by Jessica Langdon
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — What better place to kick off something new than at the stadium of the hometown soccer team here, Sporting Kansas City?
So that’s just what KU’s St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center did Feb. 7, with close to 300 supporters.
The event drew from all over Kansas and beyond to honor the spirit of what the center has accomplished in the past and its plans for the future.
“[The event] really gave us an opportunity to engage friends and family and benefactors of the St. Lawrence Center in a fun way,” said Laurel Sharpe, executive director of advancement at the center.
Attendees spent time in the field club, took a look at the field and the pressroom, and even got a tour of the Sporting KC locker room.
And while the St. Lawrence Center was kicking off a new era for KU Catholics, the event also celebrated the spirit that has always been at work there.
The St. Lawrence Center, like other archdiocesan campus centers, fills a special role: As an outreach of the archdiocese, it serves students at the University of Kansas, but its impact reaches far beyond the boundaries of northeast Kansas.
“We have students at the St. Lawrence Center who come from all over the country and all over Kansas and all around the world,” said Sharpe.
So it’s vital to show people the center exists and is there to serve students and their families.
“My life is a complete turnaround,” said Gage Shirley, a senior studying atmospheric science at KU, of his experience at the St. Lawrence Center.
Originally from Valley Center, Shirley grew up Catholic, but his faith wasn’t fostered over the years.
He described a largely agnostic approach to faith as he started college.
But at the beginning of his sophomore year, his new roommate — who had begun to get involved at the St. Lawrence Center — invited Shirley to Mass.
There, Shirley encountered one of the Sisters of the Apostles of the Interior Life. He began to meet regularly with her as he sought to deepen his spiritual life.
Shirley shared the story of his faith journey with the crowd at the Feb. 7 event, which celebrated a community he says has challenged him, pushed him outside his comfort zone at times and helped him grow.
Shirley said he enjoyed seeing this other side of the center — outside the students and the staff he sees on a regular basis — and thanking supporters for not only their financial support, but their prayers.
“How many chances do you get to tell people they’ve changed your life?” he asked.
And he witnesses to the center’s worldwide reach in the missionary work students take around the world. He hopes to do missionary work after graduation.
As a KU alumna who was active at the St. Lawrence Center, Sharpe can also speak to the role the center plays in so many lives.
“I tell people it’s a great privilege to serve in this role,” said Sharpe. “I have the opportunity to go meet the people who have supported the St. Lawrence Center throughout the years and tell them thank you.”
While as a student she didn’t understand what it takes to keep the center going — with all its programs, it adds up to an average of $1,500 per student for the academic year — she sees it from a new perspective today.
“I see that, and I say, ‘Thanks,’” said Sharpe. “The St. Lawrence Center changed my life.”
People who attended the St. Lawrence Center at Sporting KC evening were encouraged to show their support of the center by committing to sponsor one student for $1,500.
Attendees also were among the first to hear about plans for a new event the center will launch in the fall — a barn party that will be held Sept. 19 at Mildale Farm in Edgerton.
It had been seven years since the center had an annual event — and Sharpe saw that it needed one, especially after the Divine Wine Fest ended — and organizers are looking forward to bringing people together to reconnect and support a thriving Catholic center.
Watch for more details on the barn party in the coming months on the St. Lawrence Center website: at www.ku catholic.org.
Or, for more information or to sponsor a student at the center, call Sharpe at (816) 289-7344.