Archdiocese Local

Eucharistic event captures the heart of Kansas City Catholics from both dioceses

Bishop James V. Johnston (closest to monstrance), Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann and priests of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas and the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph kneel in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament on an overlook at the National World War I Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, Missouri, on May 4 for Behold KC. LEAVEN PHOTO BY KATHRYN WHITE

by Joe Bollig

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The question in the minds of many was this: Will the faithful respond?

On May 4, 1941, thousands of Catholics in the Kansas City area gathered on the north lawn of what is now the National World War I Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, Missouri, for the Holy Name Rally and Closing First Diocesan Eucharistic Congress.

Inspired by the discovery of an old photograph of this event, Bishop James Vann Johnston Jr. of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph and Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas issued the same invitation 83 years later.

Camped out on blankets and lawn chairs on the memorial lawn, the thousands of Catholics gathered bundled up as the weather grew chillier throughout the evening. LEAVEN PHOTO BY KATHRYN WHITE

The two ordinaries wanted the Behold KC – Eucharistic Celebration on May 4, 2024, to be the regional centerpiece of the U.S. bishops’ National Eucharistic Revival.

But . . . would the faithful respond?

The day was overcast, breezy and chilly. Individuals and families were only arriving in dribs and drabs when the event began at 4 p.m. Priests from Kansas and Missouri walked down from the memorial in pairs to the plywood confessionals at the north end of the lawn, overlooking Union Station.

Musician Steve Angrisano, as master of ceremonies, offered welcome and music. Choirs sang and individuals gave witness talks.

Groups began arriving then, being led by individuals with banners announcing their parish or organization.

Participants pray the rosary as it is led by various religious Sisters from Kansas and Missouri. LEAVEN PHOTO BY MOIRA CULLINGS

And by the time women religious from various orders began to lead a rosary, the lawn was nearly covered.

Yes, the faithful did respond, although numbers were at best a guess.

“I heard that 3,800 registered, which doesn’t include our buses and large groups,” said Deacon Dana Nearmyer, one of the event organizers and archdiocesan director of evangelization. “We know many people didn’t register but we’re happy to have them.”

He was told that a total of more than 100 priests and deacons from Kansas and Missouri were there, but again, some simply showed up for the Mass.

“I was told there were 8,000 here in 1941, and this crowd looks very similar . . . . I don’t know, but there’s a lot of people here,” said Deacon Nearmyer.

Traffic continued to rush down nearby highways and occasionally a wailing siren from a police or emergency vehicle bounced off surrounding buildings.

The site of Behold KC, however, resounded with prayers, hymns and  songs.

Like lighthouses, the golden bell tower of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception could be seen to the north, and the ornate red-brick bell tower of Our Lady of Sorrows Church was visible in the east.

The grace of Behold KC was like a healing balm in a place that had less than three months earlier witnessed horror. Just downhill and across West Pershing Road, next to Union Station, was where the Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl victory parade shooting took place on Feb. 14.

Harrison Butker, kicker for the Kansas City Chiefs, makes a surprise appearance, speaking to the crowd about his love of the Catholic faith. LEAVEN PHOTO BY KATHRYN WHITE

The first speaker, Chiefs place kicker Harrison Butker, knew the shooting was on people’s minds.

“I also want to say as I close that it is not lost on me that the last time I was here was for the Super Bowl parade,” said Butker. “We all saw how excitement turned into tragedy, and that day a wonderful Catholic wife and mother died due to senseless and degenerate violence.

“Lisa Lopez-Galvan was a proud Catholic and it is through the shared faith in our eucharistic Lord that makes her death that much more tragic. Today, we can honor her life by embracing our Catholic faith and never being afraid to proudly proclaim, ‘Jesus Christ is king’ to the heights.”

Those who gathered were diverse in heritage, ethnicity and age, but united in purpose. Many parents brought their children, including Dan and Josie Werkowitch, members of Queen of the Holy Rosary Parish in Overland Park.

“I thought it was a unique experience I didn’t want to pass up, and I wanted to give the kids a chance to see it as well,” he said. “We have five — and one on the way.”

While Josie Werkowitch wanted her family to benefit from the experience, she also wanted to support the whole Catholic community.

“It’s a community event to support the community,” she said. “[The kids] are very excited. They’re excited to be on the hill and see everybody.”

The Werkowitches said the Behold KC seemed well organized and “parking was not an issue.”

Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann (closest to monstrance), Bishop James V. Johnston and priests of both dioceses kneel in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament near the end of the evening. The altar, lit up against the darkening sky, could be seen from miles away across downtown Kansas City. LEAVEN PHOTO BY MOIRA CULLINGS

An altar had been set up above the Great Frieze and it was there that Mass was celebrated. Archbishop Naumann was the homilist and Bishop Johnston was the main celebrant, with more than 100 priests concelebrating.

Following the Mass, Bishop Johnston carried a monstrance containing the Eucharist down the steps for a short procession. This was followed by adoration and exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.

“Each week from Sunday Mass,” said Archbishop Naumann in his homily, “you and I — we are sent on a mission to bring God’s love to the world, to transform the world — not with power or military arms or money or things money can buy, but with servant love. We are called to transform the world with the love of the One who died on the cross.”

As eucharistic adoration ended, the thousands of faithful gathered their things and filtered out into the city to do just what Archbishop Naumann had asked — to go out on their mission to transform the world with the “love of the one who died on the cross,” the Lord Jesus Christ.

To view the full album of photos from Behold KC, which will be updated in the coming days, click here.

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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