Father Ron Rieder of Sts. Peter and Paul Church has retired from parish life after 33 years at the Huntington church.
A Capuchin Franciscan, Father Rieder was the longtime pastor of the stewardship parish of about 1,000 families. In a Jan. 20, 2016 article in Today’s Catholic, he said the parish is “well organized” and blessed with “good people.” He said he has enjoyed his time at the parish and loves it with his “whole heart and soul.”
A fruit of the spirit he found at Sts. Peter and Paul was the renovation of the Capuchin monastery in Huntington, the St. Felix Catholic Center. The campus is now a retreat center and home of a Franciscan Brothers Minor friary.
Other developments at the parish in recent years include a morale boost: Father Rieder has been a close friend and advisor to Matthew Kelly, an internationally known author and motivational Catholic speaker. Father Rieder brought Kelly to the diocese on many occasions, and the parish Jail Ministry Team used a Kelly book, “Beautiful Mercy,” in a series that studied the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.
The Holy Spirit has been manifested itself in other ways, too. From the Christ Renews His Parish group at Sts. Peter and Paul, three active, small faith communities formed several years ago. All three are generous with their time and other resources both within the parish and out in the Huntington community, and are quick to help raise fund for a variety of projects.
Speaking of funds, Father Rieder said the parish was in dire financial straits when he first was assigned there. The old and outdated buildings required renovation. He said that the challenge was to raise money while keeping the parish school open and paying the regular bills. God intervened, and through a series of unrelated events Father Rieder was able to come up with enough money to make the necessary repairs. It was a matter of trusting in God and pushing forward, even when times were hard, he said.
Just as the church building is composed of a physical structure, people are really at the core of Sts. Peter and Paul parish life. Father Rieder said he has high hopes for the future, and that “lay leaders will continue their work so that the parish runs itself.” There has been little turnover in parish administration over the years, something Father Rieder doesn’t take for granted.
As for the school, Father Rieder is just as bullish on its future. A new principal was recently hired, Derek Boone, whom he feels will “turn things around and make the school thrive again.”
Father Rieder has plans to retire at a home for religious in Appleton, Wis. He’s hoping to do some parish work nearby, but has no plans to lose contact with the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend. He said he’s been in five dioceses in his 54 years of priesthood, and this one has been the most outstanding, in terms of fraternity and camaraderie. “It has been a joy and privilege to serve on diocesan committees and boards,” he said.
That feeling is mutual. Father Rieder touched the lives of many at the parish, especially those with whom he worked closely.
“Father Ron has been very interesting to work for, for the last 17 years,” said Kelly Jennings, the parish office’s longtime secretary. “He is a magnificent speaker. He has been very involved with the community. He has wit that makes us laugh. He will be greatly missed.”
It’s a sentiment echoed by Ralph Johnson, who has been a parishioner of Sts. Peter and Paul most of his life. Johnson served on several parish boards under Father Rieder, and the two became friends.
Johnson recalled hearing, more than a few times, stories told by Father Rieder of the miracles of healing attributed to another Huntington-based Capuchin, Father Solanus Casey. He also noted that Father Rieder pastored not just the faith community of Sts. Peter and Paul, but the community as well.
“He used to be the chaplain for the fire department and police, and a good friend of the mayor’s. We have a festival every summer here, remembering our Indian heritage, and I think he was even selected to be chief of the festival one year,” Johnson said. “He’s going to be awfully hard to replace in people’s hearts, I think.”
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