Promoters say CRHP transforms parishes

By | May 7, 2009

An informational meeting for parishes interested in starting CRHP will be sponsored next month by the Green Bay Diocese.

Each parish retreat follows a certain pattern of leader retreats, followed by separate retreats for men and then women at the parish.

Locally, the format varies. For example, while the norm is to have the CRHP men clean and cook for the women, and vice-versa, at St. Pius, the men wore tuxedos to serve the women’s Saturday dinner. And the women transformed the church’s lower level into “Hotel St. Pius” for the men. At St. Thomas More, a culinary arts student volunteered to cook all the meals for the women’s retreat on March 21-22.

The CRHP effect can be seen almost immediately.

“We use the term ‘people on fire,'” said Deacon Craig Merrick, the spiritual director for the men’s March 14-15 retreat at St. Thomas More. “And it’s unreal how it’s touching the parish.”

What happens after the retreat – where members naturally begin to call each other “Brother” or “Sister” – is ongoing faith sharing. And in that time, “the Pentecost moment” happens. It can be formally scheduled, but it can also happen all on its own.

“(Pentecost) is where we recognize our gifts, talents, the call of God and where we belong,” explained Deacon Merrick, whose wife, Connie, was spiritual director for the women’s CRHP at St. Thomas More. “Of course, we encourage them to go on with CRHP, but also to look at getting into new parish ministries. It’s an opportunity in our parish and community for spiritual growth.”

At St. John in Howard, the first CRHP weekends will be May 16-17 for men and May 30-31 for women. Pastoral associate Marge Schiffer said, “People who went through training are so enthused. Somebody has arranged for cots from the YMCA, and others for donations for the costs of food and whatever. There’s a lot of energy and enthusiasm from the team and people at the parish see that.”

Jerry Mader, a leader for the men’s retreat at St. John, has been involved with CRHP before. His father took part in CRHP in 1975 in Cincinnati. Mader, himself, entered CRHP there in 1997. When he heard the Green Bay Diocese was starting CRHP, he jumped at the chance to volunteer at his parish.

“The beautiful thing about CRHP, from a male perspective,” Mader said, “is that for guys like me, we go to Mass every Sunday, give a nod to familiar faces, but really don’t know the names. Through a CRHP, you intimately get to know these guys, hear their stories, hear how they were brought up in the faith or how they converted.”

Mader calls it “getting bit by the CRHP bug” and has seen it transform a parish.

“Once CRHP takes over in a parish – lots of the other challenges (like volunteerism, financial concerns) in a parish seem to go away,” Mader said.

Up in Door County, Stella Maris parishioners are preparing for their fourth set of CRHP retreats this fall. Lee LeVoy, the parish spiritual renewal director, was instrumental in bringing CRHP there. She sees how it has drawn together a parish that covers a geographic area of more than 40 miles, from Washington Island to Jacksonport.

“We don’t have the numbers that St. Pius has, but we have a big diversity in our geography and our worship sites,” she said. “So it’s helping us and giving us a new spirit – we have a very strong bond.”

Deacon Simon at St. Pius agrees. “We’re building parish community,” he said. “These 12 other guys I went through this with, we are brothers in Christ. We call each other ‘Brother Rick’ or ‘Brother Tom,’ because of the depth of sharing and the depth of love.”

For more information on CHRP, call Deb Wegner-Hohensee at (920)272-8286; or toll-free at 1-877-500-3580, ext. 8286.

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