by Jessica Langdon
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Father Andrew Strobl loves getting into a good board game and tracking the victories of his fantasy football and baseball teams.
But his passion for games didn’t earn him a poker face — especially when it comes to sharing his faith.
His immediate interest was easy to read on his face this summer when he heard the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas needed someone to lead its office of evangelization.
Father Strobl — who has been associate pastor at Prince of Peace Parish in Olathe since he was ordained in 2009 — wasn’t looking for a new assignment when he walked into a meeting at the parish.
But then Father Gary Pennings, archdiocesan vicar general and parish administrator at Prince of Peace, mentioned that Matt Karr was leaving his post as archdiocesan lead consultant for evangelization and Catholic formation of adults.
“I don’t know what it was on my face,” said Father Strobl upon hearing the news.
But the parish’s marriage and family counselor picked up on it and asked if the evangelization role interested him.
He instantly said yes.
“There’s just something about evangelization that is so important because it’s the church’s mission — it’s who we are,” said Father Strobl.
And now he is settling into his new office at Savior Pastoral Center in Kansas City, Kan., as the director of evangelization.
He’ll be busy, to say the least.
Although still serving as associate pastor of Prince of Peace — the largest parish in the archdiocese — he’s given up his post as a chaplain at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Overland Park (and already he knows he will miss the all-school Masses and attending so many games).
Engaging and challenging
People don’t have to look further than Pope Francis’ example to see that “part of evangelization is projecting to people a real care for them,” said Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann.
Personality characteristics draw people in, and Archbishop Naumann sees many such gifts in Father Strobl.
“Many people have told me both at the parish and at [St. Thomas] Aquinas High School what an excellent preacher he is and how people find his homilies very engaging and informative — and also very inspiring and challenging to them,” said Archbishop Naumann.
Father Strobl, who graduated from Bishop Miege High School in Roeland Park in 2000, honed his debate skills in school. He studied communication at Washburn University in Topeka before heading to Mundelein Seminary in Illinois.
“He has the skills to make a compelling argument, if you will, on what we believe as Catholics and to open people’s hearts to the truth through his own abilities to present the faith in a way that’s understandable and attractive to people,” continued Archbishop Naumann.
He’s also confident Father Strobl has the new media skills that are a vital piece of the new evangelization.
Father Strobl stresses that the new evangelization, a key focus of his work, doesn’t present a new message.
Rather, it presents the good news of Jesus Christ particularly to people who have already heard it, but who “aren’t intentional disciples yet.”
It involves presenting the message through new methods — including new media — and also with a new enthusiasm, explained Father Strobl.
“Pope Francis is just incredible at being outgoing,” said Father Strobl. “He made it clear at World Youth Day that the VIPs at the table of the Lord are those that are furthest from him right now, and we should rejoice just as heaven does when one lost sheep is found — and it’s our privilege to share the joy that we have.”
Archbishop Naumann sees in Father Strobl a disciple who loves his faith and being a priest — which Father Strobl does — from baptizing babies to confessions and funerals.
His own relationship with Jesus is at the center of his ministry.
“That’s what is most essential for anybody doing evangelization work — that they can invite people to come to know this faith that they love, this person that they love,” said Archbishop Naumann.
Families and parish families, believes Father Strobl, are instrumental in shaping faith.
In his new position, he hopes to provide resources to support those efforts and will work directly with clergy and lay staff at parishes.
He will also work closely, he said, with Karr in his new position with St. Paul’s Outreach, which focuses on campus ministry as well as young adult outreach.
Finally, Father Strobl will collaborate with other individuals, offices and organizations on everything from faith formation to digital media resources.
“I think we can never be content with the church as it currently exists,” said Archbishop Naumann. “We always have to have this yearning for outreach to bring others to know the gifts that we experience from our friendship with Jesus and our participation in the life of the church.”
Father Strobl is there — but is grateful that this mission is not his alone.
“Evangelization isn’t the responsibility of one office or of just priests or religious,” he said. “It’s the responsibility of every person who wants to follow Jesus Christ.”