By Bishop Michael Rinehart

Recently, Via de Cristo held their national gathering at Texas Lutheran University. Via de Cristo (“The Way of Christ,” in Spanish) began with Cursillo in the 1940’s, a lay and clergy movement to renew the church in Spain. It moved to the U.S. in the 1950’s. The methodology was through weekend retreats. In 1971, Lutherans attended and became interested in the movement. VIA de CRISTO is the Lutheran expression of this method which is currently being used in many denominations including: Episcopal, Methodist, Presbyterian, and Reformed churches.

Via de Cristo weekends focus on the person and teachings of Christ. Participants in the Thursday-Sunday retreat live, eat, worship, study, and commune daily. There are 14 ”talks” during the retreat. You can only be a participant in one retreat, but former participants can help lead retreats for others afterwards.

The national VDC organization is set up in seven U.S. regions. Regions are divided into secretariats. John Aclin is the VDC National President. Janet Winge is Vice President. You can learn more at the national website: https://viadecristo.org.

Gulf Coast Synod Pastor Cynthia Forde started the first Lutheran Via de Cristo in Texas in January 6, 1986. Somewhere around 2000, I did my first walk: a Walk to Emmaus retreat. Keith Casey, a member of Grace in Conroe invited me. Walk to Emmaus has a similar 72-hour retreat, a pause in the busyness of life to step away and renew one’s faith life.

Jesus said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.

~ Mark 6:31

In 2018, Texas Gulf Coast Via de Cristo was formed. Before that, there were North Texas and South Texas secretariat. You can learn more about the Gulf Coast secretariat at their website: https://www.tgcvdc.org. Here are some of the leaders of the Texas Gulf Coast secretariat:

  • Lay Director – Janet Crouch, Cameron, Texas
  • Secretary and Music Director – Tracy Baker, New Ulm, Texas
  • Treasurer – Debbie Winkelmann, Houston, Texas
  • Spiritual Director – Pastor Sue Beall, Bryan, Texas
  • Spiritual Director – Pastor Elaine Gomulka, College Station, Texas
  • Operations Coordinator – Jay Beckhusen, Buckhoktz, Texas
  • Outreach Coordinator – Kent Frappier, Conroe, Texas
  • Newsletter Editor – Kathy Chiasson, Houston, Texas
  • Leadership/Training Coordinator – Pam Milner, Caldwell, Texas
  • Registrar – Martha Steele, Cypress, Texas
  • At-large Director #1 and Palanca Coordinator – Judy Frappier, Conroe
  • At-large Director #2 – Kathy Chiasson, Houston

In February of 2020, just before the COVID pandemic hit, the three Texas Via de Cristo secretariats held a “weekend” for clergy, to introduce them to the retreat and give them the experience and time away. Because pastors work weekends, this event was held in the middle of the week. Eight pastors attended at no cost. Pastor Sue Beall served as spiritual director.Some of the participants and leaders in the 2020 clergy retreat.

Some of the participants and leaders in the 2020 clergy retreat.

A few weeks ago, the Via de Cristo Annual National Gathering was held at Texas Lutheran University, Thursday-Sunday, July 21-24, 2022. I was able to be with them Thursday and Friday, preaching at opening worship and participating in a panel discussion on spiritual direction. It has been several years since they have met, having been postponed due to the pandemic. There were 120 people present from around the country. Some were Methodists and some Episcopalians. Janet Winge gave leadership from the national level, but the Texas secretariats did much of the planning.

Pastor Sue Beall was spiritual director. Pastor Elaine Gomulka (Our Savior’s College Station) preached and provided other leadership. Pastor Lemae Higgs was part of the planning team. Suzanne and Larry Bathe were involved. Tracy Baker from St. Paul Columbus led music. Others as well. A number of pictures below tell the story.

We thank them for their heartfelt love for the church and commitment to spiritual renewal.