Fr. Christopher Riehl, administrator of St. John the Evangelist Church in Waynesville, North Carolina, resigned his position June 2. Riehl was the subject of a National Catholic Reporter article on how his traditionalist approach to ministry over the past three years alienated much of his congregation, with hundreds writing to Bishop Peter Jugis of the Charlotte Diocese to press for his removal. The group also objected to Riehl's failure to show up for some parish liturgies. Here is the NCR story from March, reporting on a group of parishioners who celebrated Mass separate from the parish church, with some calling themselves St. John's Church in Exile.
The Charlotte Observer reports on the new development: In a letter to the parish, Riehl said "I have found that I am worn out or burned out and for my own well-being need to take a sabbatical."
Carol Viau, a parishioner and leader in the group opposed to how Fr. Riehl administered the parish, told NCR that the resignation doesn't address the governance and liturgical issues that split the parish. "We are disappointed that we did not receive a formal response from Bishop Jugis on the serious issues raised by our group of St. John's parishioners. We are waiting to see what happens, now that Fr. Riehl has resigned. All of us are praying for healing in the parish and for Fr. Riehl's well-being," she said in a statement.
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[Peter Feuerherd is a correspondent for NCR's Field Hospital series on parish life and is a professor of journalism at St. John's University, New York.]
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