RENEW International's History
|Beginnings in Newark|
Inspired by the dreams of two priests, RENEW took root in the Archdiocese of Newark. In 1976, Monsignors Tom Kleissler and Tom Ivory realized that they shared the same vision for a renewed Church. With the blessing and encouragement of Archbishop Peter L. Gerety (now retired) they worked together on the fulfillment of this dream.
On September 26, 1976, sixty people gathered to brainstorm this spiritual renewal process called RENEW. The idea for RENEW grew out of a desire to implement in a very concrete manner the vision and pastoral direction of the Church that was endorsed and encouraged by Vatican Council II, particularly the following documents: the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium) and the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes).
RENEW's Expansion at Home and Abroad
From 1978 to 1980, the people of the Archdiocese of Newark enjoyed the spiritual growth and unity that this process engendered. Over forty thousand people in Newark, including those of 28 different languages and cultures, were involved in small groups. Other dioceses around the country began to hear about its success. The Dioceses of Steubenville, Ohio, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin, were among the first to invite Msgr. Tom Kleissler to speak to their leadership and to use the RENEW process.
In 1987, Dr. Irma Chávez opened the National Office of RENEW in El Salvador. She reached out to five dioceses and organized hundreds of thousands into small Christian communities. In a region ravaged by civil war and social disorder, these small Christian communities have done much to foster community, build faith, and improve social conditions. Today, Juan Ramón Córdova is the director of the office.
In 1996, Msgr. Tom Kleissler worked to develop a new process based on Pope John Paul II's Apostolic Letter, Tertio Millennio Adveniente, (As the Third Millennium Draws Near) and the United States Bishops' document, Go and Make Disciples. Drawing on themes from both documents, a 3-year RENEW 2000 process was created to prepare for the Great Jubilee Year. Over 50 dioceses (including 22 clusters of parishes) in the United States and Canada were involved.
Positive Reaction to RENEW's Work
In a report on the development of small Christian communities in the U.S., a research team identified RENEW as the “single most important factor in the broad-based move to establish” such communities on the parish level. The report, prepared by Professor William V. D'Antonio of the Catholic University of America, was issued by Loyola University Institute for Ministry in New Orleans.
Rev. Frank DeSiano, CSP, Provincial General of the Paulist Fathers and co-author of Go and Make Disciples, declared at an evangelization gathering in the Archdiocese of Newark on September 18, 1999, that “RENEW is one of the best ways to evangelize in our country today.” RENEW participants would enthusiastically agree. A 1999 survey conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) in Washington, D.C. revealed that over 90 percent cited spiritual growth, developing a greater sense of community, integration of faith into daily life, as well as an increased commitment to and appreciation of the Catholic Church as key outcomes of RENEW.
RENEW International continues its work of parish spiritual renewal and evangelization, creating the climate for God’s transforming grace in and among individuals, communities, and the world. RENEW International focuses on adult faith formation with its programs ARISE Together in Christ and Why Catholic?, and on young adult ministry with the programs Theology on Tap and Campus RENEW. RENEW International’s over 30 year record demonstrates service to over 25 million Catholics in college campuses, military bases, 13,000 parishes and 130 dioceses, as well as in 23 other countries.
These worldwide engagements include Australia, Belize, Burundi, Cameroon, Canada, El Salvador, England, Ghana, Guam, Honduras, India, Ireland, Lithuania, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Philippines, Republic of South Africa, Rwanda, Scotland, Slovakia, Uganda, and Venezuela.
Read more about RENEW International's Ministries