Parish renewal process gains momentum

By | February 8, 2012

“CRHP brings people together and builds relationships,” she said. “It’s about building relationships with one another in your faith community, to create a network of friends who you can openly and confidentially, without reserve, share your faith. You become each other’s Catholic Christian brothers and sisters and companions on your faith journeys.”


Women from St. John the Baptist Parish in Howard take part in a Christ Renews His Parish retreat weekend last fall. The renewal process, better known as CRHP, has been successful in building community within parishes. The Bishop’s Appeal provides funding to diocesan leaders who help parishes launch the renewal process. (Josh Diedrich | For The Compass)


Holloway added that this renewal process is for all adults in the parish. Ages of CRHP participants at St. John the Baptist have ranged from 19 to 94.

“It’s for people on all different paths, all different stages of their spirituality,” she explained. “It encourages people to grow and renew their faith with God wherever they may be on their faith journey. You don’t come into the weekend saying, ‘Oh, my goodness, they are so much more spiritual than I am.’ Each of us has our own spirituality and we are at different places along that way.”

Marc Fry, a member of St. John the Baptist, said that a quest to learn more about his faith spurred him to make a CRHP weekend. Fry joined the Catholic Church in 2006 through the RCIA program.

“I felt like I needed to make the next step,” he said. “I had more questions than answers. RCIA educated me about the faith, but I had a yearning to learn more. I was looking for an opportunity. I came with an open mind and it was phenomenal.”

“CRHP creates much more engaged parishioners,” said Deb Wegner-Hohensee, diocesan parish planning director for Stewardship and Pastoral Services. Her office receives funding from the Bishop’s Appeal to help parishes launch the renewal process.

“A number of ministries have started because of (CHRP),” she said. “Bible study groups have been formed. At Stella Maris Parish (Door County), the men’s group (which grew out of CRHP) still meets every two weeks.”

Fry’s CRHP experience has led to more faith exploration. He recently took part in “A Biblical Walk Through the Mass” at the parish.

“(CRHP) was a rewarding experience, one that opens more doors for me,” he said. “It was very personal and also very impactful. When I go to church now, it’s a different experience. I feel that I know people on a different level.”

“After receiving a CRHP weekend, the hope is to come back a different parishioner,” said Holloway. “You receive CRHP in your parish and you come back to your parish. You already have that network of other Catholic Christians with whom you can share. You immediately have that bond. People build off of that. They know each other in the pew. They may have been familiar with one another, but now they know them and have that bond of sharing their faith together. When you build relationships, you build your church and your community.”2012-Bishops-Appeal-Logo-Colorweb2

CRHP weekends started in the diocese in 2008, but its origin dates back to 1969 in Cleveland, Ohio. The renewal process is now in 36 states and six countries.

St. John the Baptist was among the first parishes in the diocese to become involved in CRHP, along with Stella Maris, and St. Pius X and St. Thomas More, Appleton. Holloway credits the support of Fr. John Bergstadt, pastor, and the pastoral staff for the success of CRHP at the parish. Ninety-six men and 127 women have made CRHP weekends at St. John the Baptist over the past three years.

Men and women who make the CRHP retreats take part in an evening of discipleship shortly after their weekend experience. The evening sets in motion preparation for these men and women to lead the next CRHP retreats, but they are not required to continue. The team formation process brings the CRHP experience full circle. Positions on the leadership team include spiritual director, lay director, kitchen coordinators and witnesses, among others.

Holy Cross and St. Katharine Drexel of Kaukauna are the two most recent parishes to offer CRHP weekends in the diocese, said Wegner-Hohensee. She explained that some parishes are too small to offer the renewal process on their own, but combining with a nearby parish community is an option. Organizers recommend that a parish have at least 500 families.

Wegner-Hohensee added that her work with CRHP is among the most rewarding.

“I get these wonderful phone calls from people telling me that they’ve built relationships that are so close and the common bond is God,” she said. “People share that, when they finish the weekend, they feel so close to God that they want to go back and pray. I tell people that this is my dessert, being able to work with something that is so special.”

Holloway, who coordinates the CRHP weekends at St. John the Baptist along with the pastoral staff, said one of the benefits of her position is witnessing a deepened faith in the parishioners who make the retreats.

“I see how every team brings out their faith in unique ways,” she said. “I see people grow during the team formation process. That’s when they start building a small Christian community.”

For those who decide to make a CRHP weekend, Holloway offers a suggestion.

“Come in with no expectations and let it happen for you,” she said. “So many times you go in thinking ‘this is what I want to get out of it,’ and then you’re disappointed when that may not happen. Sit back and allow the team to lead you and let it flow. You have different people witnessing, different personalities and different spiritualities, and the Spirit of God working through the team and in you.”

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