Within our REACH

Archdiocese launches new youth ministry in the urban core

by Katie Hyde

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — In a demonstration of the archdiocese’s commitment to youth, Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann celebrated a night of eucharistic adoration and worship at Blessed Sacrament Church here on Dec. 30 — and launched a new youth center at the former school to boot.

Teens and adults from all over the archdiocese filled the church for the annual eucharistic adoration event, One Thing Remains. But the night also marked the opening and dedication of ReachKCK (Blessed Sacrament campus), the brand-new facility for archdiocesan urban youth outreach.

Celebrating youth

The night’s centerpiece, One Thing Remains, was coordinated by the archdiocesan office of evangelization and Catholic formation for youth, and included music, prayer, adoration, and confession.

“For a Monday night in the cold, it was really amazing to see how many people came out to praise and worship the Lord,” said Rick Cheek, archdiocesan consultant for evangelization and Catholic formation of youth. “Young people are always looking for a deeper relationship with Christ, and I think sometimes we don’t give them enough credit.”

The event included music by nationally known Catholic musician Steve Angrisano and Our Lady & St. Rose Parish’s gospel choir.

“I love the sense of community here,” said Danielle Blongewicz, a teenager from Holy Spirit in Overland Park who attended the event along with a group of her peers. “We’re not from around here, but we all came together.”

Reaching out

But the evening started out with the grand opening and dedication of ReachKCK (Blessed Sacrament campus), the headquarters of the new urban youth outreach of the archdiocese. The center, which includes a dance studio, coffee shop, and music room, is located in the newly renovated basement of the former Blessed Sacrament School. The ministry, though based at the Blessed Sacrament Campus, will be county-wide, and will sponsor events at parishes throughout KCK.

Liz Halfmann, director of ReachKCK and the urban youth outreach coordinator, hopes that the center will be a space where the youth of Kansas City, Kan., can gather, learn, and grow.

“Our goal is to connect with the teens of Wyandotte County in a way that invites them to come and be who they are through music, dance, or whatever they are into, and from that, invite them to something deeper,” said Halfmann.

Because many parishes in the area do not have as many resources, ReachKCK will augment and support area parish youth groups.

“There are, plain and simple, not as many resources in some of these parishes to, for example, hire a full-time youth minister or even a part-time youth minister,” Halfmann said. “All of the youth ministers in KCK, I think, are volunteers.

“This youth outreach is here to help boost them up and to augment the youth ministry region-wide in KCK.”

Although newly launched, the outreach has been years in the making. In his travels around the archdiocese, explained Deacon Dana Nearmyer, lead archdiocesan consultant for the office of evangelization and Catholic formation for youth, Archbishop Naumann heard from pastors about the difficulty in engaging urban core kids in the church. With its limited personnel, Deacon Nearmyer said his office’s reach was finite.

So in 2010, when the archdiocese initiated a study to determine the feasibility of a capital campaign to raise funds for pastoral needs, greater outreach to youth was one of the top needs discussed.

Although the task force appointed to further study the prospect of a capital campaign eventually advised against it, it did recommend an additional parish assessment to help expand youth ministry services in urban and rural areas. The archbishop accepted the task force’s recommendations in July 2012, and plans for ReachKCK were soon to follow.

Many events have been planned for ReachKCK, including open gyms, open mic nights, art classes, Zumba classes, and dance classes — all with the goal of connecting with the teens of the area, and connecting those teens to God.
Diva Esparza, a Zumba instructor from St. Agnes Parish in Roeland Park, is excited to be able to give back to her community as a volunteer Zumba and weight-loss instructor at ReachKCK.

“This is great,” Esparza said. “We need it for our youth, especially in this community. We need to find a way for them to be happy.”

The challenge now, according to Halfmann, is reaching out to the teens in the area that would benefit from the center, especially those who haven’t heard about its mission.

“The thing to remember is that this is outreach,” said Halfmann. “So even though we have a center and it’s beautiful and we’re so blessed to have it, it’s important to remember that there is a whole big world out there.”

Through a relational, one-on-one approach to ministry, Halfmann hopes to bring the message of Christ to all who come through the doors of ReachKCK.

“This is a 1950s grade school and we have taken it and transformed it into something beautiful, incredible, and full of potential and opportunity,” said Halfmann. “In the same way, our desire is for Christ to take these lives that come into this space and transform them into lives with unending hope and potential and promise and opportunity.”

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