Archbishop Gerety Turns 100!
Many Blessings on "the Father of RENEW"

On July 19, 2012, Newark’s Archbishop Emeritus Peter Leo Gerety turned 100 years of age. He has lived through 18 Presidents, two World Wars, and nine Popes. He is currently the oldest Catholic Archbishop and the sixth oldest bishop in the world, and the oldest bishop in the U.S. and Canada.

At RENEW International, he is affectionately known as "The Father of RENEW" as RENEW grew out of his vision for a spiritual renewal process for the Archdiocese of Newark.

RENEW's current President & Executive Director, Sr. Theresa Rickard, OP, reflected on the early days of RENEW for The Catholic Advocate, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Newark.


Archbishop Gerety at RENEW gala
Archbishop Gerety had an early birthday celebration
at RENEW's June dinner gala.

    In our prayer at RENEW International, we frequently thank God for those who have gone before us. We stand on the shoulders of giants.

    Every staff member, every freelance writer and designer, every volunteer, every trustee, every donor who have built RENEW into the invigorating influence it is in the Church today.

    But if one name comes first in our thanksgiving, it is the name of Archbishop Peter L. Gerety of Newark, aptly called “the father of RENEW.’’

    In the wake of the Second Vatican Council, Archbishop Gerety was eager for the archdiocese to undertake a formation process of spiritual renewal that would inspire Catholic men and women to act on their faith through works of charity and justice.

    This coincided with the vision of Father Thomas Kleissler and Father Thomas Ivory, who were working at the chancery, for a diocese-wide program of parish renewal focused on the faith formation of the laity, through the vehicle of small Christian communities. The idea was unprecedented in its scope and the archbishop heartily endorsed it.

    On September 26, 1976, Fathers Kleissler and Ivory, along with 60 priests, religious, and lay leaders, brainstormed what this renewal process would entail. Twenty of those people continued to pray and work together for two years, giving birth to what has become known as RENEW.

    At that first meeting, Father Kleissler was appointed coordinator.

    Since the original process was launched in the Archdiocese of Newark in 1978, RENEW has reached 25 million people more than 200 dioceses across the U.S. and 23 other countries. At present, the organization, now known as RENEW International, is working in 40 dioceses and engaging more than 400,000 people in the United States, Canada, Latin America, and South Africa.

    This organization exists only because Archbishop Gerety endorsed the vision of Fathers Kleissler and Ivory from the beginning and supported RENEW as it grew.

    Father Kleissler —now monsignor—led RENEW as president until his retirement in 2009.

    “Archbishop Gerety is well named as the ‘father of RENEW,’ Father Tom said. “ It took a leader as tremendous as he is to see the profound possibilities this spiritual renewal effort could make in the lives of the people. He exercised his leadership to initiate a diocese-wide program totally different from what any other diocese had undertaken. I treasure my many years of working with him as well as my personal friendship with him.’’

    Msgr. Ivory pointed out that the mid-70s were not the most opportune time for the archbishop to devote his attention to this new undertaking. “What has always impressed me,” Msgr. Ivory said, “given the fiscal pressures in the diocese and the race riots in the cities, was that Archbishop Gerety still enthusiastically supported a spiritual renewal process to build up the people of God.”

    Msgr. Ivory said he was also impressed by the fact that under Archbishop Gerety’s leadership RENEW became a collaborative venture with all of the agencies and ministries in the archdiocese and almost all parishes involved.

    “He is a man of great vision,’’ Msgr. Ivory said, “and I share Tom Kleissler’s admiration of him and also value his friendship over the years.’’

    Archbishop Gerety’s leadership style had a broad impact, according to Sister Mary C. McGuinness, OP, who devoted three decades to leading small Christian community efforts and to writing and editing RENEW’s faith-sharing resources.

    “My admiration for Archbishop Gerety stems from first-hand experience,’’ Sister Mary said. “He believed in and promoted collegial processes within the diocese. Brilliant and deeply concerned for the growth and welfare of lay people, he was deeply respected by them.’’

    I became Executive Director of RENEW in 2006, long after Archbishop Gerety had retired, but I have been grateful for his continued support of RENEW’s work. All of us at RENEW International are especially gratified to have Archbishop Gerety offer the invocation at our annual Gala, including the event held this past June.

    Virtually every day in our work at RENEW, something reminds us that we are standing on a foundation made of the contributions of scores of men and women. First among them is Archbishop Peter L. Gerety.

    The whole RENEW family thanks Archbishop Gerety for all he has done and wishes him a happy and peaceful 100th birthday.

    Read more about Archbishop Gerety and RENEW on nj.com.