by Jill Ragar Esfeld and Sara Stacey
Special to The Leaven
LAWRENCE — Though the venues are different, the purpose is always the same: to engage young Catholics in the church and let them know how important they are to the archdiocese.
The message comes directly from Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, who hosts Trust One Greater events across the archdiocese. At its core is his desire for young people to develop an intimate relationship with Christ.
“I want them to have a friendship with Jesus,” he said. “If they have that, they’ll have peace, they’ll have joy, no matter the exterior circumstances of life.”
On March 21 at St. Benedict’s Abbey Guadalupe Chapel in Atchison, Archbishop Naumann opened the evening with a meditation focused on the election of Pope Francis
Pope Francis is the seventh pope in Archbishop Naumann’s lifetime.
He reflected that each pope has been what the church needed at the time, and the new pope is calling the church to a more intimate relationship with Christ.
“If we’re going to be disciples of Christ, we have to be willing to follow him all the way, even to Calvary,” he said.
Drawing from Pope Francis’ first homily, the archbishop emphasized the importance of professing our faith, telling his young audience that at the “heart of faith” is an encounter with Jesus Christ.
“We have unique tools to build this relationship,” he said.
He encouraged his audience to be men and women of prayer and to utilize the sacraments of reconciliation and the Eucharist.
On April 16 at the St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Archbishop Naumann reiterated his primary hope for young adults.
“My prayer for each of you during this Year of Faith,” he said, “is that every Catholic has a close personal friendship with Jesus.
“I encourage you to enter into prayer here tonight; invite the Lord to come into your heart.”
The archbishop’s talk on this evening centered on the Gospel account of the multiplication of the loaves and fish; he emphasized that
Jesus did not want to send the crowd away to sate its hunger.
“He wanted to provide hospitality,” he said. “He wanted to satisfy them.”
“Jesus doesn’t see us or our hungers as impositions,” the archbishop continued. “He doesn’t want to send us away hungry.
“If we surrender out hearts and lives to Jesus, he will not only feed us, but he will use us to feed a starving world.”
At both events, the archbishop talked about the Eucharist and encouraged the young adults to continuously ask the Lord to help them maintain their wonder, love and hunger for the Eucharist.
“During eucharistic adoration,” he said, “we have a chance to contemplate the great gift we are offered at every Eucharist.
“The Eucharist gives us a deepened longing to be always in union with Our Lord.”
Archbishop Naumann also encouraged reception of the sacrament of reconciliation, which was available throughout the evenings of prayer.
“It is an act of faith and humility,” he said. “Frequent use builds intimacy with Jesus Christ.”
Both events were complemented with music.
Musician Ike Ndolo from Phoenix performed in the Guadalupe Chapel. The St. Lawrence evening was accompanied by the center’s Praise and Worship Band and the Men’s Chant Schola.
After Benediction and eucharistic adoration, participants had an opportunity to play “Stump the Bishop” with questions on any topic.
Questions at both events proved to be entertaining and informative.
Young people gleaned some personal information about the archbishop — like his favorite pudding flavor is chocolate — and they learned his advice on discerning a vocation.
“Every one of us has a vocation,” he said. “We need to ask the Lord what he has planned.
“If you ask God what he wants you to do, he’ll make that clear to you.”
Lizzie Shell, St. Paul’s Outreach (SPO) missionary at Benedictine College, was one of many students inspired by her evening with the archbishop.
“I was really blessed by the archbishop’s message,” she said. “[It] was heartfelt and relevant to us as a young generation.”
As for the archbishop, he said it was a joy to give the young Catholics a chance to get to know their bishop and to help form them in faith.
“But I think they form me more,” he added.
Remarking on the crowd at the St. Lawrence Center event, Archbishop Naumann said, “That to me is one of the great sources of hope in the future.”