Christ Renews His Parish makes debut in diocese

By | April 30, 2009

CRHP has since spread to more than 1,000 parishes around the country, including four parishes in the Green Bay Diocese. An informational meeting for parishes interested in starting CRHP will be sponsored next month by the Green Bay Diocese.
“We’ve started something new that will be life-giving,” said Deb Wegner-Hohensee, of the diocesan stewardship and pastoral services department. “It transforms parishes.”
“St. Pius X (in Appleton) is such a big parish,” said Mary Beth Meehl, who served as spiritual director for the women’s CRHP retreat held there March 28-29. “It’s nice to have my 12 CRHP sisters – you go to Mass and you see them, and now you really know them. We support each other. It breaks down the bigness of the parish.”
Meehl was among the group of lay leaders from St. Pius, St. Thomas More (also in Appleton) and St. John the Baptist in Howard, who were trained as CRHP parish leaders this January at St. Norbert Abbey in De Pere by members of Stella Maris Parish in northern Door County.
Stella Maris was the first parish in the diocese to begin CHRP. Through weekend retreats, one each for men and women, and six months of meetings with fellow retreatants, participants explore their faith, share personal experiences, participate in the sacraments, deepen their relationships with Christ and discern personal calls to service and ministry. Parish retreats are held each spring and fall, with participants from earlier retreats serving as leaders. That is how Stella Maris members became the older siblings of the three parishes’ leaders.
“It was wonderful that I’ve had a chance to work with other teams,” said June Nirschl of Stella Maris, one of the leaders at the January retreat. “I just love the sense of building a community; that we are all in this together; that we are sharing this mystery we are part of in this life’s journey.”
Nirschl added that, while her own parish only began CRHP in November of 2007, “it seems like longer, it’s so intense and so much has been accomplished and so many people involved and growing. It’s just snowballing, and snowballing across the diocese.”
Deacon Rick Simon of St. Pius recalled how members of his parish attended the diocesan informational session last June, also presented by Stella Maris members.
“We wanted to be one of the first parishes,” he said. “We came back and came into the church parking lot and we were all so excited.” They immediately met their pastor, Fr. Tom Farrell, and his enthusiasm convinced him to offer St. Pius as a CRHP lead parish.
Each parish retreat follows a certain pattern:
• Leaders, who have been trained by another parish, conduct the first retreats.
• Men and women, about 12-30, make separate retreats. The men’s retreat precedes the women’s.
• The retreats are usually held at the parish, last overnight and include prayer experiences, reconciliation, Mass, witness talks and shared meals.
• Shortly after the retreat, an Evening of Discipleship sets the stage for the next six months of meetings for prayer and discernment.
• These months are also time for these men and women to prepare to lead for the next CRHP retreats – which become ongoing at the parish and are held in fall and spring.
Toni Beninzak was among those from St. Pius who were trained by Stella Maris and then led the women’s retreat on March 28-29. She is amazed at how CRHP draws people together.
“We didn’t have a whole lot of time to prepare,” she said. “I mean, you’re talking about a bunch of very strong minded perfectionists working together. And lo and behold, the Holy Spirit just pulled us together.”

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