Local Parishes

Nativity parishioners gather for a ‘family’ rosary, block party

Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann addresses the crowd at Church of the Nativity before leading the participants in the rosary on Sept. 9. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JAY SOLDNER

by Jill Esfeld

LEAWOOD — “I think whenever people are setting up their own lawn chairs, it really does give you that family feeling,” said Liz Hagen, the minister of belonging and hospitality at Church of the Nativity here.

That family feeling pervaded the evening of Sept. 9 when more than 300 people gathered, with their own lawn chairs, for Church of the Nativity’s parish block party.

Happy to be together after months of separation due to Covid, parishioners were eating hot dogs, socializing, playing games and engaging in one more activity you don’t always find at a block party — praying the rosary.

Parishioners of Nativity were eager to come together for socialization and prayer at the beginning of September. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JAY SOLDNER

Led by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, the diverse crowd joined in praying the luminous mysteries, while the sun went down and the stars came out.

“I love it,” said pastor Father Mike Hawken. “And you know what? I had a man here who we just celebrated his 90th birthday, and I had a baby here that’s three weeks old and I just baptized her last Sunday.

“And we had every age in between.”

Andrei (left) and Zachary Shaw enjoy some frozen custard at the picnic. Andrei is a third grader at Nativity School and Zachary is a kindergartner. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JAY SOLDNER

The idea for a block-party rosary came about last May when Hagen attended the School of Faith Rosary Tailgate at the Fiorella’s Event Center in Overland Park.

“That sparked the interest,” she said. “I thought ‘Hey, we could bring this home, we could do this in our own backyard.”

Father Hawken loved the idea.

“It’s a rosary-praying parish,” he said.

Father Mike Hawken, pastor of Church of the Nativity in Leawood, talks with parishioner Joann Weaver while they doctor their “dogs.” LEAVEN PHOTO BY JAY SOLDNER

The original plan was to welcome everyone back and celebrate the end of the COVID pandemic.

“And, of course, COVID is still with us,” said Father Hawken. “But this being an outdoor event, we were able to have it safely.

“And we need to pray more at this time than ever.”

Church of the Nativity parishioner Stephanie Holtz and her daughter Clara head to their lawn chairs to participate in a rosary led by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JILL RAGAR ESFELD

Archbishop Naumann was pleased to have the opportunity to pray with his church family.

“Thank you for allowing me to crash the block party here,” he said. “And my compliments to the weather committee tonight: They did a great job.”

The weather was perfect and, with the help of the Knights of Columbus, so was the food.

Father Gerard Alba, associate pastor of Church of the Nativity, prays the rosary during the parish gathering. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JAY SOLDNER

 “Our Knights rallied,” said Hagen. “We wanted to keep it simple — didn’t want to stress out over anything. And they did a great job.”

The Knights made sure everyone had plenty of hot dogs and chips, and Andy’s Custard supplied the block party with dessert.

Rosaries were distributed to the children in attendance and all were blessed by the archbishop.

The outdoor rosary gathering gave parishioners of Nativity the chance to catch up and get to know one another better. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JAY SOLDNER

“As we contemplate the mysteries of [Jesus’] life, death and resurrection,” he said when beginning to pray, “may they help us open our hearts to the truth and beauty of our faith.”

Archbishop Naumann prefaced each mystery with a brief meditation.

“Several people mentioned how inspired they were and touched by his meditations,” said Hagen.

From left, Archbishop Naumann and Father Mike Hawken talk with Nativity Parish School principal Luke Jennison. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JAY SOLDNER

The archbishop was inspired by the people, too.

“It’s beautiful to see so many families together,” he said. “Thank you, parents, for bringing your children.

“One of the great ways to strengthen family life is praying together and to expose children to this at an early age is wonderful.”

“Everything came together for a great experience,” said Hagen. “And, yes, people are asking if we’ll do it again in the spring.

“So that is a definite possibility.”

About the author

Jill Esfeld

Jill Ragar Esfeld received a degree in Writing from Missouri State University and started her profession as a magazine feature writer, but quickly transitioned to technical/instructional writing where she had a successful career spanning more than 20 years. She returned to feature writing when she began freelancing for The Leaven in 2004. Her articles have won several awards from the Catholic Press Association. Jill grew up in Christ the King parish in Kansas City, Missouri; and has been a member of Holy Trinity Parish in Lenexa, Kansas, for 35 years.

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