Archbishop finishes tour of archdiocese started seven years ago
by Joe Bollig
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The Energizer Bunny doesn’t have anything on Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann.
Over the past seven years, the archbishop has kept going, and going, and going on his round of pastoral visits to each and every parish in the archdiocese.
On March 27, he wrapped up his historic tour with a visit to St. Francis Xavier Parish in Mayetta and St. Dominic Parish in Holton. Joking with parishioners, he said he had “saved the best for last.”
Well, there had to be a last. And there had to be a first. Archbishop Naumann was a coadjutor archbishop in fall 2004 when he made his first pastoral visit to the Cathedral of St. Peter in Kansas City, Kan.
Since then, he’s put a lot of miles on his vehicle. How many were just for pastoral visits is hard to say, because Archbishop Naumann has already visited most, if not all, 110 archdiocesan parishes for confirmations, dedications, groundbreakings, installations of pastors, and other reasons.
So why make a special effort to go to places he’s already been?
“Most pastors tell me there is no such thing as a ‘typical’ weekend in our parishes,” the archbishop told the Mayetta and Holton parishioners in his homilies. “There’s always something going on. That’s true enough.”
“But often as archbishop,” he said, “I have the opportunity to come for special occasions.”
Ordinary times in a parish, on the other hand, he said, are harder to come by for an archbishop.
“The idea of a pastoral visit is to experience the usual, liturgical, pastoral life of our communities,” he said.
It’s a good pastoral practice for a bishop. No less than Pope John Paul II did the same when he was archbishop of Krakow and then later in the Diocese of Rome.
“As the archbishop, I have the ultimate responsibility for the pastoral care for all the people throughout the archdiocese,” the archbishop said in an earlier interview. “To fulfill that ministry in a meaningful way, it’s important to me to be as close as I [can] be to our parish communities,” he said.
Usually, the format entails the archbishop celebrating each Mass and preaching the homily. He meets with the pastor to review the sacramental records.
If possible, he tries to meet with parish youth. And usually he meets with parish leaders — typically members of the parish and finance councils — but he’s also met with those involved with the parish school, ministries and apostolates.
“[With them] I talk about what I believe is really Jesus’ vision for the church and how that applies to parishes and the archdiocese,” said Archbishop Naumann.
It’s not only a time for talking, however.
He’s there “also to receive their questions and suggestions, and to hear any concerns they have about the church — parish concerns, archdiocesan concerns or global concerns.”
During his last visit, the archbishop talked with the Holton and Mayetta parish and finance council members about his five pastoral priorities for the archdiocese.
“I think they appreciated the fact that the archbishop took the time to come do this,” said Father Christopher Rossman, pastor for the two parishes.
“The archbishop has an extremely busy schedule, and for him to take a whole weekend to do this is something parishioners appreciate,” he continued. “They know the archbishop does care, and having our meeting . . . gave them the opportunity to know the archbishop is listening to them. And they get to hear what the archbishop has to say.”
Not only do the pastoral visits help the archbishop get an idea of the state of the archdiocese, they also help him communicate the overall message of unity and connection Catholics have, as well as provide a chance to speak to current topics.
“The other advantage . . . is that as a bishop sometimes we have to say some teachings that go against the culture that sometimes the secular press may not report very favorably on,” he said.
“I think if people have a chance to meet their bishop outside of what may be reported,” he continued, “it helps them be more open and sympathetic to what the church is saying on a particular matter. So I hope it gives people a sense of a greater connection with the bishop.”
It is not surprising that the many parishes he’s visited have a lot in common. But each parish has its own personality and circumstances, said the archbishop.
“You see the strengths of some of the large, vibrant, suburban parishes and the strengths of the rural parishes,” he said. “One of the strengths of the rural parishes is the level of participation of everyone there.”
Just because he’s reached the last parishes on his list doesn’t mean the visits are over. Archbishop Naumann now intends to start the whole cycle over again, although he won’t be at every Mass.
“That would be wonderful to do, but that limits the opportunities I have to visit parishes,” he said. “I hope this time I’ll be able to get around more quickly.”