by Joe Bollig
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Taking the reins of a successful ministry from its founder might be considered one of those “tough acts to follow.”
But not for Tricia Hutchison, who became the new Wyandotte County youth outreach coordinator on July 9.
Hutchison succeeds Liz Miller, who five years ago built and launched ReachKCK youth ministry in the heart of Kansas City, Kansas. Miller is leaving to complete a master’s program in social work.
It’s been a smooth transition, said Hutchinson, because for three weeks Miller was on hand to train and orient her, introducing her to both ReachKCK operations and the people involved in the program.
It has given Hutchison an even greater appreciation of Miller’s accomplishments.
“I’m humbled that I have the opportunity to step into this,” said Hutchison. “Liz Miller has done a tremendous job. She has built a thriving, beautiful program that kids and adults feel a part of.
“I feel confident that God will give us the grace to continue the good work that has been done.”
Hutchison is a native of Leawood and grew up in Church of the Nativity Parish, where she attended grade school. She graduated from Notre Dame de Sion High School for Girls in Kansas City, Missouri, and went on to Benedictine College, Atchison. At Benedictine, she played soccer and earned a bachelor of arts degree in secondary education and theology, with a minor in psychology in 2008.
Hutchinson taught theology and psychology for five years at St. James Academy in Lenexa, and then spent three years exploring religious life with the Servants of the Lord in Washington, D.C.
Returning to Kansas, she became director of faith formation at Hayden High School in Topeka.
“I also spent eight years at Camp Tekakwitha while I taught at St. James,” she said. “One summer, I even ran the kitchen. I was on the leadership team, mentoring the staff and doing programming and curriculum development.”
While at Hayden, she began to volunteer with Project Uplift, a homeless ministry in Kansas City, Missouri.
ReachKCK is a ministry that serves primarily urban youth, and it’s supported by many adult volunteers, pastors and youth ministers.
“ReachKCK is an initiative by the archdiocese to help create authentic community and to build a life of faith for the people of Wyandotte County,” she said.
“There are 11 parishes in Kansas City, Kansas,” she added, “and ReachKCK is designed to help those parishes thrive, to build the life of the parish by means of creating opportunities for young people to gather and to have meaningful relationships with each other and God.”
A lot of the work is done at the ReachKCK Center, located in the former Blessed Sacrament School at 2215 Parallel.
But Hutchison also wants to work on strengthening ties and involvement with area parishes. She wants ReachKCK to provide the means, opportunities and resources for youths to “plug into” their parishes.
“One of the greatest challenges we face is to always bring it back to build the parish life,” she said. “We want young people to find a home in their parish.”
Hutchison would like to do more adult training for ministry, offer more family ministry, form small faith-sharing groups for youths, and start a mother’s group.
“One of my dreams would be a family formation night once a week,” she said.
Another involves planning even brief trips out of Kansas City, Kansas — both for cultural and outdoor adventures.
“I want to give the kids the opportunity to experience beauty and culture,” Hutchison said. “I’d love to take the kids on a kayaking or camping trip where they can get out of the city and experience nature. God speaks loudly in nature.
“Ultimately, I want to build relationships with young people where they know their own dignity, learn their own goodness, know that they are loved and accepted for who they are and who God has made them to be.”
“And I’d love to help connect young people with the heart of Jesus,” she added.