Archdiocese Local

Catholics to learn to tell the church’s ‘big story’ this Advent

Father Michael Hermes, pastor of St. Paul Parish in Olathe, preaches during Advent last year. This Advent, Catholics in parishes across the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas will hear about the church’s “big story” — the core of the Gospel — in a special preaching series based on the book “Rescued” by Father John Riccardo, a priest of the Archdiocese of Detroit. LEAVEN FILE PHOTO

by Joe Bollig

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — As Catholics, we don’t know our “big story” — and that’s a problem. This, however, is going to change.

On every Sunday this Advent season,  Catholics in parishes across the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas will hear about our “big story” — the core of the Gospel — in a special preaching series based on the book “Rescued” by Father John Riccardo, a priest of the Archdiocese of Detroit.

“Father Riccardo . . . has been released by his bishop, Archbishop Allen Vigneron, to focus on evangelization in the church, so Father Riccardo formed an apostolate [called] Acts XXIX,” said Father Brian Schieber, pastor of St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Leawood and vicar general for clergy.

There is, however, no 29th chapter in the Book of Acts in the New Testament, he said. The point Father Riccardo is trying to make is that we Christians today are supposed to carry on the work of evangelization begun by those first Christians.

“Father Riccardo’s main message is our people don’t know our story,” said Father Schieber. “We don’t know our Christian story. We don’t know the core of the Gospel — the kerygma.

“So, Father Riccardo says we need to preach anew our story, the kernel of the Gospel, the good news.”

In his book, Father Riccardo rephrases the kerygma — that’s Greek for “proclamation” — into four short questions and then, even more concisely, into four words: created, captured, rescued and response.

Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann and the priests of the archdiocese listened to Father Riccardo speak about the kerygma during the annual archdiocesan priests convocation at Benedictine College in Atchison in early June.

 Acts XXIX was then discussed further at a Presbyteral Council meeting in September. At that time, Archbishop Naumann decided to ask the priests of the archdiocese to preach a series of homilies during the Sundays of Advent based on the approach outlined by Father Riccardo in “Rescued.”

The Archdiocese of Denver did a similar series during Advent in 2021.

To assist the pastors with the preaching series, Archbishop Naumann sent each a copy of Father Riccardo’s book “Rescued,” and then Emily Lopez, lead consultant of the adult evangelization office, developed homily resources to accompany the pertinent readings.

“I pray that this emphasis on the kerygma will lead listeners to a place of deeper conversion and response to God’s call, especially in this season of Advent,” wrote Archbishop Naumann.

Although every Catholic will hear the same message each Sunday, they won’t hear the same homily, said Father Schieber.

“This is not going to be like a canned homily series where all the priests say the same exact thing every Sunday,” said Father Schieber.

“It’s important that each priest, as a preacher, preaches with conviction from the heart. And that we also give our own witness and testimony of how Christ works in our lives,” he added. “Every priest is invited to preach a homily on that word, that theme, for the week.”

Although it’s true that many Catholics do, indeed, know the kerygma and have heard it preached all their lives, there is still value in this Advent preaching series for them.

“Conversion is an ongoing thing in our lives, a process,” said Father Schieber. “The Scriptures are a wellspring of spiritual life, an inexhaustible source of inspiration. We cannot exhaust the Scriptures. We encounter Jesus there. The Gospel is alive, the living word of God.”

“So, you just can’t say ‘I’ve heard that and I’m done with it,’” he continued. “Jesus is alive. We need that living relationship with him. And we need to hear it over and over. We are called to go deeper in our relationship with Christ. Hearing the Gospel anew helps us do that.”

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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