People gather for 40th Cristo Rey Fiesta, celebrate pastor

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LANSING, MI (WILX) -- Thousands of people gathered this weekend in Lansing for the 40th annual Cristo Rey Fiesta.

The event is held each year since 1979 to raise money for the church, food bank, family outreach and more. But this year was extra special for some as the church celebrated the retirement of a beloved pastor.

"Well, really it's been such a tremendous honor. There's a sense of family and community here and people really pulling together," Father Fred Thelen said.

Father Fred Thelen was at the fiesta celebrating his 26th year and his retirement. The pastor was ordained 38 years ago and spent most of his time at Cristo Rey, where others say he was a staple in the area.

"Well, you know he's not only been good to the church, he's been good to the community," Fiesta Coordinator Guillermo Z. Lopez said.

Lopez says that it will definitely be different without Father Thelen, especially with him being there for more than two decades. He says he was always trying to make the area better and helped out in any way he could.

"A lot of work with civil rights for immigrants and others. You know, education, food and he's just been involved with the community efforts as well."

Both tell say that they are excited with the direction the church is going and were happy to celebrate the occasion at the Fiesta.

"It's kind of bittersweet seeing him leave. But the change is going to be OK. We're positive about it. We're happy for him," Lopez said.

"It's just been a deep honor, and a privilege to serve. It's very emotional to be leaving but as I tell people, I'm sure I'll be back for visits." Father Thelen said.

The church said that they will have a retirement party for the pastor in early June. Sunday was the last day of the Fiesta, which is open until 7:00 p.m.

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