Archbishop seeks input in charting pastoral course
by Marc and Julie Anderson
TOPEKA — Praying. Listening. Gathering.
These are words that Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann used to describe the 10-year visioning process he has recently embarked on, which includes a listening session held Feb. 12 at St. Matthew Parish in Topeka, and a second set for Feb. 25 at Church of the Ascension in Overland Park.
Titled “Listening to the People of God in the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas,” the Feb. 12 event drew Catholics from Alma, Flush, Lawrence, Paxico, Rossville and Topeka. Facilitated by Father Gary Kastl from the Catholic Leadership Institute of Wayne, Pennsylvania, the evening featured time for clergy and laity to answer questions in writing and orally about the archdiocese’s strengths, challenges and priorities. A final question centered on what the archdiocesan church might look like 10 years from now.
Dividing into small groups of three to seven, each participant was given a written questionnaire and time to answer several questions pertaining to the archdiocese as a whole. The first question, for example, was: “What does the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas do well?” Afterward, group members shared their answers with each other.
Then, Father Kastl invited anyone to approach the microphone and share the reflections of his or her group with the archbishop, who would be “listening in gratitude” but would not respond directly to specific observations or proposals.
Throughout the evening, key themes emerged. For example, several tables expressed archdiocesan communications, especially through The Leaven, the archdiocesan website and the new app, served the faithful well. Additionally, many expressed gratitude for youth programs, Catholic Charities, adult education programs and the church’s pro-life efforts. More than one person expressed gratitude for the archbishop’s unwavering leadership on matters of doctrine, especially when the positions are not popular.
When it came to archdiocesan priorities, Jim Leiker of Topeka’s St. Matthew Parish and Diane Ortiz of Topeka’s Mater Dei Parish both expressed a need for the archdiocese to foster more vocations. Other priorities included providing greater access to Catholic education, regardless of one’s ability to pay; promoting and strengthening spiritually healthy families; sharing resources within regions as well as protecting and preserving historical churches; and increasing evangelization efforts.
The final portion of the evening encouraged the assembly to hope and dream about what the archdiocesan church would look like 10 years from now. Again, similar ideas were expressed across groups, including more vocations, an increase in the number of active and faith-filled Catholics, and rising Catholic school enrollment.
In January, the archbishop marked 10 years as shepherd of the church in northeast Kansas. He has been quoted as saying that during that time he has faced some challenges “but, for the most part, [it] has been a time of abundant blessings.” In a letter addressed to the faithful which described the visioning process in detail, the archbishop wrote: “If it be God’s will, and if I remain healthy, I would be pleased to be able to serve this archdiocese for another 10 years. Thus, I believe it is an opportune time to pause and reflect on what our efforts have produced and to prayerfully consider what the Lord is calling us to do in the foreseeable future.”
Prior to the listening sessions, the archdiocese conducted focus groups with ministerial leaders, heads of religious orders and archdiocesan staff. Each parish pastoral council will be sent a copy of the questionnaire and encouraged to work in close collaboration with the pastor to provide additional input to inform the process.
More details about the process are available online at the archdiocese’s website: www.archkck.org.