Archbishop reports on state of the archdiocese

Dear friends in Christ,

Three years ago members of our Pastoral Council, Presbyteral Council, Finance Council and many lay and priest leaders came together and created a comprehensive study of archdiocesan resources and needs in what we refer to as the Case Study Review. I am grateful to all of these leaders for their focus on stewardship and on a wise use of our resources. These groups spent many hours developing a “smart” plan that prioritized archdiocesan needs based on input from people throughout the archdiocese. As a result, members of our archdiocese now have greater access to Catholic education and faith formation opportunities. The Lord continues to bless our archdiocese and this year I am excited to share with each of you how these initiatives continue to bear fruit for all of us and young people in particular.

The Youth Formation Assessment Fund

The youth formation assessment is keeping Catholic education alive and accessible to many young people in our archdiocese. The scheduled “phase-in” of our new 2.6 percent assessment is complete and now monies from the parishes’ assessments are placed in a fund to help with the formation of first-generation college students, students in the rural parts of our archdiocese, young people living in the inner-city, and students at each of our Catholic high schools.
Donnelly College is truly one-of-a-kind. It is an archdiocesan-sponsored college that continues to honor its 65-year-old mission of helping families achieve their dream of sending their first generation to college and at a very reasonable cost. Donnelly’s recent capital campaign presented an opportunity for the archdiocese to lead in efforts to improve facilities and increase student access to scholarship money. The fund allows us to give a $4 million gift over time — $2 million is slated for facility improvements (including a new chapel) and $2 million to scholarship. The gift has helped members of the school administration and members of the Donnelly board secure other commitments. Money from the assessment will also help Bishop Ward High School with some needed capital improvements. Our unified support of these two Wyandotte County anchors is making a difference and is critical to the hope and promise of those people, families, and parishes that reside in this part of the Kansas City.
Long distance has made it hard for rural and small town parishes to share personnel and resources and to host youth activities with other parishes. In some cases, 30 to 40 miles separate parishes in our rural counties.  Parishioners told us that they did not want a “drive-thru” service from the archdiocese but instead, someone embedded in their communities and invested in their particular interests and challenges. The fund recently made it possible for us to hire Angie Bittner as our new rural outreach coordinator. Angie is coordinating rural pastors, youth ministers, directors of religious education and volunteers to build teams to assist with youth ministry. I know that Angie’s work will make us more effective in assisting our rural parishes help young people better understand Christ’s love for each of them.

On Dec. 30, 2013, I was blessed to join teens and adults from all over the archdiocese to fill Blessed Sacrament Church in Kansas City, Kan., for the annual Eucharistic adoration event, One Thing Remains. But it was also the opening and dedication of ReachKCK on our Blessed Sacrament Campus, the headquarters of the new urban youth outreach for the archdiocese. If you have not had a chance, I encourage you to visit. Liz Halfmann, the new director of ReachKCK and the urban youth outreach coordinator, is connecting with the teens of Wyandotte County by inviting them to be who they are in a social setting and, from that, inviting them to something deeper.  She and her volunteers are showing young people the potential and opportunity that comes from Christ’s love. Liz is already working to boost up and augment the youth ministry region-wide in Kansas City, Kan.

Our youth assessment is also helping us to tackle perhaps one of our biggest challenges — the challenge to keep Catholic high school education as accessible as possible for all. Each year the youth formation assessment will provide us with $350,000 for tuition assistance that is available for all seven of our Catholic high schools.  Every year I am touched by letters from students and families describing how assistance money made such a difference to them. Your dollars help us in our work to keep the dream of a Catholic education attainable for anyone who desires it.

The Archbishop’s Private Appeal for Catholic High Schools

The Case Review Task Force recommended that I personally visit with a small pool of specific donors to ask for assistance for our high schools. This recommendation gave rise to the Archbishop’s Private Appeal for Catholic High Schools. The goal is to raise $14 million to address debt at St. James Academy and Hayden High School; to build endowment at Bishop Ward to ensure a sustainable future; and to offset the costs associated with the Year of Faith Initiative — “Faith: Love It, Learn It, Live It.” I have spent almost two years getting to know individuals and couples at my home and co-hosting small group events in Kansas City and in Topeka. To date roughly 100 people have agreed to make gifts and pledges totaling $11.5 million. The visits and gatherings have been inspiring, especially when you consider that I ask prospective donors to make their commitments above and beyond any other charitable giving. The Lord has blessed our archdiocese with generous stewards of his gifts.

I ask that you pray for our appeal. I am firmly committed to surpassing our goal of $14 million and will not stop working until we raise another $2.5 million-plus. If you or anyone you know, would like to consider a commitment to the private appeal, I encourage you to contact our office of stewardship and development.

Faith Initiative – Faith: Love It, Learn It, Live It

I have been gratified by the response of so many to our initiative “Faith: Love It, Learn It, Live It” during the Year of Faith.  Many have shared with me how it had a profound effect on them, on their families, and on their parishes. And I am sure that many others have had similar experiences.  In a survey of 14,000 households, 70 percent said that they prayed more often, 28 percent said that they read the Bible more frequently, and more than 40 percent attended something new at their parish. More than 3,000 people attended School of Faith classes, more than 4,000 attended regional missions, 700 attended family retreats, and 770 attended Living in Love retreats.

“Faith: Love It, Learn It, Live It” concluded with the celebration of Christ the King on Sunday, Nov. 24, 2013, but it does not have to end in our hearts. We should not grow complacent. We must constantly strive to learn, to love, and to live our Catholic faith with greater fidelity and intensity.  We are hopeful that many will choose to take all that they learned in the last year and continue growing in their faith.

The archdiocese recently introduced “Proclaim It!” The theme and focus of “Proclaim It!” is “Faith: Proclaim it in word, spirit and deed.” While the Year of Faith had its goal of internal spiritual growth, the goal of “Proclaim It!” is external growth. It means calling out to other people, encouraging others to join Catholics at church, and encouraging people who have fallen away to come back. It means each of us doing something out of our comfort zone to proclaim the Gospel in word, spirit and deed. It means participating in some way in the “new evangelization.”

As part of this year’s focus, the archdiocese will strive to create a culture that is more welcoming. The office of evangelization and Catholic faith formation of adults is now simply the office of evangelization and will be directed by Father Andrew Strobl. Father Andrew is helping the archdiocese work collaboratively with the School of Faith Institute and St. Paul Outreach to establish small group communities for small group evangelization. Father Andrew, the office of evangelization and these new partners are developing training programs and workshops for parish small group leaders. I hope many of you choose to use this opportunity and other opportunities to get involved in the “new evangelization,” in your parish life and in your deepening your relationship with Jesus.

I hope that the news we have shared in this financial report has inspired you. We have put our “smart” plan into action, helping to remove obstacles that stand in the way of people entering our churches, our schools, our parishes and, we pray, of experiencing a fuller relationship with Jesus Christ, and a more spiritually enriched life. Through your generous support, the Lord has provided us with the opportunity to implement these plans to strengthen the church in northeast Kansas.

With gratitude for your love and for Jesus Christ and his church, I remain

Sincerely yours in Jesus, the Lord of Life,



Archbishop of Kansas City in Kansas


Editor’s note: to see the financial report figures, view the PDF of this issue

© The Leaven, Feb. 14, 2014

About the author

Anita McSorley

Anita, managing editor of The Leaven, has over 30 years’ experience in book, magazine and newspaper editing, including stints as the assistant editor of the “Diplomatic Papers of Daniel Webster” at Dartmouth College and then in the public relations departments of Texaco, Inc., and the Rockefeller Group in New York. Anita made the move to newspaper editing when she came to The Leaven in 1988, where she has been ever since. Anita is a member of St. Patrick Parish in Kansas City, Kan., and in her spare time, she enjoys giving her long-suffering husband, her children and her staff good advice that they never take.

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