Archdiocese Local

Spark Sessions add fuel to Enflame convocation fire

From left, Mary Zachariasen shares experiences of both good and bad listening with Deon Zachariasen and Carol Manis, all members of Mother Teresa of Calcutta Parish in Topeka. LEAVEN PHOTO BY KATHRYN WHITE

by Joe Bollig

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Mary Zachariasen was filled with zeal following the archdiocesan Enflame convocation in October 2019, but a year and eight months later, she needed something to reignite — a spark.

And that’s exactly what she got.

Zachariasen and other Enflame veterans have, and are, participating in the three Spark Sessions offered by the archdiocesan office of adult evangelization. The first was on May 1, the second was June 19 and the third will be on Aug. 14.

She has attended the first two and is looking forward to the third.

“I needed some connection,” said Zachariasen, a member of Mother Teresa of Calcutta Parish in Topeka. “We lost connection during this whole COVID thing. I needed to be inspired and lifted up.”

The sessions are being held at the Keleher Center at Savior Pastoral Center in Kansas City, Kansas. Each session is based on the three Enflame principles of prayer, caring and sharing.

The Enflame Spark Sessions taking place at Savior Pastoral Center provide time for group discussions. LEAVEN PHOTO BY KATHRYN WHITE

“A Spark Session is an opportunity to come together with other missionary disciples in the archdiocese to continue to grow and learn about the Enflame initiative, and how we can live that out in our parishes and communities,” said Emily Lopez, lead consultant for the office of adult evangelization.

At Spark Sessions, which are nearly a day long, the participants grow in discipleship with Christ and share the joy of that discipleship.

“This is a continuation, where people are gathering in-person, in community, to dive deeper into prayer, caring and sharing — three of the tenets of Enflame,” said John Dahlstrand, consultant for adult evangelization.

John Dahstrand speaks at a recent Spark Session. LEAVEN PHOTO BY KATHRYN WHITE

The COVID-19 pandemic produced the challenges of isolation and loneliness for many people, he said.

But even before the pandemic, missionary disciples in rural parishes could feel that “thirst” to be with others who are part of the initiative, said Lopez.

“[This can be the case] especially for our rural parishes,” she said. “We’re spoiled by the population density in Johnson County and the number of large parishes that have many things going on.

“For people from our smaller parishes, they just can’t bounce from this over to that place if they have something going on and this one doesn’t. People with a heart for evangelization may not be in a parish that’s actively pursuing it . . . so they can feel really ‘thirsty.’”

“In the first one in May,” continued Lopez, “we had people from 22 parishes, mostly not from Johnson County. That tells me people want that opportunity to interact and connect. We take it for granted in urban areas that this exists easily for every Catholic community.”

The turnout at the first two Spark Sessions brought in Catholics from around the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas. LEAVEN PHOTO BY KATHRYN WHITE

During the Spark Sessions, participants listened to short talks and a personal witness, participated in small group discussions and engaged in different forms of prayer — including eucharistic adoration and Benediction.

Larissa Smith, director of adult formation and evangelization at Prince of Peace Parish in Olathe, appreciated the theme of caring at the Spark Session on June 19.

“John Dahlstrand talked about listening with care, and Emily Lopez talked about having a relationship with a person as far as caring, and Father Viet Nguyen talked about having a community of care,” said Smith.

“[Father Viet] talked about how to care as a community and what that means. He said a community of care is vulnerable. It’s a community of love. [He said] focus on what is in front of you and not the end game. It’s more of are you talking to a person because you want to evangelize them and get them in the pew, or are you talking to this person because you care about talking to this person.”

Deacon Stuart Holland of Holy Trinity Parish in Lenexa talks among the wider group at a recent Spark Session. LEAVEN PHOTO BY KATHRYN WHITE

Rich and Trudy Boynton, from Holy Trinity Parish in Lenexa, also appreciated the speakers at the June 19 Spark Session.

“There was a young lady from City on a Hill on the Missouri side,” said Rich. “She was excellent. . . . She related how she experienced care and the impact it had on her. I particularly liked when she said the element of care she experienced, which she felt was one of the easiest things to do, was just taking notice. She recalled at the Newman Center at her university, the pastor there took notice of her and made her feel welcome. He always took notice of people who were there. It’s something that we aren’t always doing as well as we should in our communities.”

Zachariasen learned that caring and building takes time and requires vulnerability.

“The one thing I keep hearing is our need to share our faith with others, and that can be kind of scary if you go about it the wrong way,” she said. “It starts with loving someone and that takes time . . . to build these friendships, these trusting relationships.

“The same kind of relationship I have with Christ, that’s the kind of relationship I need to build with other people. That’s my takeaway: working on relationships that help draw others to Christ. I don’t need to be a theologian to do it; I just need to love.”

The next Spark Session on Aug. 14 will explore the Enflame core principle of sharing. For information or to attend the session, contact Lopez online at:, or Dahlstrand online at:

About the author

Joe Bollig

Joe has been with The Leaven since 1993. He has a bachelor’s degree in communications and a master’s degree in journalism. Before entering print journalism he worked in commercial radio. He has worked for the St. Joseph (Mo.) News-Press and Sun Publications in Overland Park. During his journalistic career he has covered beats including police, fire, business, features, general assignment and religion. While at The Leaven he has been a writer, photographer and videographer. He has won or shared several Catholic Press Association awards, as well as Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara awards for mission coverage. He graduated with a certification in catechesis from a two-year distance learning program offered by the Maryvale Institute for Catechesis, Theology, Philosophy and Religious Education at Old Oscott, Great Barr, in Birmingham, England.

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