by Jill Ragar Esfeld
SCRANTON — Charge your Fitbits and check the tread on your cross trainers, St. Patrick Parish here is hosting an event you won’t want to miss.
Whether you can stroll a mile, hike a 10K, or run a full marathon, you’re welcome to join the fun on Oct. 10 as parishioners gather at Lake Shawnee in Topeka to raise funds to build their new church.
The need is great. The St. Patrick Church building is just shy of 100 years old and worn out beyond repair.
“It was built in 1917,” said parishioner Lori Mock. “It’s not that we really want to build a new church. It’s that we need to build a new church.
“It’s deteriorating and it’s too cost prohibitive to repair it.”
“We’ve been trying to look at renovating it,” confirmed pastor Father Anthony Kiplagat. “But it costs more than building a new church.”
When St. Patrick launched its capital campaign earlier this year, Father Kiplagat wanted to be part of the support effort. But as a priest from the Diocese of Eldoret in Kenya, East Africa, he doesn’t have deep pockets.
“Everybody was giving the contributions and pledges,” he said. “And I had been thinking, ‘How will I participate?’
“And then I came up with the idea of a walk.”
Recalling the long walks of his youth in Kenya, sometimes as far as 160 kilometers (some 99 miles), Father Kiplagat came up with an ambitious plan — to walk 30 miles, asking donations for each mile.
“If I walk one mile, can you sponsor me $5?” he said. “So, I’m calculating maybe I could make like $15,000.
“And that would be my contribution to the church!”
After pitching his plan to his parishioners, Father Kiplagat began to reflect on the long distance he’d committed to.
“Actually,” he said, “I’m realizing, at my age now, 30 miles will be a challenge.”
But not to worry. What Father Kiplagat’s rural parish of 100 families lacks in wealth, it makes up for in spirit.
Parishioners were not about to let their beloved pastor face his challenge alone. They decided to walk with him and are inviting everyone in the archdiocese to come along.
“When I came up with the walk,” said Father Kiplagat, “Lori and the members of the church put this plan together. And they came up with a safe place where we can do the walk.”
Indeed, four treks around nearby Topeka’s Lake Shawnee — on a scenic walking path, no less — equals exactly 30 miles. And best of all, according to the planning committee, there are nice bathrooms located along the way.
“We want people drinking lots of water,” said Mock.
The parish has reserved a shelter house where the walk will begin at dawn. Water and medic stations will be positioned along the 7.5-mile path.
The shelter house will accommodate participants for lunch midway through the walk — as well as a Mass and dinner at the end of the day.
“The main thing is I wanted to make it a prayerful walk,” said Father Kiplagat. “We would gather and do the walk as we pray, asking God to make us succeed in our campaign.”
To that end, the parish’s capital campaign prayer will be posted along the walking path so participants can occasionally pause and pray it together.
Second to prayer, the main focus of the walk is having fun and doing whatever you can to raise money for the cause.
“We just want people to relax and enjoy each other,” said Father Kiplagat. “Talk to each other, visit with each other, play together. That’s it.”
“We have told parishioners up front,” added Mock, “do whatever you are able to do. So, we have some people who are close to 85 who are going to do two miles.
“And I’ve heard some families say they’re going to work it like a relay — taking turns with laps.”
Mock’s son Matthew hopes to get a group together from his confirmation class, because the walk would count as service hours.
“I’m going to try to walk and jog intervals to make the 30 miles,” he said.
“That’s a whole day of service with Gatorade and snacks to boot,” said Mock.
Father Kiplagat is hoping for support from former parishioners and friends he’s made during his eight years with the archdiocese.
“I’m asking that people really support us in Scranton,” he said, “because this is a rural parish church and there are not many people like in the cities.
“I’m encouraging especially people who know me, where I have worked before, like Curé of Ars in Leawood, St. Agnes in Roeland Park, Prince of Peace and St. Paul in Olathe and Holy Angels in Basehor.
“If they can really support me by sending a donation or coming here and participating, that would be the best.”
As St. Patrick parishioners have come together to support their pastor in his effort to contribute to the building fund, they’ve learned an important lesson about their church.
“We’ve come to realize St. Patrick church isn’t the building,” said Mock. “It’s the people, the family.
“And we really do have an awesome church family.”
Join the Walking in Prayer event
Help Father Anthony Kiplagat reach his goal of raising $15,000 to help build a new church. Or get a pledge sheet of your own and join him in his effort.
The St. Patrick-Scranton Walking in Prayer event will take place on Oct. 10 from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. at Lake Shawnee Shelter House #1; 3400 S.E. Leisure Lane, Topeka.
Prayer walk T-shirts are available for $15 — or free with $125 or more in pledges!
After the Prayer Walk, participants will gather for a Sunday vigil Mass celebration, followed by an evening meal.
The evening meal is open to families and friends of walkers, fellow parishioners and anyone else who wants to show support and solidarity with St. Patrick’s building endeavor. Organizers ask only that you call and let them know if you plan to attend.
For more information, to support Father Kiplagat or to obtain a pledge sheet, contact the church office at (785) 528-3424; send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org; or contact Lori Mock online at: email@example.com.