St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church welcomes Fr. Riehl
The flock at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church and has a new shepherd. Fr. Christopher Riehl, 36, was assigned to the church three weeks ago and is settling in to his duties in Waynesville.
Originally from Michigan, Riehl went to high school in Jefferson County, Tennessee, and attended Walters State Community College in Morristown, Tennessee.
He had maintained his strong faith during his college years.
“I never fell away from the faith,” said Riehl. “A lot of people when they go to college quit practicing, and by the time they get married and/or have kids, they tend to come back. But I never left. I never quit going.”
It was during the summer between his junior and senior year of college that he felt the call to join the priesthood.
“Over time, the idea of the priesthood started to come to me,” said Riehl. “I didn’t think about it growing up. Just, over time, I got to thinking about it and the Lord really put it on my heart.”
Having always wanted to help people, Riehl’s original goal was to become a paralegal and go to law school.
“For some people, it’s totally different being a lawyer and being a priest,” said Riehl. “But for me, the general goal of dedicating my life to helping people is the same.”
After finishing his degree at Walters State, he attended Conception Seminary College in Seminary, Missouri, a small town that “didn’t even have a gas station.”
After four years of seminary, he was assigned to Sacred Heart Cathedral in Knoxville, then to a parish in Oakridge, Tennessee, and finally to another parish in Knoxville before he asked and received permission to go to Charlotte.
“One of my friends, a classmate of mine, a priest of Charlotte, said that Charlotte was in need,” said Reihl. “There were a number of men who were retiring. And Knoxville was doing pretty well with priests.”
He served as parochial vicar at St. Thomas Aquinas, a Roman Catholic parish of the Diocese of Charlotte, for one year before he was assigned to St. John the Evangelist in Waynesville.
His greater vision for St. John — and its mission church, Immaculate Conception Church Catholic Church in Canton, that is too small to have a full-time priest on retainer — is the larger vision of the Catholic Church: to sanctify the people and for the people to then evangelize the world, specifically Waynesville and the greater Haywood County area.
Riehl has enjoyed his time in Haywood County so far, and even used to come down from Tennessee during his high school years to hike in Nantahala National Forest. He hopes to go hiking again once he gets settled.
Riehl conducts a weekday Mass at 9 a.m. Monday through Friday at St. John; Saturday Mass as 5:30 p.m. at St. John; Sunday Mass at 8:30 a.m. at Immaculate Conception and 11 a.m. at St. John; and a weekday Rosary at 8:30 a.m. at St. John. Confession is held from 4:30 to 5:15 p.m. Saturday at St. John and at 8 a.m. Sunday at Immaculate Conception. A Spanish Mass is held at 5 p.m. at St. John.
Even though he keeps a busy schedule, Riehl is pleased with his work.
“Being a priest is not a job; it’s a life,” he said.
St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church is located at 234 Church St., Waynesville, and Immaculate Conception Catholic Church is located at 42 Newfound Road, Canton.
Fr. Riehl can be reached at 456-6707 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.