Archdiocese Local

2015 Year in Review

yearendVision plan, Laudato Si’, and archbishop’s double duty highlight year

by Joe Bollig

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Most papal encyclicals don’t make much of a stir outside the church, but Pope Francis’ “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home,” published on May 24, sent shock waves through all the world.

This “environmental encyclical” provoked controversy and discussion among Catholics and non-Catholics alike and engaged people who previously were uninterested in what the Catholic Church had to say. Again, this was Pope Francis engaging the peripheries.

In keeping with his papal theme of mercy, Pope Francis shook things up again on April 12 when he issued “Misericordiae Vultus,” the papal bull for the extraordinary jubilee Year of Mercy. This year runs from the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception on Dec. 8 to the solemnity of Christ the King on Nov. 20, 2016.

As the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas sought to digest “Laudato Si’” and to participate in the extraordinary Year of Mercy, it also launched the archdiocese’s 10-year mutually shared vision from Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann and his Envisioning Leadership Team.

The vision called for Catholics to grow as disciples of Christ and asked them to implement three key initiatives: to build a culture of evangelization; to strengthen marriage and family life; and to cultivate relationships by engaging in the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.

Although Pope Francis didn’t invent the World Meeting of Families (they’ve happened every three years since 1994), he definitely shaped the agenda for the eighth, which took place Sept. 21-24 in Philadelphia. Archdiocesan pilgrims were thrilled to see Pope Francis and participate in the event.

Of course, there were a lot of things going on in the archdiocese that were not papal initiatives.

There were significant building projects completed at St. Bernard Parish in Wamego, Holy Cross Parish in Overland Park and Holy Family Parish in Eudora.

Two long-serving archdiocesan priests died. Five men were ordained to the priesthood.

For a while, it seemed like the archdiocese and the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph were one, when Archbishop Naumann did double duty as apostolic administrator when Bishop Robert W. Finn resigned.

As in past years, there were celebrations of anniversaries, fundraisers, social activities, education, evangelization and many personal milestones. There were beginnings and endings.

So, before we close the book on this eventful year, let’s take one last look back at the events and people that affected our lives as the church of northeast Kansas in 2015.


  • The Miami County Sheriff’s Office investigated the theft of the Christmas Eve and Christmas Day collections at Queen of the Holy Rosary Parish at Wea-Bucyrus.
  • Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann celebrated a Red Mass on Jan. 15 at Mater Dei-Assumption Parish in Topeka. The Red Mass is celebrated annually for judges, attorneys, law school professors, students and government officials.
  • The second group of 68 volunteers to complete a two-year program of formation and training as part of the spiritual mentorship program run by the Apostles of Interior Life received certificates from Archbishop Naumann on Jan. 18 at Savior Pastoral Center. A third group was formed to begin its studies.
  • Father Gerard Senecal, OSB, 85, died on Jan. 19 at Senior Village in Atchison. Father Gerard was a monk, priest, pastor, scientist, college professor, department chairman and president of Benedictine College in Atchison.
  • Hundreds of archdiocesan Catholics joined tens of thousands of other pro-life Americans at the annual March for Life rally on Jan. 22 in Washington, D.C. Hundreds of others gathered at the state Capitol in Topeka.
  • More than 1,700 people attended Snow Ball 41 on Jan. 24. The annual fundraising gala for Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas set a record, raising more than $2 million.
  • Archbishop Naumann kicked off Catholic Schools Week by celebrating the 125th anniversary of St. Michael School in Axtell with a Mass, luncheon and open house on Jan. 25.
  • Archbishop Naumann announced that he and an 11-member Envisioning Leadership Team would begin on Jan. 26 to begin a process to produce a 10- year pastoral plan and vision for the archdiocese.
  • Terry and Michael Rebout, members of the St. Peter Cathedral Parish in Kansas City, Kansas, were chosen to be co-chairs of the archbishop’s annual Call to Share appeal.


  • Archbishop Naumann was the main celebrant and homilist at a Mass in celebration of consecrated life on Feb. 1 at Savior Pastoral Center in Kansas City, Kansas.
  • The first F.I.R.E. Catholic men’s retreat was held Feb. 7-8 at Prairie Star Ranch near Williamsburg.
  • Couples gathered at the sixth annual World Marriage Day Mass on Feb. 8 at Curé of Ars Parish in Leawood. The event was co-sponsored by the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas and the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph.
  • Abbot Primate Notker Wolf, the worldwide leader of the Benedictine Confederation, visited the Benedictine Sisters of Mount St. Scholastica on Feb. 10 for the feast of St. Scholastica and in honor of the Year of Religious Life.
  • Archbishop Naumann visited parishes in a series of listening sessions as part of the 10-year archdiocesan visioning process.
  • Bishop James Conley of the Diocese of Lincoln, a native of Overland Park, was the homilist at a White Mass on Feb. 14 at St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Leawood. The White Mass was sponsored by the Sts. Cosmas and Damian Guild of the Catholic Medical Association of Kansas City in honor of all health care workers.
  • More than 1,000 men gathered for Men Under Construction 19, the annual archdiocesan-wide Lenten men’s conference, on Feb. 21 at the Church of the Ascension in Overland Park.


  • The Eternal Word Television Network transformed Donnelly College in Kansas City, Kansas, into a television studio March 2-4 for its “Catholicism on Campus” series.
  • Connie Maltby, from Holy Spirit School in Overland Park, was named the outstanding music educator in the northeast district of the Kansas Music Educators Association.
  • The Padre Pio Academy, a private Catholic elementary school in the former St. Joseph Grade School in Shawnee, celebrated its 15th anniversary.
  • Steve Lacy, a former member of St. Agnes Parish in Roeland Park and now president and CEO of Meredith Corporation, was thanked for making a $500,000 gift to Bishop Miege High School in Roeland Park.
  • A group of more than 30 individuals gathered at Polsinelli Law Firm in Kansas City, Missouri, on March 6 to launch the Catholic Bar Association.
  • Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann blessed two new, donated ultrasound machines on March 11 at the Advice and Aid Pregnancy Centers in Overland Park and Shawnee. The machines were donated as part of a national initiative by the Knights of Columbus.
  • Archbishop Naumann dedicated a new altar and blessed the renovated chapel on March 20 for the Sisters of the Fraternity of the Poor of Jesus Christ, who are renovating the former convent at Blessed Sacrament Parish in Kansas City, Kansas.


  • Gov. Sam Brownback signed SB 95, the “Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Act,” on April 7. Kansas became the first state in the nation to ban dismemberment abortions — also known as Dilation and Evacuation abortions — in the second trimester of pregnancy.
  • Father Frank Horvat, 82, died on April 14 at Brookdale Senior Living in Overland Park.
  • A Touch of Heaven Catholic bookstore in Topeka celebrated its 15th anniversary.
  • Immaculata High School’s board held a meeting with parents and supporters on April 16 to present options for keeping the Leavenworth school open. In less than a month, the school raised slightly less than $1 million, thus saving the school.
  • Archbishop Emeritus James P. Keleher and Curtis Martin (founder of the Fellowship of Catholic University Students) were both Lumen Vitae recipients at the 2015 Abbot’s Table on April 18 at the Sheraton Hotel at Crown Center in Kansas City, Missouri.
  • The Vatican press office in Rome announced on April 21 that Pope Francis had accepted the resignation of Bishop Robert W. Finn as leader of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph. Archbishop Naumann was appointed as apostolic administrator until a permanent bishop was appointed.
  • Archbishop Naumann led a eucharistic procession down Jayhawk Boulevard at the University of Kansas on April 21. He celebrated an outdoor Mass outside Danforth Chapel.
  • Archbishop Naumann ordained Father Simon Baker, OSB, to the priesthood on April 24 at St. Benedict’s Abbey in Atchison.
  • The first Kansas City Catholic Women’s Conference was held on April 25 at the Church of the Ascension in Overland Park.


  • The Catholic bishops of Kansas announced their support for expanding Medicaid under the terms of the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) so more than 130,000 low-income Kansans would become eligible for health insurance under the Medicaid program.
  • $10 million in tax credits were made available statewide as an incentive for eligible business donors to contribute to scholarships for low-income students to attend a designated school of their choice.
  • Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas established a program of placing donation bins at several Johnson County parishes.
  • Queen of the Holy Rosary School in Wea hosted the sixth annual “Running with the Cows” fundraiser on May 9.
  • Fathers Jonathan Dizon, Matthew Nagle, Daniel Morris and Daniel Stover were ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Naumann on May 23 at St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Leawood.
  • The Community of the Lamb led a 30-person, cross-country walking pilgrimage May 30-31 to Sacred Heart Parish in Mound City and St. Rose Philippine Duchesne Memorial Park near Centerville.
  • Archbishop Naumann was the main celebrant and homilist at the 100th anniversary Mass on May 31 at Our Lady of the Snows Shrine on the Potawatomi Reservation, north of Topeka.


  • The annual inter-diocesan Corpus Christi procession began and ended at the Little Monastery of the Community of the Lamb in Kansas City, Kansas, on June 7.
  • Most Pure Heart of Mary Parish in Topeka celebrated 25 years of perpetual eucharistic adoration on June 7, the solemnity of Corpus Christi.
  • Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann approved a pastoral plan for Hispanics in Johnson County on June 8. The plan calls for the ministry to be anchored in three parish-based centers at St. Paul, Olathe; Holy Cross, Overland Park; and Good Shepherd, Shawnee.
  • More than 100 couples gathered on June 14 at St. Peter Cathedral in Kansas City, Kansas, for a Mass and reception celebrating 50th wedding anniversaries. The event was sponsored by the archdiocesan office of marriage and family life.
  • The Chin Catholic Community at St. Patrick Parish in Kansas City, Kansas, received its own charter for the Pope Innocent XIII Council 15865 from Knights of Columbus state representatives.
  • Sacred Heart-St. Joseph Parish in Topeka embarked on a two-phase, $2 million restoration and renovation project for St. Joseph Church, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
  • Archbishop Naumann called upon Catholics to renew and strengthen their support for marriage and family life in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage ruling on June 26 in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges.
  • The Leaven won eight awards at the Catholic media convention — two first place, two second place, one third place, and three honorable mentions — announced on June 26 at Buffalo, New York.


  • Low-power and Internet Catholic radio station KSWZ-LP 105.3 “The Sword of St. George,” based in St. George, celebrated its official launch on July 19 at St. Bernard Parish in Wamego.
  • The Catholic bishops of Kansas thanked Gov. Sam Brownback for issuing his Executive Order 15-05, “Preservation and Protection of Religious Freedom,” on July 7 following the U.S. Supreme Court’s Obergefell v. Hodges same-sex marriage ruling.
  • Father Reginald Saldanha, pastor of parishes in Mound City, Osawatomie and LaCygne, became an American citizen on July 10.
  • Archbishop Naumann blessed on July 19 the new $2.7 million social hall of St. Bernard Parish in Wamego.
  • Two events were sponsored by the archdiocesan office of marriage and family life for Natural Family Planning Awareness Week, July 19-25. Archbishop Naumann was the main celebrant and homilist at a Mass celebrating Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical “Humane Vitae” on July 23 at Curé of Ars Parish in Leawood. A natural family planning “Date Night” for couples was held on July 26 at St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Leawood.
  • Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, OFM Cap., was the main celebrant and homilist at a Mass at St. Peter Cathedral in Kansas City, Kansas, for those attending the national Diocesan Pro-Life Leadership Conference.
  • St. John the Evangelist Parish in Lawrence was named “The Best Place to Worship in Lawrence” in this year’s “Best of Lawrence” poll.


  • A “jeep Mass” honoring Korean War chaplain Father Emil Kapaun was celebrated on Aug. 1 at Prairie Star Ranch, near Williamsburg.
  • Bishop Richard B. Higgins, Vicar for Veterans, an auxiliary bishop of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services, made pastoral visits Aug. 4-5 to Veterans Administration facilities in Topeka and Leavenworth.
  • Sisters from across the nation came to the 2015 national gathering of Giving Voice, Aug. 6-9, at Savior Pastoral Center in Kansas City, Kansas.
  • Former and present parishioners, as well as former students of parish schools, attended the first reunion of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, St. Rose of Lima, and Our Lady & St. Rose parishes in Kansas City, Kansas Aug. 14-16.
  • Archbishop Naumann unveiled the 10-year mutually shared vision for the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas on Aug. 14.
  • Archbishop Naumann was the main celebrant and homilist at the first Blue Mass for law enforcement personnel on Aug. 19 at Mater Dei-Assumption Parish in Topeka.
  • Archbishop Naumann presided at a blessing and groundbreaking on Aug. 21 for the new health center expansion at the Santa Marta continuing care retirement community in Olathe.


  • Archbishop Naumann blessed and dedicated the new Christian Formation Center at Divine Mercy Parish in Gardner on Sept. 1.
  • Archbishop Naumann blessed and dedicated on Sept. 9 the new building for Mary’s Choices in Topeka.
  • The Leaven launched a new website and newspaper redesign on Sept. 11.
  • More than 370 pastors, parish leaders and archdiocesan employees gathered for the 2015 Archdiocesan Convocation of Parish Ministries on Sept. 11 at Savior Pastoral Center in Kansas City, Kansas. The keynote speakers were Curtis Martin, president and founder of the Fellowship of Catholic University Students, and Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann.
  • The Leaven added new staff members Beth Blankenship, a St. Pius X parishioner, as advertising coordinator and bookkeeper; and Moira Cullings, a member of the Church of the Nativity in Leawood, as feature writer.
  • Archbishop Naumann introduced the new bishop-designate and seventh bishop of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Bishop James V. Johnston, on Sept. 15 at a press conference at the chancery in Kansas City, Missouri.
  • Tracy Allen, owner of the coffee consultancy Brewed Behavior and a parishioner of St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Leawood, was chosen to create a special blend of coffee for Pope Francis during his visit to the United States.
  • Pilgrims from the archdiocese joined tens of thousands to see Pope Francis when he visited Washington, D.C., and the World Meeting of Families Sept. 21-25 in Philadelphia.


  • Agustin Martinez, a seminarian from the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas at Rome’s Pontifical North American College, was ordained a transitional deacon in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome on Oct. 1 by Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York.
  • Archbishop Naumann was the main celebrant and homilist at the 100th anniversary Mass on Oct. 6 at St. Francis Xavier Parish in Mayetta. The archbishop also blessed a monument for the unborn.
  • Savior Pastoral Center (formerly Savior of the World Seminary) in Kansas City, Kansas, marked its 50th anniversary.
  • Archbishop Naumann was honored for his 40 years as a priest and 10 years as an archbishop at the Donnelly College SHINE fundraising event, held on Oct. 10 at the Sheraton Crown Center Exhibit Hall in Kansas City, Missouri.
  • Archbishop Naumann was the main celebrant and homilist for the Oct. 23 dedication Mass for the renovated Holy Cross Church in Overland Park.
  • Archbishop Naumann was the main celebrant and homilist at the annual Red Mass on Oct. 29 for members of the legal profession and government at St. Peter Church in Kansas City, Missouri. The Mass was sponsored by the Catholic Lawyers Guild of Kansas City.
  • Father Robert Burger, 92, died on Oct. 29 at Villa St. Francis in Olathe.
  • Each unable to field a team of sufficient numbers by themselves, the football programs of Maranatha Christian Academy in Shawnee and Immaculata High School in Leavenworth combined forces to make one team.
  • Three couples were honored as “Angels Among Us” during this year’s Gaudeamus fundraiser, sponsored by the Catholic Education Foundation: Mark and Lisa Ledom, Nelson and Marcia Newcomer, and Pat and Mel McAnany. Resurrection School at the Cathedral received the School of Excellence Award.


  • Archbishop Naumann was the main celebrant and homilist at the dedication Mass on Nov. 1 of the renovations and addition to St. Ann Church in Prairie Village.
  • Archbishop Naumann’s term as apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph ended with the installation Mass of Bishop James V. Johnston on Nov. 4 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Kansas City, Missouri.
  • Archbishop Emeritus James P. Keleher and Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas were the 2015 recipients of the Deo Gratias Award, given by the Catholic Foundation of Northeast Kansas on Nov. 5 at Savior Pastoral Center.
  • Holy Trinity Parish in Lenexa and Good Shepherd Parish in Shawnee participated in an ecumenical choir concert on Nov. 6, held at Holy Trinity.
  • The Little Sisters of the Lamb hosted a “Trust One Greater” event on Nov. 9 at their monastery in Kansas City, Kansas.
  • Archbishop Naumann announced on Nov. 13 several archdiocesan initiatives for the Year of Mercy.
  • Archbishop Naumann presented the St. Philippine Duchesne Award to the Apostles of the Interior Life at a Mass on Nov. 22 at Sacred Heart Church and the St. Rose Philippine Duchesne Shrine in Mound City.
  • Archbishop Naumann celebrated the 25th anniversary Mass for the Didde Catholic Campus Center at Emporia State University.
  • The Catholic bishops of Kansas, speaking through the Kansas Catholic Conference, issued a statement on Nov. 27 calling for a continuation of Syrian refugee resettlement.
  • St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Overland Park broke the national record for the second time in a row with its annual canned food drive to benefit Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas, bringing in 177,801 cans.


  • Archbishop Naumann was the main celebrant and homilist at the dedication Mass on Dec. 6 of the new $3.6 million Holy Family Church in Eudora.
  • The archdiocese opened the Year of Mercy on Dec. 12 when Archbishop Naumann opened the first Holy Door at Sacred Heart Church in Mound City. The following day, five more Holy Doors were opened.
  • The annual Quo Vadis discernment retreat for young men was held at Savior Pastoral Center Dec. 19-21.

About the author

Joe Bollig

Joe has been with The Leaven since 1993. He has a bachelor’s degree in communications and a master’s degree in journalism. Before entering print journalism he worked in commercial radio. He has worked for the St. Joseph (Mo.) News-Press and Sun Publications in Overland Park. During his journalistic career he has covered beats including police, fire, business, features, general assignment and religion. While at The Leaven he has been a writer, photographer and videographer. He has won or shared several Catholic Press Association awards, as well as Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara awards for mission coverage. He graduated with a certification in catechesis from a two-year distance learning program offered by the Maryvale Institute for Catechesis, Theology, Philosophy and Religious Education at Old Oscott, Great Barr, in Birmingham, England.

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