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After a summer of change, The Leaven is whole again

Leaven photo by Lori Wood Habiger Beth Blankenship, left, and Moira Cullings are the newest members of The Leaven team. Beth is a member of St. Pius X Parish in Mission and will take over as The Leaven’s advertising coordinator and bookkeeper. Moira is a recent Benedictine College graduate and member of Church of the Nativity in Leawood. She is The Leaven’s newest reporter.

Beth Blankenship, left, and Moira Cullings are the newest members of The Leaven team. Beth is a member of St. Pius X Parish in Mission and will take over as The Leaven’s advertising coordinator and bookkeeper. Moira is a recent Benedictine College graduate and member of Church of the Nativity in Leawood. She is The Leaven’s newest reporter. Leaven photo by Lori Wood Habiger

by Joe Bollig
joe.bollig@theleaven.org

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — As it says in the Old Testament Book of Ecclesiastes, “There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens” (Eccl 3:1).

And so it is for The Leaven.

Two longtime staff members have moved on: Julie Holthaus, the advertising manager, and Jessica Langdon, a staff writer.

Although we’re sad to see them go, The Leaven is pleased to welcome the addition of two new staff members.

Beth Blankenship

Beth Blankenship, a member of St. Pius X Parish in Mission, is The Leaven’s new advertising coordinator and bookkeeper.

Blankenship was born and raised in Casper, Wyoming. She met her late husband Chuck while earning her bachelor of arts degree in music education (with an emphasis in music therapy) at the University of Kansas in Lawrence.

Chuck, a Topeka native, attended a high school seminary and then a Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate major seminary before he discerned a lay vocation and entered the University of Kansas.

“Marrying Chuck was a real adventure,” said Blankenship. “Two weeks after we got married and I began my last semester at KU, he said, ‘Sit down, I have something to tell you. We’re moving to New York City.’ I started crying. After I finished that semester, we moved to New York City.”

While Chuck studied for his master’s degree at Fordham University, Beth worked at Chemical Bank.

Over the years, Chuck and Beth had five children (two are deceased) and lived in various places, including the Kansas City area, New York, Lawrence, St. Louis and Cincinnati.

In addition to taking care of her family, Beth worked at various banks over the years.

In most of the places they lived, Chuck and Beth got involved in parish music ministry. Chuck played the guitar; Beth,  the piano. In St. Louis, they played at two different churches. While in Cincinnati, Beth was part-time choir director for seven years. Years ago, she was part of the RCIA team while a member of St. Pius X Parish in Mission.

After Chuck died in October 2014, Beth returned to the Kansas City area and again became a member of St. Pius X Parish. Fellow parishioner, friend and archdiocesan chief financial officer Carla Mills told her about the opening at The Leaven. Her first day at the paper was Sept. 21.

“I really like the fact that there’s different things to do, that you don’t do the same thing all day long,” said Blankenship. “I really, really like that aspect. It makes it interesting.”

Moira Cullings

Moira Cullings, a member of Church of the Nativity Parish in Leawood, is the new reporter for The Leaven.

Cullings was born in Kansas City, Missouri, and raised in Leawood. She attended Nativity School and St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Overland Park. She graduated from Benedictine College this past May with a bachelor of arts degree in marketing.

While at Benedictine, Cullings played soccer all four years as a midfielder.

“I was a skilled player,” she said. “Midfielders need a good first touch, good perception of the whole field — because you’re playing offense and defense — good passing skills and good endurance because you’re running the whole field for the whole game.”

She tries to keep in shape by running, but admits she isn’t quite up to playing- level fitness nowadays.

Sports wasn’t the only thing she did at Benedictine. For three spring breaks in a row, Cullings traveled to the Central American country of Belize as part of Benedictine-sponsored mission trips. She tutored children and helped conduct evening soccer clinics.

Although English predominates in Belize, she found that her elementary Spanish language skills came in handy.

Another of her interesting college experiences was a marketing internship at NextPage in Kansas City, Missouri. The company provides personalized print technologies to other businesses.

“I did a lot of blogging and social media marketing, and promoting the internship,” she said. “At the end of the summer, the interns produced a video to promote the internship.”

When she heard about an opening at The Leaven, she decided to apply.

“I didn’t have any journalism experience, but I had a marketing background and I thought that some of those skills would transfer over,” she said. “I love writing and photography, and I love the creative side of business, and the job really interested me.”

The skills Cullings developed in school and at NextPage will come in handy. Not only will she write and take photos for The Leaven, she’ll help with the website and social media such as Twitter and Instagram. Her first day at The Leaven was Sept. 11.

“I want to grow our online presence and gain a larger audience,” said Cullings. “This is important because everybody is using the Internet, everybody is online, especially the younger people. It’s where a lot of people go for their news.

“Staying up to date, and committing to something our readers want and need, is important for our long-term success.”

About the author

Joe Bollig

Joe Bollig

Joe has been with The Leaven since 1993. He has a bachelor’s degree in communications and a master’s degree in journalism. Before entering print journalism he worked in commercial radio. He has worked for the St. Joseph (Mo.) News-Press and Sun Publications in Overland Park. During his journalistic career he has covered beats including police, fire, business, features, general assignment and religion. While at The Leaven he has been a writer, photographer and videographer. He has won or shared several Catholic Press Association awards, as well as Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara awards for mission coverage. He graduated with a certification in catechesis from a two-year distance learning program offered by the Maryvale Institute for Catechesis, Theology, Philosophy and Religious Education at Old Oscott, Great Barr, in Birmingham, England.

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