Reunion of RENEW's Founders

During a recent reunion with the founders of RENEW International, Fr. Cassian Yuhaus, C.P., had the opportunity to reflect upon and thank God for the “momentous moment” when the dream of RENEW International began.

Present at that reunion were Msgr. Thomas A. Kleissler, co-founder and President Emeritus of RENEW International, Msgr. Thomas Ivory, also a co-founder and Pastor Emeritus of the Church of the Presentation, as well as Archbishop Peter L. Gerety, retired Archbishop of Newark, and Fr. Yuhaus. The occasion was a gathering to celebrate Archbishop Gerety’s 98th birthday. In addition to being the oldest living bishop in the United States, Archbishop Gerety has frequently been termed the “Founding Father” of RENEW International because of his vision, leadership and support during the early years of RENEW as a process of spiritual renewal for parishes in Archdiocese of Newark and beyond.

At the time of RENEW’s establishment, Fr. Cassian Yuhaus, served as president of the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA). CARA is a national, non-profit, Georgetown University-affiliated research center that conducts social scientific studies about the Catholic Church.

Fr. Cassian’s reflection follows. Read more about RENEW International at Our History.

A Momentous Moment
    June 2010, Rutherford, NJ-- It was indeed a momentous moment. A moment filled with happy remembrances of a program that began so quietly but so efficaciously more than 40 years ago. It was an invigorating moment to recall the happy beginnings of a journey that has circled the world and goes on and on.

    We recall those joyful and challenging initiative days. Archbishop Leo Peter Gerety, D.D. was in the process of reorganizing the great Diocese of Newark. He was working with a reorganized Senate of the Priests. He expressed a desire to initiate a programToday we acknowledge that the patience, the challenge, the encouragement and the support of His Excellency made RENEW a reality. We regard him as the true Founder of RENEW. But, he was very exacting; once the whole package was put together he sent it to Washington and to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) of which I was the president. With my staff I carefully analyzed the entire program from beginning to end and follow through. We were very harsh and demanding. We developed 13 reasons why RENEW as presented to us could not fly; and I was flying to Rome for a long meeting when Monsignor Kleissler and Monsignor Ivory asked me to meet with them without further delay. I recall that urgent meeting in the conference room at LaGuardia Airport. Monsignor Kleissler and Monsignor Ivory and their staff replied to every one of the 13 objections. RENEW took wing. that would benefit all the people and engage them in a more effective evangelization.

    At an early meeting of the Senate a quiet proposal was made by Monsignor Thomas Ivory and Monsignor Thomas Kleissler. The Archbishop encouraged this initiative and urged its sponsors to develop it as completely as possible. He insisted that the program be implementable and engage the entire Archdiocese.

    But before launching the program for the entire archdiocese, the Archbishop welcomed a pilot program for testing every aspect of RENEW. He assigned to us six parishes: two very, very poor parishes with minorities; two middle class parishes; and two more affluent parishes. RENEW was given a very, very severe testing for six months; experiencing the entire program with its four seasons. Adjustments were made. RENEW took on life. That vitality was seen dramatically for the grand opening in the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart with every parish represented and actively participating. RENEW took off, we were amazed at the immediate, spontaneous and joyful response. This great program spread rapidly throughout the United States, diocese after diocese, and then well beyond our country to Europe, to Africa, and to Asia.

    It was indeed a momentous meeting with the Archbishop on the occasion of his 98th birthday. Monsignor Kleissler, Monsignor Ivory and I, myself, thanked God again and again for that first meeting when we had a dream. THE DREAM OF RENEW, NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL.

    We all agreed that the key to the success of this program was in the small group meetings, organized in every diocese. In every diocese thousands and thousands of people would meet regularly to give leadership and continuous support to this excellent tool for renewal and evangelization.

    It was a momentous moment when it all began. It is a momentous moment today.

    Rev. Cassian Yuhaus, C. P.
    Executive Director H.E.D.
    Research and Consultancy