27 January 2010

Christopher Rengers, OFM Cap., 1917-2010

Fr. Christopher Rengers, OFM Cap, died on Monday, January 25, 2010, at Vincentian Home in Pittsburgh, PA. He was 92.

Fr. Christopher was a noted confessor, spiritual mentor and author. His intense devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Joseph was legendary. Many regarded Fr. Christopher a saintly Capuchin friar and priest.

He was born on March 9, 1917, to Bernard and Elizabeth (Thinnes) Rengers in Pittsburgh, PA. He was baptized at St. Joseph Church in Bloomfield (Pittsburgh).

Fr. Christopher is survived by his brother, Gerard Rengers, of Evans City, PA. He also leaves many nephews and nieces to mourn his passing.

He entered St. Fidelis Seminary in Herman, PA, in 1930. Fr. Christopher entered the Capuchin Order in 1936 and professed his first vows as a friar on July 14, 1937. He made his solemn profession three years later. Fr. Christopher was ordained to the priesthood on May 28, 1942.

Father’s advanced education included philosophy studies at St. Fidelis Friary in Victoria, KS, theology at Capuchin College in Washington, DC, and a Master's degree in history at St. Louis University in St. Louis, MO.

Fr. Christopher authored numerous published works, including two Lenten books, a biography of Jacinto Marto (one of the three children who were blessed to encounter the Blessed Virgin Mary at Fatima), The Stations of the Cross for the Elderly, and a very popular book, The Thirty-Three Doctors of the Church. He authored many articles that appeared in various periodicals. Even until a few days before his death, Fr. Christopher worked on various scholarly and devotional projects.

His first priestly assignment was as chaplain at Visitation Academy in St. Louis, MO, from 1943 to 1945. His next appointment was teaching at St. Joseph Military Academy in Hays, KS, and served as pastor of St. Severin Church near Hays. Fr. Christopher was transferred to Herndon, KS, as parochial vicar of St. Patrick Church in Tully, KS, and chaplain for Atwood Hospital in Atwood, KS.

In 1950 Fr. Christopher was assigned to St. Joseph Parish in Dover, OH, and in 1951 became pastor of St. Patrick Church in Mineral City, OH. His ministry in Ohio ended in 1959.

For the next sixteen years, Fr. Christopher labored at St. Charles Borromeo Church in St. Louis. He began his ministry in St. Louis as the Capuchin friars’ promoter of vocations. In addition to his regular duties, Fr. Christopher helped the poor, elderly, immigrants and mentally disabled. He founded The Capuchin Troupe, a group of amateur actors who performed Fr. Christopher’s dramatic versions of the Passion of Christ and Our Lady of Guadalupe; The Troupe performed in many parishes in Missouri and Illinois. In St. Louis Father also began in earnest his ministry to promote devotion to St. Joseph, designing and promoting the St. Joseph Medal.

In 1975 Father Christopher was transferred to Capuchin College in Washington, DC. In addition to his on-going projects, in the nation’s capital Fr. Christopher founded the Queen of the Americas Guild, dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe. Twice each year he headed a pilgrimage to Mexico City and the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Father Christopher was concerned about many social issues, including the right to life of the unborn. On January 21,1977, the night before the March for Life in Washington, DC, he celebrated an evening Mass in the crypt church of the Basilica of the National Shrine. After Mass Fr. Christopher and his small group of worshippers maintained a night-long vigil. That unnoticed beginning has become a nationally televised Mass in the upper church of the Basilica, featuring Cardinals, bishops, priests, religious and a over-flow congregation. The all-night vigil is carried on by thousands of young people from around the country.

At the age of 87 Father Christopher’s health necessitated close medical attention; he was assigned to St. Augustine Friary in Pittsburgh in 2004. Four years later he took up residence at Vincentian Home, where he died.