Charismatic styles infuse Catholic practice in Jamaica

  • Worshipers clap and sing along during Mass at Holy Name of Jesus Church.
  • Worshipers at St. Anne's clap, stand, sway and sing along with the music.
  • Opening prayers at the New Life Charismatic Catholic prayer meeting. Advent 2013.
  • Praying the Rosary before the New Life Catholic charismatic prayer meeting

Jamaican Catholicism has been influenced by charismatic and Pentecostal forms of religion in two ways.1

As a way of connecting to the Pentecostalist sensibilities of so many Jamaicans, some clergy and their parishes have acculturated to such styles of worship and preaching in recent years, such as can be seen at St. Anne’s Church.

Likewise in 1973, a community of Catholics brought a charismatic Catholic form of worship to the island through the foundation of the New Life Community. This community, which meets weekly, is comprised of about 150 people, with 50 or so attending on most nights. It is lay-led, though it once had a priest involved in a formal role. One of Jamaica’s newly appointed bishops was also a member.

The community has been shrinking somewhat in recent years, but remains committed and very welcoming to new members. Though their ministry may not stand out in the way it did in the past, they argue that it has made a significant difference in the life of the whole Jamaican church, helping to shift it toward a more charismatic and spirit-filled stance, and they seem happy for that.

The New Life Community meetings are not occasions for spreading the “prosperity gospel” message.2 On the contrary, the songs focused on awareness of the suffering of others and the need to focus ourselves on the needs of those who are “hopeless, confused… lonely, tired, and worn… helpless, deceived and poor.”

  • 1 The term Pentecostal is used on this site to reference those Protestant churches that have Pentecostal, spirit-filled forms of worship, while charismatic refers to Catholics who have adopted aspects of spirit-filled worship that are inspired by that Protestant movement, but have been nurtured within Catholic communities.
  • 2Prosperity gospel is a phrase that refers to a trait found in many Pentecostal and Evangelical churches, whose message is that God wants us to be prosperous, and rewards those who are faithful with material wealth.