Dear Friends in Christ,
During the last year, the Lord has continued to bless abundantly our archdiocese in extraordinary ways. In the spring, the first 17 men were ordained to serve as permanent deacons in our local church. The number of our seminarians preparing for priestly ordination has steadily grown. The Apostles of the Interior Life began a program to form laywomen and men to serve as spiritual mentors — to assist others to grow in their life of prayer. The Holy Family School of Faith is providing faith and spiritual formation to all of our elementary and high school Catholic school teachers. This summer, our young people were able to participate in the Eucharist and pray in the newly erected permanent chapel dedicated to Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha at Prairie Star Ranch. These are just a few of the many ways in which the Lord has blessed the Catholic community of northeast Kansas.
In last year’s archdiocesan annual financial report update, I shared with you the results of the feasibility study and its recommendation of a year of education and dialogue about our case elements with priests and lay leaders throughout the archdiocese. Much of the work of this process has been shouldered by our Case Review Task Force. The purpose of this blue-ribbon committee is to review the most pressing financial needs facing the archdiocese and provide me with recommendations on the best course of action to address those needs.
Clergy members of the task force include Msgr. Thomas Tank, Father Frank Burger, Father Mark Mertes, Father Bill Bruning and Father Bill Porter. They are joined by Bill Dunn Jr., Lamar Hunt Jr., Brenda Zimmerman, John Menghini, Jack Newman and our task force chairman, Michael Morrissey. I am very grateful for the significant investment of time, effort and commitment already invested by each of these members.
The task force has been meeting since March. They have spent a significant amount of time educating themselves about the financial issues facing our archdiocese, its schools, parishes and ministries. The task force requested and received detailed presentations on the state of our Catholic high schools and the debt burdens facing St. James, Bishop Ward and Hayden high schools in particular. The task force has examined the significant need for increased youth ministry and youth outreach in rural parishes, the importance of archdiocesan support for Donnelly College as leverage for acquiring donations from the broader community for its unique mission, and the considerable facilities, maintenance and programmatic needs facing our inner-city parishes.
In addition to the topics I mentioned above, task force members have requested and received briefings on the possibility of implementing the “Catholics Come Home” program, adding a Spanishlanguage radio station and/or increasing support for parishes in the training of catechists for the Schools of Religion programs, among others.
In late August, task force members reached a turning point. They have wrapped up the “learning” portion of their work and now have begun the considerably more difficult task of digesting what they have learned in order to formulate recommendations on how the archdiocese should move forward to meet these needs in a well-thought-out and purposeful way. To be sure, this process involves asking tough questions and taking a hard look at the issues the archdiocese is facing. Ultimately, the task force will be charged with recommending which needs can be addressed at this moment and how we might best go about funding them.
It is possible that the task force will recommend that we make changes to how we calculate the annual parish support to the archdiocese, or that we change the method or programs funded by the annual Archbishop’s Call to Share appeal. It is also possible that the task force will recommend moving forward with some manner of capital campaign or adding a new revenue stream that has not yet been considered. Everything is on the table, and nothing has been decided.
What is clear to me, in the months that I have spent working alongside the task force, is that we are an archdiocese blessed by strong parishes, faith-filled families and incredibly generous parishioners. It is also clear that the needs being studied are serious and require our attention. While we are not in an immediate financial emergency, I have always believed that the best time to plan for the future is not in the midst of a crisis, but rather at a moment when we have the freedom to chart a careful, thoughtful approach to the challenges we face. At the same time, to miss this opportunity to address some of our present challenges and to fail to take advantage of some of the current opportunities will place some of the schools, parishes and ministries of the archdiocese in financial jeopardy in the not too distant future. The proposed campaign case was not intended to initiate programs, but to strengthen and expand current ministries and to improve the financial foundation for our schools and parishes.
The input and participation of so many members of our archdiocese in the feasibility study, both lay and clergy alike, helped to prompt this rewarding year of reflection and dialogue. I share the task force’s desire to communicate the fruit of their labors and receive additional input from the priests and people of the archdiocese. As part of the yearlong process, the task force has provided regular update presentations to our priest leaders at their Presbyteral Council meetings and to a Case Review Advisory Council, a group of 25 laypeople recruited to ask the task force additional questions and to help share word of their progress. I am in the process of attending regional meetings of our priests to update them on the work of the task force, to answer their questions, and to receive helpful feedback. Finally, members of our team have also provided regular in-person reports to archdiocesan staff, to our pastoral council, and finance council.
But it does not stop there. I encourage you to speak with any or all of the priests and laypeople who are serving on this task force to ask them questions about the process, what they are learning and what options are under consideration. You might also spend some time at the website — www.archkck.org/ toughquestions — to learn more about our process. This website also allows you the opportunity to ask questions.
I ask for your continued prayers that the Holy Spirit guides our efforts and inspires us on how best to do the Lord’s work here in the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas. We entrust this initiative to the prayers of Mary, the patroness of the archdiocese. I am confident that the Lord, who has blessed the Catholic community of northeast Kansas so abundantly these past 160 years, will make fruitful for the good of his church, the work and efforts of so many this past year.
With gratitude for your love for Jesus and his church, I remain
Sincerely yours in Jesus, the Lord of Life,
Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas