City of the Lord celebrates 40 years of covenant community life

Founding members of City of the Lord, Ed and Carolyn LeBeau (left), along with Jim and Carol Jones )right), pray in front of the tabernacle Dec. 17 in the chapel inside the COTL building near Arizona State University's Tempe campus. (Joyce Coronel/CATHOLIC SUN)
Founding members of City of the Lord, Ed and Carolyn LeBeau (left), along with Jim and Carol Jones )right), pray in front of the tabernacle Dec. 17 in the chapel inside the COTL building near Arizona State University’s Tempe campus. (Joyce Coronel/CATHOLIC SUN)

TEMPE — The fire of the Holy Spirit was the catalyst that drove a local group of Catholics to found a community that still thrives 40 years later.

City of the Lord, a Catholic charismatic covenant community based in Tempe, is commemorating four decades of vibrant prayer, fellowship and service. Members renew their commitment each year in February. Others, who have been discerning membership, join.

Thousands of lives have been touched by the community over the years, something members say is the result of faith in Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. The Aid to Women Center, an East Valley pro-life pregnancy clinic, the Bioethics Defense Fund, Arizona Bible Class and Tempe Preparatory Academy are some of the fruits that sprang up through relationships formed at COTL. Fr. Charles Goraieb and Fr. Greg Menegay, both priests in the Diocese of Phoenix, said they were shaped by experiences they had there.

Community founders say the group originated during the aftermath of the Second Vatican Council. Ed and Carolyn LeBeau, along with Jim and Carol Jones, were there at the beginning. The parents of young children, both couples were deeply moved by the fire of the charismatic renewal.

“The Church was in a great turmoil at the end of Vatican II. John XXIII asked for a new Pentecost and in 1967 it came upon us,” Jim said.

The prayer group that was formed eventually gave birth to City of the Lord. The COTL building, which sits just west of Arizona State University, has been the site of hundreds of retreats through the years. Many of the members of the community live in a neighborhood near Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish but there are also members sprinkled throughout nearly a dozen local parishes.

Jim Hyde, who has belonged since 1976, said the community helps Catholics live out their faith. “It’s the opportunity to overcome our self-centeredness,” Hyde said.

It hasn’t always been easy, members acknowledge. So why do people join and stay committed?

Ed and Mary Ann Wilmowski, longtime members of City of the Lord, pray over Ellen Sweeney at a healing prayer service Jan. 21 at St. Timothy Parish. The Wilmowskis and other members of COTL help out at the monthly gatherings. (Joyce Coronel/CATHOLIC SUN)
Ed and Mary Ann Wilmowski, longtime members of City of the Lord, pray over Ellen Sweeney at a healing prayer service Jan. 21 at St. Timothy Parish. The Wilmowskis and other members of COTL help out at the monthly gatherings. (Joyce Coronel/CATHOLIC SUN)

“It’s a support system for your faith and family,” Carol said.

Through the years, the close-knit group has shared deep friendships and the everyday struggles and joys of life as disciples of Christ.

Fr. Goraieb said COTL helps people develop a personal relationship with Christ and also teaches them how to be in relationship with others. Basic skills like how to honor and respect and how to ask for forgiveness are some of the lessons imparted, lessons Fr. Goraieb said aren’t taught at the parish level. He also pointed to the sacrament of marriage.

“The community has been very strongly invested in developing a way of life for families so that marriages can be strengthened,” Fr. Goraieb said. “The percentage of successful marriages is way above the norm.”

Fr. Goraieb celebrates Mass for the community from time to time, as does Fr. Menegay.

“Definitely when I was experiencing my call to the priesthood, my involvement with the prayer meeting and Bible study helped me listen to the Lord,” Fr. Menegay said.

Auxiliary Bishop Eduardo A. Nevares of the Diocese of Phoenix lauded COTL as “inspiring” and “awesome.”

“What binds them together is their prayer and their love for the Holy Spirit,” Bishop Nevares said. “They are just committed Catholic families, committed to God to the Holy Spirit, to the Catholic faith and to living it out in their daily life and doing whatever good work in the wider community.”