by Joe Bollig
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Summer is the time for that Great American Experience — the road trip.
But while some young adults head for a distant beach or a notorious “sin city” like Las Vegas, a group of young men from St. Louis chose to travel to northeast Kansas and northwest Missouri.
They didn’t come to party. They came to pray.
Archbishop Raymond L. Burke, six priests, six deacons and 49 seminarians from the Archdiocese of St. Louis made a pilgrimage from Aug. 6-8 to the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas and to Conception, Mo.
At first glance, it may seem an odd choice, since these areas are not traditional pilgrimage sites.
It makes perfect sense, however, when one considers that this area — all the way west to the Rocky Mountains and north to the Canadian border — was once part of the Archdiocese of St. Louis.
Also, Kansas is where St. Louis’ great saint — St. Rose Philippine Duchesne — did her most important work. Although St. Rose is buried in Saint Charles, Mo., she was a missionary to the Potawatomi Indians at the Jesuit-established Sugar Creek Mission in Linn County.
The first stop on the group’s three-day sojourn was Conception Abbey in Conception, Mo., for a day of recollection. The next day, after Archbishop Burke and two priests returned to St. Louis, the remainder went on to the St. Rose Philippine Duchesne Shrine at Sacred Heart Parish in Mound City. They also went to the former Sugar Creek Mission, now a park, in rural Linn County.
On Aug. 8, the St. Louis group went to the Cathedral of St. Peter in Kansas City, Kan., where they met an old friend — St. Louis native Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann.
At the cathedral, the seminarians held morning prayer, and then attended a Mass celebrated by Archbishop Naumann. During that Mass, the archbishop used the chalice formerly owned by another St. Louis native who was made a bishop for Kansas, Bishop George J. Donnelly.
In his homily, Archbishop Naumann preached on how the priest becomes a living witness to others of the living, dying and rising of Jesus Christ.
“The commitment to the priesthood is meant to be a startling thing; it is meant to evoke in others a shock,” he said. “Why would anyone give up what arguably, humanly speaking, is most precious and dear? And our response to that is that we are doing what Jesus asked the individuals in the Gospel to do today — to come and follow him.”
He also said that the church “needs great priests today” — who know what it means to be a disciple of Jesus of Nazareth.
“That’s the adventure, my friends, that you embarked upon,” said the archbishop. “We pray that the Lord will help you with discernment to know what his will is, whatever that might be. But we pray in a very real sense that that discernment will lead you to understand that, indeed, Jesus is calling you to serve his people as a priest.”
Following the Mass, the cathedral’s master of ceremonies for pontifical services, Michael Rebout, gave the seminarians a tour and a short history of the parish.
The Cathedral ot St. Peter will be celebrating the centennial of its founding on Oct. 7.
After their tour, the seminarians returned to St. Louis.