by Joe Bollig
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The scandal of clerical sexual abuse continued to roil the Catholic Church in 2019, but many positive actions were taken by Pope Francis and the American bishops to more effectively address the crisis.
In January, Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann published the results of a review of archdiocesan records dating back more than 75 years, which yielded a list of those clergy who had substantiated claims of sexual abuse of minors made against them.
Pope Francis met with the presidents of the world’s bishops conferences in Rome from Feb. 21-24, out of which came the pope’s May 9 motu proprio “Vos estis lux mundi” (“You are the light of the world”).
In this worldwide response to clerical sexual abuse, the document called for better reporting systems, standards for pastoral support of victims and timely investigations. Bishops, too, would be held accountable for abuse of minors or vulnerable persons, as well as abuse of authority and cover-ups of abuse.
On June 13, the U.S. bishops approved a 10-point statement, “Affirming Our Episcopal Commitments,” at their general meeting in Baltimore. In part, the statement said that the requirements of the 2002 Dallas Charter dealing with clerical sexual abuse of minors would apply to bishops as well.
Despite the pall cast by the abuse crisis on the national stage, many positive — and indeed, celebratory — events took place in the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.
Nothing better demonstrated this than one of the biggest events in the history of the archdiocese: the “Enflame Our Hearts: Be Disciples, Make Disciples” convocation held Oct. 3-5 at the Overland Park Convention Center.
More than 1,500 archdiocesan Catholics representing every parish, as well as religious communities and ministries, attended the event. When it was over, the delegates returned to their parishes as “missionary disciples” to inspire and organize others to undertake the important duty to evangelize.
More positive news included six priestly ordinations and two transitional deacon ordinations for the archdiocese, the inauguration of a new ministry for African Catholics, new people assuming key positions in the archdiocesan chancery, parish anniversaries, more than 500 people entering the Catholic Church at Easter, Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas resettling some 400 refugees, and much more.
Although only a small part of archdiocesan life could be captured in the weekly 16 pages of The Leaven, the news showed a diverse, vital and vigorous Catholic community.
So, before we close the books on the old year, let’s take a look back at the people and events that comprised the life of the archdiocese in 2019.
• Neil and Fran Douthat, members of St. Ann Parish in Prairie Village, served as presidents of the 45th annual Snow Ball benefiting the Catholic Charities Foundation of Northeast Kansas, held on Jan. 19 at the Overland Park Convention Center. The event raised $3 million.
• Debra Niesen, a member of Holy Trinity Parish in Lenexa, was appointed lead consultant for the archdiocesan pro-life ministry.
• Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann blessed the new Holy Trinity Mausoleum in Mount Calvary Cemetery in Topeka on Jan. 12.
• Don and Julie Stratham, members of Sts. Peter and Paul Parish in Seneca, were appointed co-chairpersons of the Archbishop’s Call to Share campaign.
• The Catholic Spiritual Mentorship Program graduated 72, awarding certificates during a ceremony on Jan. 13 at Savior Pastoral Center in Kansas City, Kansas.
• A group of individuals in the Kansas City area launched Faith Walk, a Catholic website that offers accessibility to Catholic spiritual resources.
• Archdiocesan Catholics participated in the annual March for Life on Jan. 18 in Washington, D.C., and on Jan. 22 in Topeka.
• After a review of records going back more than 75 years, the archdiocese released in the Jan. 25 issue of The Leaven a list of clergy against whom substantiated claims of sexual abuse of minors had been made. Twenty-two substantiated cases of abuse were found out of 1,080 files examined.
• The annual “Support Our Seminarians” benefit for the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph and the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas was held on Jan. 25 at Union Station in Kansas City, Missouri.
• More than 300 youth from the archdiocese gathered on Jan. 26 at the SportingKC Event Center in Kansas City, Kansas, to listen to Pope Francis’ televised message from the 34th World Youth Day in Panama.
• Archbishop Naumann was the homilist at the archdiocesan World Marriage Day Mass on Feb. 10 at St. Therese Parish North in Parkville, Missouri.
• The Catholic Education Foundation’s Futures Art Event, held on Feb. 28 at the Boulevard Brewery in Kansas City, Missouri, raised $37,000 for the Futures’ Guardian Angel Fund.
• The Runnin’ Revs took on the Serra All-Stars in basketball games on March 4 at Bishop Miege High School in Roeland Park and on April 29 at Hayden High School in Topeka.
• Residents who live along the Missouri River, including some Catholic families, were affected by flooding in March and April. Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas, parishes and individuals participated in relief efforts.
• Sixty-eight residents and staff of the Legend Healthcare Facility took refuge on March 4 at Sacred Heart Parish in Tonganoxie when carbon monoxide levels spiked at the facility.
• More than 770 students from 23 schools in Wyandotte, Johnson and Miami counties attended a Fifth-Grade Vocations Day on March 5 at Ascension School and Parish in Overland Park.
• During a national tour, the incorrupt heart of St. John Vianney (the Curé of Ars) visited five locations in the archdiocese March 17 and 18.
• Archbishop Naumann blessed a new ultrasound machine on March 21 at the Olathe Pregnancy Clinic. It was one of about 1,000 machines given to clinics across the United States by the Knights of Columbus.
• The annual archdiocesan healing Mass was celebrated on March 23 at Curé of Ars Parish in Leawood.
• The groundbreaking pro-life movie “Unplanned” premiered in the archdiocese at various theaters on March 26-27 and March 29.
• Jenifer Valenti, former ombudsman for the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph since 2011, became the director of the office of child and youth protection for the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.
• The annual Men Under Construction men’s conference was held on April 6 at Ascension Parish in Overland Park.
• Bishop Ward High School in Kansas City, Kansas, honored 20-year baseball coaching legend Dennis Hurla by naming the diamond after him on April 12.
• Archbishop Emeritus James P. Keleher received the Saint Marian of the Year award from the University of Saint Mary in Leavenworth on April 13 at SpireFest, its annual scholarship gala.
• Archbishop Naumann and the other three bishops of Kansas decried an April 26 Kansas Supreme Court ruling that found a “right to abortion” in the 159-year-old Kansas Constitution. Through the Kansas Catholic Conference, the bishops launched an ecumenical effort to amend the Kansas Constitution to nullify this ruling and protect state pro-life laws.
• More than 300 candidates and 200 catechumens throughout the archdiocese became Catholic at the Easter Vigil, April 20. Earlier in March, they signaled their intentions during three separate Rites of Election.
• Archbishop Naumann led the blessing and groundbreaking on May 2 of a new academic building at Donnelly College in Kansas City, Kansas. It is part of a total transformation of the campus.
• Pope Francis’ motu proprio “Vos estis lux mundi” (“You are the light of the world”) was issued on May 9. The document established and clarified norms and procedures for bishops and religious superiors regarding the reporting of sexual abuse of minors, seminarians and members of religious orders.
• Archbishop Naumann ordained Deacon Anthony Mersmann and Deacon Travis Mecum to the transitional diaconate on May 18 at Holy Spirit Parish in Overland Park.
• Father Albert Hauser, 85, a monk of St. Benedict’s Abbey in Atchison, died on May 19 at the abbey.
• The Myanmar (Burmese) Catholic Community of Holy Family Parish in Kansas City, Kansas, celebrated its 10th anniversary on May 19 with a Mass and dinner.
• Archbishop Naumann ordained to the priesthood Father Colin Haganey, Father Mark Ostrowski, Father Kenn Clem, Father Nicholas Ashmore, Father Joel Haug, AVI, and Father Daniel Weger on May 25 at the Church of the Ascension in Overland Park.
• On May 25, parishioners celebrated the 150th anniversary of St. Joseph Parish at Wathena.
• Archbishop Naumann blessed and dedicated the new Mount Calvary Cemetery shelter for Annunciation Parish in Baldwin during an outdoor Mass on May 26.
• Archdiocesan Catholics picked up the pieces after their homes and businesses were damaged or destroyed by an EF4 tornado on May 28 that moved through Douglas and Leavenworth counties.
• Ten people from across the country met from June 17-20 at Savior Pastoral Center in Kansas City, Kansas, to begin creation of an official American Sign Language translation of the “YouCat,” the Youth Catechism of the Catholic Church.
• The U.S. bishops approved a 10-point statement, “Affirming Our Episcopal Commitments,” on June 13 during their general meeting in Baltimore. In part, the statement said that the requirements of the 2002 Dallas Charter dealing with clerical sexual abuse apply to bishops as well.
• The Leaven won 11 Catholic Press Association awards at the annual Catholic Media Conference held June 18-21 in St. Petersburg, Florida.
• Payton Verhulst, a junior at Bishop Miege High School in Roeland Park, led the USA Women’s U16 National Basketball Team to a gold medal on June 22 at the Americas Tournament in Aysen, Chile. Team USA was undefeated and Verhulst was named tournament MVP.
• Bishop Kevin Vann of the Diocese of Orange, California, ordained Father Luke Turner, OSB, a priest on June 29 at St. Benedict’s Abbey in Atchison.
• The Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas sponsored a Religious Freedom Rally on June 30 at the Church of the Ascension Parish in Overland Park.
• Vincent Cascone, principal of Visitation School in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, succeeded Kathy O’Hara on July 1 as superintendent of archdiocesan schools and secretary of the archdiocese’s family and child formation division.
• Archdiocesan priest Father Steven P. Beseau was appointed rector of the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio. He was later installed on Oct. 1.
• The priests of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas took on the priests of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph at the sixth annual Pitching for Priests softball game, hosted by the Catholic Radio Network, on July 5 at T-Bones Stadium in Kansas City, Kansas. The archdiocese won 14-12.
• On July 7, the archdiocese launched a new ministry for African Catholics at Prince of Peace Parish in Olathe.
• The Keeler Women’s Center held a grand opening on July 15 at its new location, 759 Vermont Ave., Suite 100-B, Kansas City, Kansas.
• Archbishop Naumann led archdiocesan seminarians on a pilgrimage from July 21-Aug. 2 to Mexico City.
• Certificates were awarded to 22 graduates of the office of Hispanic ministry’s School of Basic Theology on Aug. 7 at Savior Pastoral Center in Kansas City, Kansas.
• The Kansas City Chapter of Legatus received its charter at a vigil Mass on the solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Aug. 14 at Our Lady of Good Counsel in Kansas City, Missouri. Archbishop Naumann and Bishop James V. Johnston of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph were homilist and main celebrant respectively. Following the Mass, Bishop Johnston inducted the 22 founding chapter members and installed the officers.
• The “Start A Fire” Southern Region youth and family rally was held on Aug. 18 at Prairie Star Ranch in Williamsburg.
• Sister Aurora Villamar and Sister Laurentia Garcia, members of the Missioneras Guadalupanas de Cristo Rey based in Mexico City, were honored on Sept. 15 for 25 years of service to St. Catherine Parish in Emporia.
• City on a Hill, a Kansas City-area young adult apostolate of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, and the Holy Family School of Faith in the archdiocese merged to better evangelize young adults in the Greater Kansas City metropolitan area.
• There was a blessing and groundbreaking on Sept. 23 for a new hospice wing at Villa St. Francis in Olathe. It is a joint project of Villa St. Francis and Catholic Community Hospice.
• Archbishop Naumann was the main celebrant and homilist at the 150th anniversary Mass on Sept. 28 at Queen of the Holy Rosary Parish in Bucyrus-Wea. On Sept. 26, Queen of the Holy Rosary School was recognized as one of 50 nonpublic schools in the nation to receive the National Blue Ribbon School award.
• Archbishop Naumann was the main celebrant and homilist at a Blue Mass on Sept. 20 at Mater Dei- Assumption Church in Topeka. The Mass is offered for police, other law enforcement and firefighters.
• “Now is Your Time to Make HIStory” was the theme of the Fifth-Grade Vocations Day held on Oct. 2 at Most Pure Heart of Mary Parish in Topeka. Nearly 300 fifth-graders attended.
• Evangelization was the focus of more than 1,500 Catholics who attended the “Enflame Our Hearts: Be Disciples, Make Disciples” convocation held Oct. 3-5 at the Overland Park Convention Center. The event, two years in the planning, is intended to train Catholics to be missionary disciples for northeast Kansas.
• Archbishop Naumann was the main celebrant and homilist at the 100th anniversary Mass and celebration on Oct. 13 at Sacred Heart Parish in Topeka.
• Jeanne Gorman, archdiocesan legal counsel for 15 years, retired and was succeeded on Nov. 4 by Chris Arth, formerly administrator of St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Leawood.
• The University of Saint Mary in Leavenworth honored Archbishop Emeritus James P. Keleher at the dedication on Nov. 10 of the newly renovated Keleher Learning Commons, formerly the DePaul Library.
• Richard Sack was the first recipient of the Vincentian Charism Award, given to him on Nov. 11 on Founders’ Day at the Sisters of Charity motherhouse in Leavenworth.
• Deborah and Deacon Dana Nearmyer received the St. Rose Philippine Duchesne Award on Nov. 19 at Sacred Heart Parish in Mound City. Deacon Nearmyer is lead consultant for the archdiocesan office of evangelization, and Deborah is the director of faith formation at St. James Academy in Lenexa.
• The Catholic bishops of Kansas reiterated their support for Medicaid expansion, but with conditions that it include a vote on a state constitutional amendment to remove abortion as a right granted, according to an April Kansas Supreme Court decision, in the 159-year-old constitution.
• The African Catholic Community celebrated its first African Harvest Festival on Dec. 1 at Prince of Peace Parish in Olathe.
• Catholics in the archdiocese took part in the national “Giving Tuesday” crowdsourced fundraising campaign on Dec. 3 by giving through “iGiveCatholic.org.” More than 200 archdiocesan entities — parishes, schools and ministries — participated.
• Leon Roberts retired as archdiocesan director of real estate and construction, ending his 20-year career on Dec. 31. He was succeeded by Dan Himmelberg. They had been working together during a transitional period since July.