by Moira Cullings
OLATHE — “It will be a joy to formally install Father Andrew [Strobl] as pastor today,” said Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann.
“If we could just get him to be excited about it. . .”
Laughter erupted from the packed gymnasium at Madison Place Elementary School in Olathe, where the archdiocese’s newest parish community was gathered for the installation of the ever-enthusiastic pastor on Oct. 9.
“I’m confident of Father Andrew Strobl’s abilities and zeal, and sharing the Gospel and celebrating the sacraments, his love of the Lord and his desire to be a father to this community,” said Archbishop Naumann. “It’s a great joy to present him to you this time formally as your pastor. I invite you to show your approval.”
After a full minute of cheering, the audience and Father Strobl, who sat beaming with joy, waited on the edge of their seats to hear the parish’s name for the first time.
And Archbishop Naumann couldn’t have chosen a more fitting one for the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas’ new parish.
St. John Paul II was just perfect.
‘A special patron’
Because this is the first parish founded since Archbishop Naumann arrived the archdiocese, he said choosing the name with help of Father Strobl and his parishioners was particularly thrilling.
St. John Paul II made him a bishop in 1997, he said, appointed him to the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas in 2004, and the two met on several occasions.
Pope John Paul II is also a “special patron” of the new evangelization — something near and dear to Father Strobl’s work, said the archbishop.
“As you know, [for] Father Andrew, an important part of his ministry in recent years has been leading our efforts at evangelization,” said Archbishop Naumann.
Father Strobl hopes to carry on those efforts in his new capacity at St. John Paul II.
“I’m grateful for the opportunity because I really think there’s something special about forming a new community where everybody’s a new parishioner,” said Father Strobl. “We get to go from the ground up in terms of building on good practices and a good leadership team.”
“I get to put into practice a lot of what we’ve been working on with the office of evangelization the last three years, which I’m really excited about,” he added.
Father Strobl, who was in college when the last parish was founded in 2003, is “humbled” that he was chosen for this role.
“It’s not something a priest normally gets to do,” he said. “Honestly, it wasn’t anything I ever expected as a priest that I’d have the opportunity to do.”
Off to a strong start
St. John Paul II has essentially been on the planning board since 2008, when the need for a new parish was identified in the regional plan for Johnson County.
Because Prince of Peace Church in Olathe is the largest parish in Kansas and 1,000 families larger than the next biggest parish, a new parish in that area will be a huge benefit to the archdiocese, said Father Strobl.
Even after the new parish is well-established, he said, Prince of Peace will still remain the state’s largest parish.
“Basically, the reason we have a new parish is because the faith spreads so much,” said Father Strobl. “There was so much growth in that area that we need it for pastoral concerns.”
St. John Paul II has no official timeline for when it will break ground on the church building. For now, the parish currently celebrates Mass at Madison Place Elementary at 8:30 and 10:30 a.m. on Sundays and will have a 5:30 p.m. Saturday evening Mass starting in Advent.
Long-term plans for the parish also include an office, rectory and school.
“Right now, it has a sense of newness,” said Father Strobl. “But [our parishioners] have to really look and appreciate why we have parishes.
“What role do they want the parish to play in their life?”
Father Strobl is struck by the enthusiasm of his parishioners, many of whom are young families.
And of the nearly 200 households who have already registered, Katie and James Van Booven were the first to have their son, Zander, baptized immediately after the parish’s name was established.
“We’re very excited,” said James, “especially starting a new family and having our son baptized the same day our priest is officially installed as pastor and the parish is named.”
“So for us, it’s especially special to be starting our family here at the new parish,” he added.
The two, like many at St. John Paul II, are grateful Father Strobl is the founding pastor.
“He’s awesome,” said Katie. “He brings a lot of energy to add to our parish.”
Archbishop Naumann has high hopes for the parish and left the installation with a final prayer.
“We ask [St. John Paul II] that he will intercede with the Lord to help this community truly be a community where the Gospel is proclaimed,” he said.