by Katie Hyde
TOPEKA — Lisa Cotter knows the Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kansas, like the back of her hand.
She grew up here, attended Holy Spirit Grade School and St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Overland Park, met her husband at Prairie Star Ranch in Williamsburg and attended Benedictine College in Atchison.
You could call her the archkck guru.
She’s also an expert on youth, having worked at the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS), an organization of young Catholic missionaries that evangelizes on college campuses.
Over the weekend of Jan. 22-24, Cotter reconnected to her Kansas roots, returning to the archdiocese to give multiple talks in Topeka covering the theology of the body, living the liturgical year and self-respect.
Cotter’s first talk was at Hayden High School, where she spoke separately to male and female students, helping them navigate the challenges of adolescence through faith in God.
Hayden president Rick Strecker acknowledged the importance of these kind of talks, which often reiterate church teachings in a new light.
“Students hear about morality, respect and spirituality from their parents, from their pastors and from teachers and personnel at the school,” said Strecker. “I think it’s very valuable for people from the outside to repeat that or present it in a slightly different fashion. I think her message was very important for our students to hear from someone in her position.”
It was a message the students quickly took to heart.
“I think they enjoyed the humor that she brought to her presentation,” said Strecker.
Following her day at Hayden, Cotter spent all day Saturday at Christ the King Church in Topeka, where she first addressed a talk exclusively to women.
“Her basic message, which is a good one to hear, is that our identity as human persons is rooted in God,” said Father Mitchel Zimmerman, pastor of Christ the King. “For women to know that if they’re asking the question, ‘Who am I?’ and ‘What’s my full dignity as a woman?,’ the Catholic Church has a beautiful teaching on this rooted in God and [the] theology of the body.”
Cotter’s final talk brought together families of the community to discuss how they can live out the liturgical year in their homes — armed with some creative thinking.
“If you want to build Catholic culture and you want to pass on the faith in real and tangible ways, church can’t be just something that you do on Sunday, something that you do when you go to religious education or you go to school,” Cotter explained to the families. “It has to be something that you breathe.”
“We have to give our children and youth something to catch,” she said. “We have to present something to them so that they can catch it and internalize it and cling to it. So where do we begin?”
Some of Cotter’s suggestions can be found in the sidebar accompanying this story.
Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, who attended the event and introduced Cotter, underscored the critical importance of strong Catholic families.
“Supporting strong micro-families is a way of evangelization,” Archbishop Naumann said. “And it doesn’t just evangelize their own members but other Catholic families, who see they are families of joy. They’re drawn to that, they want to be around those families. They want to know what makes these families so vibrant, so alive.”