Joseph Robenhymer answers the call to service as a way of life

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NARRAGANSETT — For more than three decades Joseph Robenhymer has given of himself to serve as a Boy Scout leader; as Grand Knight of his local Knights of Columbus council credited with turning a nearly defunct chapter into one of the most vibrant in the state; pro-life March for Life coordinator; and organizer of several international Mustard Seed construction mission trips as well as local activities that help enhance the lives and well-being of the disabled.

He is also very involved in promoting priestly vocations, organizing a golf tournament which has raised thousands of dollars to support diocesan seminarians. He has also organized hikes encouraging young people and clergy to pray and experience nature.

A parishioner at St. Thomas More Parish in Narragansett, Joseph Robenhymer will receive the diocesan Lumen Gentium award in the category of Community Service and Charitable Outreach.

“Joe is an amazingly zealous, joyful and committed leader and motivator for the wider community,” said Father Marcel Taillon, pastor of St. Thomas More, in nominating his very active parishioner for the award. “Most of all, Joe loves Christ and his Church and is a joyful face of what the serving Church looks like,” he noted.

It was during his high school years at LaSalle Academy that Joseph Robenhymer began to make the strong connections between his Catholic faith and its mission in encouraging the faithful to be of service to their communities.

He describes those formative years as a turning point in his life, one in which he was quite moved by the structure and prayer that were a daily part of his education.

Robenhymer was so moved that he initially discerned a priestly vocation and entered the seminary. He studied with the La Salette Fathers for three years and was sent to work on the Christian Appalachian Project in Berea, Kentucky, where he put his faith into service on a daily basis.

There, he would meet his future wife, Loren, of Springfield, Massachusetts, who had embarked on a similar path, discerning a vocation with the Sisters of Charity, also known as the “Grey Nuns.”

At the end of the service project in 1976, Loren would return home and Robenhymer would stop for a bit in Philadelphia. He would go on to earn two bachelor’s degrees from Worcester State College, with a minor in Philosophy. By 1982, he and Loren would be married.

“The greatest gift I ever got from the Lord is my wife,” Robenhymer said.

He also earned a master’s degree in counseling psychology from Assumption College, and the couple would begin their journey together in Ashburnham, Massachusetts, where they lived when Matthew, the first of their “five beautiful children,” was born. When Robenhymer’s father became ill, the family moved to Narragansett to be closer to him. After about six or seven years working as a real estate broker he bought the sales and rentals business he was working for. It is now in its 33rd year in Narragansett. The family grew, adding children Michael, Nathan, Nicholas and Kathryn Ann. When Matthew was 7 and wanted to join the Tiger Cub Scouts, dad was right there to lend a hand to the troop.

“It started with a fishing trip,” he smiles, remembering those days when he served as a mentor to the youngsters. “I thoroughly enjoyed it.”

His boys did also. Three of them would go on to attain the highest rank of Eagle Scout. While his youngest son was involved with Scouting until about six or seven years ago, dad continues to serve as a Scout leader.

He leads the group on canoe trips along the Allagash River in northern Maine, where they also hike and encounter the beauty of God’s presence in nature, and ensures that they attend Mass, even when they are away.

“For me, being in nature, I feel closer I am to the Lord,” he said.

Robenhymer said he also enjoys volunteering with Perspectives Corporation, a North Kingstown organization which provides support to people with disabilities.

He especially enjoys seeing the smiles on the faces of clients when he takes them bowling in Wakefield.

“It’s just a joy that we can bring to them,” he said. “It’s the little things that we do — a gentle touch, a praise, it makes a huge difference. It’s Christ working through all of us to be able to do these things in our community.”