Catholics from throughout Southeast Washington and nearby Prince George’s County participate in the Oct. 2 opening night of the 28th annual East of the River Revival, held at Holy Family Church in Hillcrest Heights.
CS PHOTO BY JACLYN LIPPELMANN Catholics from throughout Southeast Washington and nearby Prince George’s County participate in the Oct. 2 opening night of the 28th annual East of the River Revival, held at Holy Family Church in Hillcrest Heights.

After the Revival Choir sang an exultant closing hymn that included the refrain, “Go out, go out and tell the Good News,” a joyful congregation of more than 700 people left the Oct. 4 closing Mass of the 28th annual East of the River Revival at Holy Family Church in Hillcrest Heights, seemingly determined to do just that.

Outside, Father Raymond Moore – the pastor of St. Thomas More Parish in Washington – was among the concelebrating priests and participants smiling about what they had experienced over those three evenings. The annual fall revival, which drew predominantly African-American Catholics from parishes in Southeast Washington and nearby Prince George’s County in Maryland, was preceded by a weekend youth rally at Incarnation Parish in Washington.

Father Moore praised “the flow of the Spirit, the energy, the enthusiasm that brings people together. It gets better each year,” he said, adding, “I think our world needs a revival!”

The evening had begun with songs of praise to God and individual Confession, before the Mass that was celebrated by Washington Auxiliary Bishop Mario Dorsonville, joined by 11 concelebrating priests, and assisted by permanent deacons and seminarians.

This year’s revivalist, Father Roy Lee – a priest who ministers in the Archdiocese of Atlanta and who is a noted lecturer and retreat master – gave the homily, underscoring the revival’s theme, “Where There is Light, There is Hope!”

The priest, who moved about the sanctuary during his homily and spoke passionately about sharing Christ’s light and hope with others, noted that he was barefoot, just like Moses who took his shoes off before the burning bush, because he was on holy ground. On the feast day of St. Francis, the priest praised that saint’s witness of forsaking material wealth in order to follow Jesus.

“There’s something that binds us together, and it’s the call to holiness, and it starts today,” the priest said.

Father Lee encouraged people to reflect on what they need to let go of, so like St. Francis, they can walk more closely with Jesus. He noted that in challenging times, God lifts up great women and men to be saints, saints who said “yes” to God, saints who “talk the talk and walk the walk” of following Jesus. That can mean leaving one’s comfort zone, and even taking up a cross and facing storms in life, the priest said.

“The greatest weapon we have is prayer… prayer can change things,” he said.

Their hope, Father Lee said, rests in Jesus, and in reflecting his love, kindness, generosity, forgiveness and reconciliation in their words and actions.

“Let’s do everything out of love,” the priest said. “Let us be anchored in love. Let us be anchored in Jesus.”

And with that love, they can shine Christ’s light to others and to the world, Father Lee said. “Nothing is impossible with God!”

Noting how Mother Mary and St. Francis said “yes” to God’s call, the priest asked, “Are you ready to say ‘yes’ to the Lord?” Then he added, “Now it’s our turn to say ‘yes!’”

Before the final blessing, Bishop Dorsonville praised the faith and spirit of the congregation, and added, “I have one word for the preacher. Wow! This priest and this preacher is touched by the Holy Spirit.”

In the moments before the closing Mass started, members of the congregation reflected on what drew them to the revival night after night.

“It renews you as a person. It gives you a fresh start,” said Dianne Currie, a member of Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish in Washington.

Currie, who is retired from working for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, said she hoped it would inspire some Catholics to return to the Catholic Church.

“We hope it instills the spirit in them, and they come back to their home church,” she said.

Another member of Our Lady Queen of Peace, Anthony Gilliam, said, “I guess you can see my smile!” Gilliam, who said he was about to begin a new job working with Metro, said he had come “just to renew my spirit” and in an effort to be more Christ-like.

Sister Patricia Ralph, a Sister of St. Joseph who teaches fifth grade at St. Francis Xavier School in Washington, said, “For me, it’s a renewal, to keep on keepin’ on… It strengthens me. It strengthens my spirit. It’s just a joy to pray and sing with my family.”

Father Everett Pearson, the pastor of Mount Calvary Parish in Forestville said he was inspired by the faith of the Catholics attending the revival, and their commitment to do the work of the Lord in their lives. “This gives me hope,” he said.

Gail Ruffin, who helps direct three choirs at Mount Calvary and who was a co-director of the revival’s youth rally, praised the faith of the teens who participated in the rally.

“Their faith, their expectations in God are high,” she said. “They have so many goals in their life. They know they have to keep God first, in order to stamp out the demons that are out there in the world.”

Inocencio Quinones of St. Luke Parish in Washington said he had come “to be revived, renewed and restored. There’s so much going on. You need a little extra now and then, to recharge your batteries, and this does that.”

The revival’s theme – “Where There is Light, There is Hope” – resonated with Quinones, who sells solar energy systems to churches. The revival, he said, emphasized shining and sharing Christ’s light with the world, by spreading his love and his Word.

Quinones said the revival experience would “enable me to see God’s work in everyday life, and enable me to be a better father, a better brother, a better uncle… It’ll help my family see God.”