by Joe Bollig
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann made the crowd laugh, but they knew he was making a serious point.
“I want to create more work for you to do,” said the archbishop.
He wanted to get them excited about making new disciples by implementing the recently announced 10-year mutually shared vision for the archdiocese.
More than 370 pastors, parish leaders and archdiocesan employees heard the archbishop speak at Savior Pastoral Center on Sept. 11 for the 2015 Archdiocesan Convocation of Parish Ministries.
The theme of the daylong event was “Building a Culture of Evangelism: Proclaiming the Faith in Spirit, Word and Deed.”
At his welcome Mass 11 years ago, Archbishop Naumann said he wanted the Holy Spirit to “set a fire here in northeast Kansas . . . with his love to bring the truth and beauty of God to more people.”
“I feel, really, now we’re on the verge of maybe that fire really igniting,” said Archbishop Naumann. “I’m very excited about what the years ahead bode for us. You — those [who] are in the parishes and [on] the front lines of our ministries — you are going to be the key individuals in setting this fire and stoking that fire, and making it envelop the whole church of northeast Kansas.”
In his keynote address, Archbishop Naumann talked about the tremendous evangelizing success on college campuses of the Fellowship of Catholic University Students.
Seeing this success gave him an idea, which he shared with Father Andrew Strobl, archdiocesan director of evangelization.
“We have a lot of FOCUS alums [who] live in the archdiocese, and I asked Father Andrew, ‘Let’s try and get the FOCUS alums together and see if we can’t empower them to do what they were doing on college campuses, but now do it in the parishes they are living in,’” said Archbishop Naumann.
The FOCUS approach is to pray to the Lord and ask who he wants friendship and faith to be shared with — and being bold. When a FOCUS alumnus did this in an archdiocesan parish, the results were fantastic. Clearly, said the archbishop, this shows the potential for evangelizing in our parishes.
“The highest priority that came out of all our listening sessions [for the 10-year mutually shared vision] was evangelization,” said Archbishop Naumann.
“What [recent] Holy Fathers have been calling the whole church to do, in terms of evangelization, is really penetrating the hearts of people — that we know that it’s essential to the church that we are called to be disciple makers,” he continued. “We’re called to make disciples.”
Archbishop Naumann asked all those at the conference — and all Catholics of the archdiocese — to memorize a mission statement.
“When people ask us what our parish is about, what the church in this archdiocese is about, we have a very simple but very powerful, profound answer: It’s about growing as disciples of Jesus, making disciples for Jesus,” said Archbishop Naumann. “I think that really, in many ways, encapsulates what the church is all about.”
Jesus didn’t call us for our own benefit only, but for us to make disciples of all nations.
“Despair and discouragement really aren’t options for us,” said the archbishop. “We are called to be always and everywhere a people of hope, and the Lord is calling us to make disciples in northeast Kansas. We cannot be content with the church that we are today. We have to be eager to draw more people to Jesus Christ.”
To help archdiocesan Catholics make disciples, Archbishop Naumann pointed to three key initiatives in the 10-year mutually shared vision.
The first is to build a culture of evangelization across the archdiocese. The second is to strengthen the vocation of marriage and family life. The third is to cultivate relationships by engaging in the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.
“Nothing has the capacity to give us more joy than sharing the gift of our faith with others,” said Archbishop Naumann. “If we truly believe what we profess each and every Sunday when we come together — that there’s nothing more important in our lives than our relationship with Jesus Christ — then how can we fail to share that relationship with others?
“How can we not do everything we can to share that with others?”
“So, we embark on this adventure together,” said Archbishop Naumann. “I hope that . . . this day will give an impetus to begin the implementation of this vision, and together [we’ll] discover what the Lord wants to accomplish with us. This is a great adventure that I think all of us have been called to be a part of, and I look forward to sharing it with you in the days ahead.”