May 12, 2006

Evangelization Supplement

Christ Renews His Parish reconnects
St. Barnabas parishioner to faith

By Sean Gallagher

In 1998, Russell Dias felt that he wasn’t being fed in his life of faith.

A member of St. Barnabas Parish in Indianapolis since 1979, Dias was on the verge of splitting his time between his parish and churches of other denominations.

But then he got a phone call from a friend who invited him to participate in a Christ Renews His Parish (CRHP) renewal weekend.

Nothing has been the same since for Dias, who said the weekend helped him “reconnect” to the Church and to Christ.

“Christ was there,” he said. “He was always there. It was me who wasn’t there. And so I reconnected.”

Dias has now gone from drifting away from his parish to being firmly planted in its heart.

In the years following his CRHP experience, Dias has launched a “Bob Evans Ministry” in which as many as a dozen men gather at 6 a.m. every Friday at a Bob Evans restaurant on Indianapolis’ south side to discuss the upcoming Sunday Mass readings and support each other in their lives of faith.

He has helped establish small Church communities at St. Barnabas. And Dias and his wife, Judith, are helping to lead the parish’s marriage preparation program.

“Russ has certainly done a lot,” said Father James Farrell, pastor of St. Barnabas Parish. “He’s taken that renewed faith that came to him through the Christ Renews process, and just let it shape his life and let it shape his participation in the parish.”

But, Judith Dias said, CRHP has helped her husband at a more fundamental level. It helped him to evangelize.

“He’s not afraid to witness for his faith, and I’m not either,” said Judith Dias, who participated in CRHP several months after her husband did. “We’re not afraid to pray with people and to pray for people, and to find out where they are in their life.”

But it was not always this way. Shortly after completing his CRHP weekend, Russell Dias, who owns his food brokerage company, was having lunch with executives from Kroger.

He was wearing a bracelet with the letters “WWJD” that he received during the weekend.

When asked by his customers what those letters stood for, he thought for a moment and said jokingly, “Well, for me, it’s three choices. What would Jesus do? What would Judith do? And what would Judas do?”

“And so we laughed,” Dias said. “When I left that lunch, I thought, ‘You’re never going to do that again because that was denial. You made this wonderful weekend. And you could not confront them that you were a Christian. You couldn’t do it.’ ”

Now, when asked about his bracelet—which Dias still wears—he doesn’t fall back on wit. He simply tells it like it is.

“Now I say, ‘Well, it’s “What would Jesus do?” ’ And I let it go at that,” Dias said. “The other way is humorous and people will laugh at it, but that’s denial.”

Judith Dias said CRHP has also transformed the way that her husband relates to other people, both within his family and in the broader community.

“He was always very loving to me,” she said. “But he always had a lot of anger inside of him. And he would get upset at the drop of a hat.”

Russell Dias attributed that simmering anger to his relationship with his father, who had suffered from alcoholism.

Instead of having anger color his life, Dias now finds meaning in love.

“We get a tank full of love at birth,” Dias said. “It’s more than enough for a lifetime. And [Christ] only asks two things—that we share that love with others and that we love him back.

“It’s pretty simple. We’re the ones that complicate it.”

CRHP helped reconnect Russell Dias to himself, his family, the Church and Christ.

Now that CHRP recently celebrated its 10th anniversary at St. Barnabas, Father Farrell would like to see it reconnect young adults.

“We see a lot of young adults in their 20s and early 30s who kind of drift away for a while until maybe they get married and have a child that’s ready for first Communion,” he said. “And what I’m hoping is that if we can get more young people involved in Christ Renews His Parish, they won’t have to go through that period of estrangement. They’ll be connected early on.”

But no matter what their age is, Dias said that there are scores of other Catholics like him who are disconnected from the Church, people that could benefit from CRHP.

“There are thousands out there like [me],” he said. “It doesn’t have anything to do with the fact that they’re Catholic. It has to do with [the fact that] they’re not connected. We have to connect them.” †


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