedom to say “no” to some invitations in order to say “yes” to that to which God has called you. All of us have responsibilities in parts of life where we have not been given charisms but if you have the freedom to do so, why not centre your life around where you have been called and gifted by God?
  • A good deal of conflict in parish life is unconsciously charism driven. Discernment frees you from judging yourself because you are not gifted like someone else that you admire and frees you from judging others who don’t share your priorities because God had called and gifted them differently.

What does a parish look like when the faithful are intentionally discerning and exercising their charisms?

For most Catholics, it is their first experience of being supported by the Catholic community as a person called and gifted by God for the sake of others, an apostle, not just a volunteer.

With a charism comes a kind of leadership around the gift which can be exercised informally or formally. The discernment of charisms helps foster personal responsibility for the Church’s mission and facilitates the emergence of new leadership and creative missional initiatives of all kinds both inside and outside the parish or diocese.

Leaders who are operating out of a charism are more effective, fruitful, happy, resilient, and require much less direct supervision from their pastor.

The Charisms: The Power of the Holy Spirit Unleashed presented by Sherry Weddell will be held on 22 May at the Liverpool Catholic Club and on 24 May at ACU’s Strathfield Campus.
Tickets cost $30 plus booking fee and are now available to anyone 18 years and over.

For tickets go to

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