Summer of Service

Young adult ministry spends summer helping out

by Joe Bollig

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Curious neighbors eyed the Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas box truck as it slowed and stopped.

Another family was moving into the Hillcrest Transitional Housing complex in Kansas City, Kansas.

A group of 20-year-old volunteers opened the back of the truck and began manhandling furniture up to a second-story apartment.

Who were these people helping with the move? Kho Khoreh, who spent half his life in a Thailand refugee camp, had only a vague idea.

“They are American people,” said Khoreh, 26, who will live there with his wife and 4-year-old son.

Yes, but not just any “American people.” The seven college-age young men and women who helped are part of Saint Paul’s Outreach, part of the leading edge of the new evangelization.

“The thing that impacted me the most about [helping the refugee family] was that I was doing missionary work 20 minutes from my house,” said 20-year-old Mary Khadivi, an SPO volunteer. “It shows you don’t have to go out of the country to be a missionary.”

Members of Saint Paul’s Outreach have teamed up with Catholic Charities to move four refugee families into new apartments this summer. It was part of the ministry’s “Summer of Service.”

“Saint Paul’s Outreach is a ministry that actively invites college students and post-college young adults into a life of Christian discipleship,” said Matt Karr, SPO Kansas Mission Center director.

Karr brought Saint Paul’s Outreach to the Greater Kansas City metropolitan area in 2011. One of its chapters is at Johnson County Community College.

The Summer of Service, which ran for five weeks during June and July, was conceived as a way to keep JCCC students engaged during the summer. About 25 students participated.

“Our concern was that — for a lot of these students [involved in SPO] —the faith was something new to them,” said Karr.

“They had really good intentions, but we were worried if we didn’t do something during the summer, many of them would go back to their former pattern of life and we wouldn’t see them again,” he said.

That’s when Karr and the other SPO mission team members put together the Summer of Service.

The SOS participants met for faith formation each Tuesday night and worked on one — or both — of the summer service projects.

One project was a summer youth group program, involving 35 youth in grades eight to 12, from the Church of the Nativity and Curé of Ars, both in Leawood. The group met Sunday nights at Nativity.

Madison Wasko, a 20-year-old JCCC student who will go to Kansas State University this fall, worked with the youth group.

“I loved it,” she said. “I love working with kids. When I was in high school, I didn’t have anything to support me the way SPO does. I’m glad they go to the youth group and actively work on their faith.”

The second project involved a group of JCCC students called the “Street Team.” The team moved furniture for refugee families, visited Brighton Gardens senior care facility to socialize with residents, and conducted street ministry in Kansas City, Mo.

For the street ministry, the SPO members gave food and water to homeless people, and prayed with folks they met on the street.

“One girl said, ‘No.’ She had no intentions and she didn’t want us to pray with her, but she seemed so happy we took the time to talk with her instead of ignoring her,” said Khadivi. “She even invited us to come back and have tacos at the place she worked at, and maybe next time we could pray with her.”

Peter DelCastillo, a 22-year-old graduate of Benedictine College in Atchison and an SPO staff member, found spiritual growth through the Street Team ministry.

“It was very fruitful,” he said. “The street ministry called me out of myself, out of my own comfort zone.  It was very humbling. I’ve been surprised to see how people responded — their openness to prayer.”

“The refugee move-in was also pretty humbling, seeing how the Lord provides,” he continued. “The refugees went from having nothing to having a place of their own, thanks to Catholic Charities.”

Now that the Summer of Service has ended, Saint Paul’s Outreach will shift gears and prepare for the next academic year. The group will continue its street ministry, hold more retreats and reach out to students in their relationship- based ministry.

“The goal is to relationally meet people and invite them into a relationship and build relationship, so at a certain point we can introduce them to Jesus — that’s the point,” said Karr.

Saint Paul’s Outreach

Saint Paul’s Outreach began in 1985 as a campus ministry at the Catholic Youth Center of the Archdiocese of Minneapolis-St. Paul.

“For 20-plus years, it was just a ministry in the Twin Cities area and that region of Minnesota,” said Matt Karr, SPO Kansas Mission Center director. “People kept coming to (founder) Gordy DeMarais [asking], ‘How do we start this in our college and our city?’”

The ministry, through its School of the New Evangelization, spread to seven states.

Karr and his wife Jen, both veterans of National Evangelization Team ministry and SPO, helped bring the ministry to Benedictine College in Atchison in 2008.
In 2011, Karr was asked by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann to expand the ministry to the young adults of the Greater Kansas City metropolitan area, under the sponsorship of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.
Saint Paul’s Outreach is organized by “mission centers” which support “chapters.”

The Kansas Mission Center, now with 17 staff members, founded chapters at Benedictine College and Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, plus one “transparish” chapter for post-college young adult professionals in the Greater Kansas City metropolitan area — the Kansas City Young Adults.
Saint Paul’s Outreach conducts both formation retreats and introductory “Fan Into Flame” retreats.

The ministry sponsored Masses the first Friday of each month at JCCC, hosted social events, conducted monthly “Lord’s Day” meals with fellowship and prayer, and established small groups.

This past academic year, SPO led four introductory discipleship groups — two for women and two for men. They also established eight ongoing formation groups for young adults — four for women and four for men — that meet at various locations throughout the Greater Kansas City area.

For more information, contact Karr by calling (913) 231-3490 or by email at: matt.karr@spoweb.org.

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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