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Speaker seeks to motivate Christians to to keep growing

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Ralph Martin wants to get Catholics fired up.

Scheduled to speak next week at the annual "Holy Toledo Catholic Charismatic Conference," Mr. Martin said he wants to help people realize they need to keep growing, spiritually, and not rest on their laurels.

"It's so easy for people to say, 'Hey, I've come so far. I'm a lot better than I used to be. I've reached this little plateau. I'm doing better than other people and it's good enough,' " Mr. Martin said in an interview this week.

But that's the wrong way to look at it, he said.

"We need to keep our eyes on Christ and stop comparing ourselves to others. We've got to look forward, as Apostle Paul said [in his letter to the Philippians], 'forgetting what lies behind and moving toward the goal.' There's always more to accomplish."

Mr. Martin, of Ann Arbor, Mich., is the founder of Renewal Ministries and host of the weekly EWTN program The Choices We Face. He said he has been involved in the Catholic Charismatic movement "almost from the beginning."

He also has written several books on the Catholic Church and the Catholic Charismatic movement, a Holy Spirit-led revival that swept the church in the 1970s but has slowed somewhat in recent years, Mr. Martin said.

"Back in the '70s and '80s, it was growing by leaps and bounds, but it certainly is more quiet today, although it varies from place to place," he said.

Mr. Martin has had the opportunity to give speeches and to organize Catholic charismatic groups around the world.

He helped start a Catholic charismatic ministry in Belgium and has met with Pope John Paul II a dozen times.

"The Pope has been tremendously supportive of the charismatic movement," Mr. Martin said. "He must have made dozens of statements saying this is a great opportunity for the church, the fulfillment of what we were hoping for in the Second Vatican Council for a more active life in the church and the world."

After moving back to Michigan after his stint in Europe, Mr. Martin said he found there was "a lot of confusion in the Catholic Church about who Jesus was and what the Christian life meant."

His observations inspired him to start Renewal Ministries in 1980, with the stated goal of "carrying out the work of renewal and evangelism in more than 25 countries around the world."

Mr. Martin and his staff conduct retreats for priests, nuns, and lay leaders around the world.

He said there is a "real hunger for spirituality" in Eastern Europe as it emerges from the oppression of communism, "but it's a race about whether western consumerism or spirituality is going to get there first."

Also speaking at the Holy Toledo conference, which is expected to be attended by about 800 people, will be Aggie Neck, chairman of the National Service Committee of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, and Toledo Bishop Leonard Blair and Auxiliary Bishop Robert Donnelly.

The Holy Toledo Catholic Charismatic Conference starts at 6:30 p.m. Friday and continues through Sunday at the Genesis Dreamplex Hotel (formerly the Quality Hotel) on South Reynolds Road. Registration is $50 by calling 419-691-6686.

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