by Joe Bollig
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Every year, the question arises: What was the biggest news story of the year?
For 2020, it’s not even a question.
COVID-19 has dominated our headlines and lives since early in the year.
The worldwide pandemic actually began sometime in late 2019 in China, but it rapidly spread around the world before people knew or understood what it was.
Individuals were affected in ways too numerous to count. So-called “essential workers,” especially in hospitals, bore the direct burden of the pandemic. Many others, essential to their families, lost their jobs. Small businesses were devastated.
The Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas began issuing advisories to parishes and schools on March 2, and by March 13, Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann issued dispensations from attending Mass. Public Masses were canceled entirely from March 17 to May 9. For many, it was a bleak Lent and a muted Easter.
Schools and seminaries ended in-person classes. Teachers and students shifted to virtual instruction.
Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly issued a state “stay-at-home” order initially from March 30 to April 19, and later extended it to May 3.
As of early December, the worldwide death toll has reached 1.5 million, but tens of millions have been infected and continue to be infected. Thankfully, the “Project Warp Speed” effort to develop vaccines has brought hope. Inoculations have begun and will continue into 2021.
Meanwhile, a release of the long-delayed McCarrick Report roiled the church, while riots in multiple American cities and a lengthy election dispute roiled the country.
Closer to home, seven retired archdiocesan pastors died — one of them in India.
Though only a small fraction of archdiocesan life is captured weekly in the 16 pages of The Leaven, a review of those pages shows a remarkable diversity and vitality in the lives of archdiocesan Catholics despite the pandemic.
So, before we close the book on the old year, let’s take a look back at the people and events that comprised the life of the archdiocese in 2020.
• The Fellowship of Catholic University Students honored Father Nick Blaha with the St. Francis Xavier Award for outstanding service to the new evangelization at SLS20, held Dec. 30-Jan. 3 in Phoenix.
• Retired pastor Father Thomas H. Dolezal, 75, died in hospice care on Jan. 1 in Kansas City, Missouri.
• Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann traveled to Rome with other Midwestern bishops for an “ad limina” visit Jan. 11-17 with Pope Francis.
• Sam and Melissa Rockford, members of Good Shepherd Parish in Shawnee, were named honorary co-chairs of the 2020 Archbishop’s Call to Share appeal.
• Mike and Jo Kuckelman were named presidents of the 46th annual Snow Ball gala, held Jan. 18 and benefiting the Catholic Charities Foundation of Northeast Kansas.
• Sharon Vallejo, a 19-year veteran of cemetery management, was promoted to president/CEO of Catholic Cemeteries of Northeast Kansas.
• Archbishop Naumann was the main celebrant at the annual Red Mass held on Jan. 21 at Mater Dei-Assumption Church in Topeka. Concelebrants included Bishop Gerald Vincke of the Diocese of Salina and Bishop John Brungardt of the Diocese of Dodge City.
• Many Catholics attended the IGNITE rally and Kansas March for Life on Jan. 22 at the state Capitol in Topeka. Archbishop Naumann was the main celebrant at the annual Mass for Life on Jan. 22 and later addressed the crowd inside the Capitol rotunda.
• As chairman of the U. S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, Archbishop Naumann was the main celebrant and homilist at a Mass on Jan. 23, an opening for the National Prayer Vigil for Life in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. On Jan. 24, he and hundreds of other archdiocesan Catholics participated in the National March for Life.
• Five laypersons became the first members of the Lay Fraternity of the Sons and Daughters of St. Maria Soledad on Jan. 25 in the chapel of the motherhouse of the Sisters, Servants of Mary in Kansas City, Kansas.
• Archbishop Naumann was the main celebrant, and Bishop James V. Johnston was the homilist, at the annual World Marriage Day Mass on Feb. 9 at the Church of the Ascension in Overland Park. The Mass was sponsored by the archdiocese and the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph.
• Archbishop Naumann joined pastor Father Rick Storey for a blessing and groundbreaking on Feb. 14 for a new parish activities center at Curé of Ars Church in Leawood.
• Virgil C. Dechant, 89, the longest-serving Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus (1977-2000), died on Feb. 16 in Leawood.
• Archbishop Naumann anointed and dedicated the new altar of St. Joseph Church in Topeka on Feb. 16 during a Mass of thanksgiving marking the completion of the church’s $7.3 million restoration project.
• Archbishop Naumann received the Cross of St. Benedict award at the annual Benedictine College Scholarship Ball on Feb. 29 at the Overland Park Convention Center.
• The 24th annual Men Under Construction conference was held on Feb. 29 at Ascension Parish in Overland Park.
• Hundreds of candidates and catechumens signed the Book of the Elect, expressing their intention to become Catholics, during Rites of Election held on March 1 at the Cathedral of St. Peter in Kansas City, Kansas, and Christ the King Parish in Topeka, and on March 5 at Prince of Peace Parish in Olathe.
• The archdiocese sent advisories to parishes and schools on March 2 about how to prepare for and respond to the coronavirus pandemic. The archdiocesan school office sent information and resources to principals on Feb. 29.
• Students from six archdiocesan high schools participated in the annual Archbishop’s Invitational High School Art Exhibit on March 6 at Savior Pastoral Center in Kansas City, Kansas.
• With a revamped format that mixed the traditional opponents, the Runnin’ Revs and the Serra All-Stars played a basketball game on March 9 at St. James Academy in Lenexa. The Revs are basketball-playing priests, seminarians and an occasional ringer, while the All-Stars are players drawn from archdiocesan Catholic high schools.
• Father Lawrence D. Albertson, 81, a retired pastor living in Lawrence, died in hospice care on March 9.
• St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Overland Park and St. James Academy in Lenexa canceled senior spring break trips to Rome because of concerns about the COVID-19 outbreak in Italy.
• In response to the growing threat of the COVID-19 virus, Archbishop Naumann granted a dispensation of the Sunday Mass obligation on March 13.
• On March 17, the archbishop and all the bishops of Kansas announced the cancellation of all public Masses in Kansas. Thousands began watching TV or livestreamed internet Masses. Baptisms and funerals were limited to 50 people (later reduced to 10). Penance services were canceled, but the sacrament of reconciliation for individuals was still permitted — sometimes via “drive thru” confessions.
• Archdiocesan schools canceled in-person classes for the rest of the year and, after spring break, adapted to remote and virtual learning. Colleges and universities also shifted to virtual instruction. Schools canceled sports and other extracurricular activities. Most of the state was placed under “stay-at-home” orders, soon to be followed by the entire state.
• As seminaries closed due to the pandemic, archdiocesan seminarians from Kenrick-Glennon in St. Louis sheltered at Savior Pastoral Center — a former minor seminary — in Kansas City, Kansas, to continue their education and formation.
• Possibly for the first time in the history of the archdiocese, public Holy Week and Easter liturgies were canceled. People stayed home and either prayed as families or viewed Masses on TV or over the internet.
• Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas, and other parish and archdiocesan ministries, struggled to adapt and keep ministering under pandemic conditions.
• Twenty-four priests of the archdiocese volunteered to undertake training to serve as COVID-19 chaplains.
• Archbishop Naumann announced the resumption of public Masses in the archdiocese starting May 9.
• Thomas Maddock, Luke Doyle and Keith Chadwick were ordained to the transitional diaconate by Archbishop Naumann on May 16 at St. Peter Cathedral in Kansas City, Kansas.
• Retired Deacon Dan Peterson, 82, died on May 21 in hospice care at Villa St. Francis in Olathe.
• Deacons Travis Wade Mecum and Anthony Mersmann were ordained priests of the archdiocese by Archbishop Naumann on May 23 at St. Peter Cathedral in Kansas City, Kansas.
• The archdiocese published the “Catholic Guide for End of Life and Establishing Advance Directives” and made it widely available for use by area Catholics.
• St. Patrick School in Kansas City, Kansas, received a $75,000 grant to fund its new STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) curriculum.
• On June 4, Ghana native Father Francis Bakyor, pastor of St. Joseph-St. Lawrence Parish in Easton, became an American citizen.
• Archbishop Naumann led a Corpus Christi procession on June 14 at the Cathedral of St. Peter in Kansas City, Kansas.
• Retired pastor Father Carl M. Dekat, 92, died on June 14 at Good Shepherd Hospice House in Manhattan.
• Archbishop Emeritus James P. Keleher blessed the new chapel fresco on June 14 at Holy Angels Parish in Basehor.
• Archbishop Naumann ordained the largest group of permanent deacons in the history of the archdiocese — 20 men of the third cohort — on June 20 at Holy Trinity Parish in Lenexa.
• Father David McEvoy, O.Carm., pastor of Immaculate Conception-St. Joseph Parish in Leavenworth, was installed on June 25 as the vice prior provincial for the Carmelite Province of the Most Pure Heart of Mary.
• Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas moved its Wyandotte County Family Support Center to 600 Minnesota in Kansas City, Kansas.
• Longtime educator Paul D. Fallon was named the new president of St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Overland Park, succeeding William P. Ford, who retired on June 30 after leading the school for 22 years.
• The Leaven won 12 Catholic Press Association awards during the first virtual Catholic Media Conference held July 1-2.
• Archbishop Naumann ended the livestream Masses on July 3 from his home chapel and on July 4 from the Cathedral of St. Peter that he’d been celebrating since March. He continued to offer online reflections on the daily Mass readings.
• Father Christopher Rossman, who pled guilty in federal court to one count of possession of child pornography on July 26, 2019, was sentenced on July 15 by the U.S. District Court to 37 months incarceration, followed by five years’ supervised release.
• Savior Pastoral Center in Kansas City, Kansas, received a donation of high-quality art reproductions that formerly were housed in the Reardon Civic Center in Kansas City, Kansas, which was being demolished.
• Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish continued its annual Fiesta Mexicana on July 18 by converting it into a two-hour, drive-by extravaganza of Mexican culture.
• In recognition of their exceptional service to Camp Tekakwitha at Prairie Star Ranch in Williamsburg, the Echo of Kateri award was given on July 16 to Father Scott Wallisch, pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Shawnee, and to Katie and Ryan Burton, members of Holy Spirit Parish in Overland Park, on July 25.
• Archbishop Naumann elevated the status of the Latin Mass Community of St. Philippine Duchesne in Westwood to that of a personal parish on Aug. 4.
• Msgr. Robert N. Bergman, 75, died on Aug. 11 in hospice care in the rectory of Immaculate Conception Parish in Louisburg.
• Elementary school teachers and administrators met over the internet for a daylong “Enflame Our Schools” event on Aug. 12, learning about the Enflame evangelization process.
• Hundreds of Catholics gathered on Aug. 22 in Overland Park for a candlelight procession and rosary, sponsored by the Holy Family School of Faith Institute, to mark the launch of the Movement of the Holy Family.
• The archdiocesan 50th wedding anniversary celebration Mass was held on Aug. 23 at Church of the Nativity in Leawood.
• Holy Trinity Parish in Paola completed construction of its $1.5 million new multiuse parish hall and office.
• Father Guvvala Balaswamy, 69, a priest of the Diocese of Cuddapah, India, died on Sept. 24 in Bengaluru. He served archdiocesan parishes from 2001 to 2004.
• Louise S. Naumann, 97, mother of Archbishop Naumann, died on Sept. 26 at Villa St. Francis in Olathe.
• A bronze sculpture, “The Holy Family’s Return to Nazareth,” was unveiled on Sept. 27 at St. Benedict’s Abbey in Atchison.
• Twenty-seven high school- aged young men met on Sept. 27 at Prince of Peace Parish in Olathe, and 12 met on Oct. 4 at St. Joseph Parish in Topeka, for the Project Andrew discernment retreat.
• Several youths involved in Scouting and the American Heritage Girls received awards on Sept. 27 during the annual Scouting awards Mass at the Cathedral of St. Peter in Kansas City, Kansas.
• Parishioners of Holy Family Parish in Eudora celebrated when the old Holy Family Church, built in 1864, was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on Oct. 2.
• Twenty-six high school-aged youths participated in a seven-mile pilgrimage on Oct. 3 to Prairie Star Ranch near Williamsburg. It was sponsored by the archdiocesan office of youth evangelization.
• Tina Jenkins of Holy Family Parish in Eudora and Traci Streit of St. Patrick Parish in Kansas City, Kansas, received the first Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann Walking with Moms in Need award on Oct. 4 during the annual archdiocesan Respect Life Mass at St. Patrick Parish.
• Retired pastor Father Robert Pflumm, 90, died on Oct. 12 at Overland Park Regional Medical Center.
• Donnelly College in Kansas City, Kansas, raised a record $525,000 during its annual SHINE event on Oct. 15.
• Janet and Darren Lovick served as co-chairs of the Gaudeamus-at-Home fundraising event on Oct. 24, sponsored by the Catholic Education Foundation. Lamar Hunt Jr. and Rita Hunt were honored with the Angels Among Us award for their longtime support of Catholic education.
• The archdiocese received its first gift transaction of grain commodities from Brian and Kay Schmidt of St. Joseph Parish in Olpe as part of the “One Faith, One Family, One Future . . . in Christ” capital campaign.
• Annunciation Parish in Baldwin received a donation of solar panels worth $30,000 from parishioners Dave and Pam Hill.
• St. Paul Parish in Olathe donated more than $22,000 to Divine Mercy Parish in East Havana, Cuba.
• Bill Maloney, a member of Queen of the Holy Rosary Parish in Overland Park, was appointed executive director of the Catholic Foundation of Northeast Kansas and director of the archdiocesan office of stewardship and development on Oct. 30.
• Retired pastor Msgr. Charles Douglas McGlinn, 78, died on Nov. 20 at the rectory of Ascension Parish in Overland Park.
• The St. James Academy Thunder football team captured the Kansas Class 4A state championship on Nov. 27 with a 56-34 win over Arkansas City. It was the Thunder’s first state football championship.
• Project Chrysalis, a ministry for parents who have experienced the death of a child, hosted its first Mass of Remembrance on Nov. 30 at Church of the Ascension in Overland Park.
• The annual #iGiveCatholic online crowdfunding event was held on Dec. 1.
• Archbishop Naumann was the main celebrant and homilist at the 150th anniversary Mass on Dec. 6 at St. Dominic Parish in Holton.
• The Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth announced that Irene Caudillo, a member of Christ the King Parish in Kansas City, Kansas, had been awarded the Vincentian Charism Award for her embodiment of the Vincentian virtues of compassion, justice and charity.
• Craig and Karen Gaffney, members of Holy Angels Parish, Basehor, were announced as presidents of the annual Snow Ball benefiting Catholic Charities.
• Leaven freelancer Carolyn Kaberline died on Dec. 17 at the Promise House of Overland Park.