It won’t be easy. But the archdiocese is rising to the challenge

by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann

Reviewing our archdiocesan “ad limina” report, while saddened and troubled by the negative trends in sacramental practice that were detailed in the first of this series of articles, my predominant sentiment was one of profound gratitude for the fidelity and generosity of so many of our priests, deacons, women and men religious, but especially the laymen and women of the archdiocese.

There is so much good happening on a daily basis in our parishes, schools and ministries, thanks to the generosity and dedication of so many lay members of the archdiocese.

In this final article about the report, I want to highlight some of the amazing ways in which the Holy Spirit is working powerfully in our archdiocesan church.

I am profoundly grateful for the lay leaders who serve on the many boards and councils of the archdiocese, e.g., our administrative team, the archdiocesan curia, finance council, pastoral council, Catholic Foundation of Northeast Kansas board, the Catholic Education Foundation board, Catholic Charities Foundation and operation boards, Donnelly College board, our high school and consolidated elementary school boards, Santa Marta and Villa St. Francis boards, ethics council, fine arts council and Independent Review Board.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of all the predominantly lay boards and councils that lead and serve our archdiocesan parishes, schools, institutions and ministries.

The level of expertise and talent that so many contribute to the archdiocese provides an incredible brain trust to assist me with my responsibility to lead the church in northeast Kansas, guard her mission and guide her many and diverse apostolates.

Long before I arrived on the scene, the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas has made forming and serving our youth a high priority.

Youth ministry has been a strength in the archdiocese for many years. Not many dioceses are blessed to have a place like Prairie Star Ranch that, through its summer youth camps, have helped so many young people encounter Jesus in a profound and personal way.

I am particularly grateful for ReachKCK and our rural youth ministry, expanding opportunities both in the urban core as well as in the rural areas, for young people to grow in faith and forge deep and enduring bonds with the church.

The St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center at the University of Kansas, for some time, has been respected nationally for being one of the premiere Catholic ministries to higher education.

With the recent strategic expansion of their programs and enhancements to the physical facilities, they are engaging even more students.

I am also proud of our campus ministry programs at Emporia State, Washburn and Haskell. St. Paul’s Outreach has helped us better serve post-college young adults. The Holy Family School of Faith has been engaged just in the last year to assist with the formation of the leaders of City on a Hill, a Catholic ministry that serves young adults both in Kansas and Missouri.

Benedictine College has gained a well-deserved reputation to be one of the best Catholic colleges in the United States, where students not only receive an excellent education but are provided an abundance of opportunities to grow more deeply in love with Jesus and his church.

Recently, Benedictine College has focused resources on exploring ways that they can help transform the broader culture.

Donnelly College is unique in the specific population that it seeks intentionally to serve — students who will be the first in their families to receive a degree in higher education.

Thanks to the leadership of Msgr. Stuart Swetland, the Donnelly College board, the talented faculty and dedicated staff, a new academic building is under construction and will be available to serve students this fall.

And, of course, I can’t forget the University of St. Mary, which only last fall opened its new Keleher Learning Commons, named in honor of Archbishop Emeritus James P. Keleher.

Within the past five years the office for special-needs ministry has been established to help our parishes, schools, institutions and apostolates to better serve adults and children with special needs.

The iCare Masses, offered both in Overland Park and Topeka, have been a great enrichment in providing pastoral care for those with special needs. The Embrace Foundation along with the school office’s Perfect Wings program is helping us serve even better more children in our Catholic schools.

The Holy Family School of Faith’s formation for Catholic educators continues to help our teachers become better equipped to communicate the truths and beauty of our Catholic faith to our Catholic school students.

By providing our teachers with consistent opportunities to grow and deepen their own relationship with Jesus and his church, they are better able to be witnesses of our Catholic faith.

The Apostles of the Interior Life along with the Holy Family School of Faith through the Spiritual Mentorship Program continue to help hundreds of laymen and women not only to grow in their own prayer life but also to be equipped to assist others develop a rich prayer life.

There are not enough priests and religious to meet the need for spiritual direction. I am grateful for the formation being provided to laywomen and men preparing them to accompany others in deepening their relationship with Our Lord.

Catholic Charities makes the love of Jesus real and tangible for individuals and families needing: 1) hospice care for a loved one; 2) emergency assistance for food, shelter and other basic necessities; 3) financial freedom and literacy to those shackled with burdensome debt; 4) housing, employment and legal assistance for refugees and immigrants; 5) preparing and supporting adoptive and foster parents to welcome children; and 6) providing opportunities to acquire marketable skills empowering people to break free from the cycle of poverty.

This is just a sampling of the amazing work of Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas.

The financial support of the laity for our parishes, schools and ministries is astounding.

During the past 15 years, the annual Call to Share Campaign has doubled the support (now more than $6 million annually) it provides many of our Catholic charitable, educational and pastoral ministries.

Catholic Charities’ Snow Ball is the most successful nonprofit fundraising event in the Kansas City metropolitan community, raising more than $3 million.

Last year, the Catholic Education Foundation provided almost $2.5 million in scholarships to 1,500 students in 24 of our Catholic schools.

Over the past decade, Donnelly College has raised more than $30 million to construct a new academic building and chapel, as well as grow their scholarship endowment.

The response thusfar to the “One Faith, One Family, One Future in Christ” campaign has been gratifying. It will have a huge positive impact upon our parishes, the care of our retired priests, the residents of Villa St. Francis and the 60,000 individuals who utilize Savior Pastoral Center.

Despite all of the challenges within the church and culture, there is a remarkable vitality in our archdiocesan community.

However, what excites me most about the future of our archdiocese was not even in the “ad limina” report.

This past October’s “Enflame Our Hearts” convocation for Catholic leaders was a watershed moment for the archdiocese.

The convocation helped to motivate, energize and prepare 1,500 lay leaders to assist our pastors develop and implement realistic, effective, unique and tailor-made evangelization plans for each parish family. In my recent pastoral visits, I am encouraged and excited about the impact the convocation is having upon our parishes.

To use sports vocabulary: The best defense is a great offense! We have the opportunity not only to stop the bleeding of the decline in the number of practicing Catholics, but actually to transform a toxic, secular culture rather than being absorbed by it. 

Jesus never promised his disciples that following him would be easy. The challenges of the present moment are great, but this has always been the case for the church throughout her 2,000-year history.

We are confident not in our own abilities or wisdom but rather in Our Lord’s fidelity to his promise to be with the church until the end of time.

The mission today remains the same as it was 2,000 years ago: Growing as Disciples of Jesus; Making Disciples for Jesus.

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