HOT SPRINGS — Dr. Ronda Chervin has her retirement years planned out.
Instead of sitting quietly on the shores of Lake Hamilton, she wants to spend her time showing others that accepting Jesus is the resolution for anger, rejection and grief.
Chervin, an internationally known author and Catholic philosopher, moved in August from Connecticut to Hot Springs to live with her granddaughter and her husband, Jenny and Sean Hurt.
She said she would like to spend the extra time she has in retirement helping and teaching others how a strong relationship with Jesus Christ will impact and improve their lives.
Chervin is co-leading a Lenten series at her new parish, the Church of St. John the Baptist, that is based partly on the book she co-authored, “Escaping Anxiety: Along the Road to Spiritual Joy.” She said she would enjoy providing similar workshops based upon her life’s work at other parishes in Arkansas. Chervin has written 66 books and edited many more.
“In a lot of my books, I used personal examples in order to show people how God can help them get through negative emotions,” Chervin said.
The book “Escaping Anxiety” is based upon how her co-author Albert E. Hughes, a retired U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel, became her spiritual director to help her eliminate her own anxiety.
She said Deacon Robert Wanless, whom she met at St. John’s, believed her story needed to be told to others and urged her to begin the Sunday morning series.
“He noticed I was anxious,” she said. “He said I should do a series.”
By being more involved and working with people during the workshop, she does not dwell on her own problems.
Chervin’s 81-year life has been filled with mixed emotions. She was born in New York to unmarried parents with Jewish backgrounds and were second-generation atheists.
“God was as real to us as an elf,” she said about her atheist upbringing. “We were brought up that only stupid and weak people were religious.”
She said she began her studies in philosophy at Fordham University to find the truth. She was able to discover God through her mentor, prominent Catholic philosopher and theologian Dietrich R. von Hildebrand.
Christ became real to her during her travels to Europe while she was studying Catholic art. She said she experienced “seven miracles,” which delivered her to Christ.
She was 21 years old when she converted to Catholicism.
Chervin, who has a doctorate in philosophy from Fordham University, quickly met a major challenge to her faith when she fell in love with Martin Chervin, a writer and book salesman who was a divorced atheist and 20 years older than she. The couple spent three years attempting to receive permission to marry in the Church. She had to make a choice after she was told an annulment of his marriage was impossible.
Chervin, who has taught at Loyola Marymount University and Franciscan University of Steubenville, wrote in “Why I Am Still Catholic” that she prayed because Christ appeared to ask her to choose between her fiancé and the Church.
“I choose you, Jesus,” she said.
Three weeks later the diocesan tribunal approved the dispensation that allowed them to get married. Her husband eventually converted to Catholicism when he was 68.
Chervin, who attends Mass daily, said she turns to prayer and to Jesus Christ during times of joy and turmoil, including during the births of her three children, as well as the death of her husband and the suicide of her son, Charles.
She now describes herself as a “dedicated widow” where she lives her life dedicated to Jesus Christ and the Church. She said she dresses frugally so she can save her money to give to the poor.
“A dedicated widow makes a private promise not to remarry, but to take Jesus as her second bridegroom and to live with Jesus and the Church.”
Chervin may be contacted at .
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