Archdiocese Local Parishes

‘We have to go out and get to them’

Parishioners at Church of the Ascension in Overland Park gather for a campfire session at the parish’s convocation on Jan. 25. The event was an offshoot of the archdiocesan convocation held in October 2019. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JAY SOLDNER

by Moira Cullings

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Around five years ago, Kay Schmidt hit a roadblock in her faith life.

“I sat in the pew [at church] thinking there has to be more,” she said.

It wasn’t until she and her husband Brian, parishioners of St. Joseph Church in Olpe, traveled to Rome a short time later that Kay’s faith was transformed and she was moved to do more.

“In the last five years, I’ve done so much more and I have so much joy in my life,” said Kay. “I know it’s because I did more than sit in a pew and wait for God to come to me.

“I had to go after it.”

This past October, the Schmidts joined around 1,500 other Catholics at the “Enflame Our Hearts: Be Disciples, Make Disciples” convocation in Overland Park.

For three days, delegates representing every archdiocesan parish were inspired by speakers, shared their own faith journeys and learned new ways to evangelize at the parish level.

To close the historic event, Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann commissioned his flock to “go forward to bring the good news to the lowly, the brokenhearted, the doubtful, the despairing and all who seek the truth.”

Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann gives a homily during Mass at the Enflame convocation in October 2019. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JAY SOLDNER

Afterward, Kay felt renewed yet again to follow that call. Since then, she and her fellow delegates have made great strides in their evangelization efforts.

“We can’t just wait for people to come to us,” said Kay, “we have to go out and get to them.”

Convocation in a box

Several parishes have created their own convocations to mimic the atmosphere they experienced at Enflame and share it with even more parishioners.

“It’s really hard to put into words the feeling of being in that environment and sharing the love of Christ with so many people,” said John Milburn, parishioner of St. John the Evangelist in Lawrence.

St. John delegates wanted to give more parishioners that feeling, so they hosted an event on Dec. 14 with the theme “Heart, Hope and Community.”

The day included delegate testimonies, small group sessions and a video from the Enflame convocation.

Christine Bial, an Enflame delegate from St. John the Evangelist Parish in Lawrence, presents her testimony during the parish’s convocation-inspired event Dec. 14, 2019. PHOTO PROVIDED BY ST. JOHN THE EVANGELIST

“We tried to show that living the faith and sharing it and being there [for others] is really what evangelization is all about,” said Milburn.

Milburn knew the day was successful when he discovered the event inspired a fellow parishioner, who in the past had been particularly critical of parish events.

“He wants something that’s going to be really meaningful, have an effect on people and do something that’s lasting,” said Milburn. “I knew that when he signed off on this, we had something going.”

Church of the Ascension in Overland Park held its own convocation Jan. 25, and parishioner Laura Haeusser hoped it replicated Enflame as much as possible.

“It was so amazing to see all of our priests there and people from all the different parishes throughout the whole diocese,” she said.

The Ascension convocation included video excerpts from Enflame’s keynote speeches, live witness talks and campfire discussions.

Laura Haeusser speaks about tools for evangelization at Church of the Ascension in Overland Park. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JAY SOLDNER

Msgr. Tom Tank, the parish’s pastor, also spoke about his vision for Ascension.

Haeusser shared with attendees tools for evangelization and encouraged them to do simple acts of kindness, like “ask the nosy question” to find out how someone is really doing and “tell someone you’re bringing them dinner; don’t just offer.”

The event brought in around 200 people, and Haeusser hopes it left them inspired to be a stronger parish.

“I hope the Ascension community will be more intentional about getting to know others and ultimately sharing our faith with others,” she said.

Holy Spirit Parish in Overland Park is looking forward to its own convocation, which youth minister and confirmation coordinator Doug Leikam said will be a gift for parishioners.

“So often, there’s another appeal for money,” he said. “We wanted to give a gift that will be more [like a] retreat.”

The event will be broken up into three days of two-and-a-half-hour sessions and will offer eucharistic adoration, lectio divina, a renewal of baptismal vows and breakout groups.

“The convocation is a time of prayer and formation,” said Leikam. “This isn’t something where we’re hoping to jump into new programs.

“It’s primarily the reiteration of the call of Christ in their life to go and make disciples.”

For Leikam, evangelization is very simple.

“A part of being Catholic is we are called to [offer] this external gift of self in reaching out,” he said. “Who has the Lord put in my life already that I can walk with?”

Leikam hopes Holy Spirit parishioners will be inspired to “put to practice the art of giving your life in walking with [others].”

Parishes are also incorporating various aspects of Enflame at their parish missions. For Christ the King in Topeka, that means a particular concentration on prayer.

“If we’re focused on prayer, it allows our hearts to be more open to God and the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts,” said parishioner Bridget Heier.

A woman prays during Mass at Church of the Ascension in Overland Park. LEAVEN PHOTO BY DOUG HESSE

Beginning with that foundation, Christ the King’s upcoming mission will be a three-night event featuring guest speaker Emily Lopez, lead consultant for adult evangelization in the archdiocese.

The event will also include eucharistic adoration, time for conversation and small group breakouts.

“I believe everybody has depth to grow and to deepen your relationship with God,” said Heier. “So, we really want people to look at their prayer life and look for a small way they can deepen their faith.”

She also hopes the mission will “plant some seeds that will help develop holy friendships that can create a more vibrant community at Christ the King.

“We’re hoping to ignite a flame where there’s greater movement and communication and connection with [our parishioners],” she said.

A season for mercy, prayer and evangelization

Lent is an opportunity for parishes to grow in a special way. This year, Enflame inspired pastors and parishioners in the archdiocese to do even more.

At St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Leawood, the theme “Move at the speed of prayer” will carry parishioners through a fruitful Lenten season.

The parish will take on the 1% prayer challenge (found online at: cent) and spend 15 minutes (1%) of their day in prayer.

A woman prays the rosary in this 2019 photo. LEAVEN PHOTO BY DOUG HESSE

John Williams, director of Christian formation and evangelization at St. Michael, put it this way:

“It isn’t about the next program, but about their relationship with Jesus, which is prayer.”

“Rooted in this reality, they will better serve their homes and better serve their communities,” he added.

Father Brian Schieber, pastor of St. Michael, said “evangelization begins with prayer.”

“The first step is to invite Jesus to enflame our hearts,” he said. “We cannot give what we ourselves have not first received. If we want to share Jesus with others, we must first take seriously our own relationship with Christ.”

Father Schieber hopes parishioners will use the challenge “to read the word of God, reflect on it and then make a resolution to live [it] out for the day.”

St. Michael will also offer three prayer workshops on Wednesday nights during Lent at the same time as reconciliation is available.

“The Lenten season brings with it a heightened sense of awareness,” said Williams. “The heightened sense of awareness, plus the length of time, provides an opportunity to plant a seed.”

Ashes are seen in this 2019 photo from Ash Wednesday at the Cathedral of St. Peter Church in Kansas City, Kansas. LEAVEN PHOTO BY DOUG HESSE

“The Holy Spirit can do amazing things in people, so we really want to use this time to facilitate an encounter with Jesus or an experience of faith,” he said.

St. Joseph in Olpe was also eager to inspire parishioners in a special way during Lent. The parish will host a conference in Emporia featuring Patrick Madrid.

Although it’s hosted guest speakers each Lent for a few years, Brian Schmidt said the parish was inspired by Enflame to do something bigger this year.

“I wanted to bring something in so the whole Southern Region could all come together,” said Schmidt.

“We’re a small parish,” he continued. “We can do our part, but we really need this whole area to work together.”

The theme of the event is “Why Be Catholic?” and the day will include talks and an open forum Q&A workshop.

“I think it’s critical [in order] for us to be able to evangelize to understand why we’re Catholic,” said Schmidt. “Because if you don’t have that knowledge, you can’t really share it.”

How to implement Enflame

At the heart of the En ame movement, organizers say that praying, caring and sharing are the keys to evangelization. Here are a few ideas for how to implement each one in your own life or at your parish.


• Start a rosary group with your neighbors, friends or family. • Tell a friend you’re praying for them.
• Create a weekly Bible study.
• Sign up for a Holy Hour at your parish.
• Implement a prayer chain through email or text.
• Participate in the 1% prayer challenge (found online here).

• Volunteer at parish events or projects that give back to the community.
• Offer child care when a friend is sick.
• Bring a home-cooked meal to a family experiencing loss.
• Thank your pastor after Mass.
• Offer a smile or quick hello to those in your pew at church.
• Send a card when a fellow parishioner loses a loved one.
• Take time to listen to the people around you.

• Create small prayer groups to share your faith journey with others.
• Give a talk at your parish about your own testimony or a pilgrimage you’ve attended.
• Engage in meaningful conversations with parishioners after Mass.

Crowds to three

Who are your three and 12? Where is your child’s or spouse’s faith development? Not sure?

A powerful new video tool called “30 Minutes to Deeper Discipleship” can get you up to speed in the same amount of time it takes to watch a sitcom.

This month, a free 30-minute online experience on the Enflame website will be unveiled. It will coach individuals on the high points of new and ancient evangelization wisdom.

The purpose of the site is simply to leave individuals feeling more con – dent in joyfully sharing the faith with children, family and friends. Praying for, deeply caring for and sharing abundant life with those in our heart, home and community can become second nature. Start or accelerate your discipleship journey with “30 Minutes to Deeper Discipleship” online here.

About the author

Moira Cullings

Moira attended St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Overland Park and Benedictine College in Atchison. She majored in marketing, minored in psychology and played center midfield for the women’s soccer team. Moira joined The Leaven staff as a feature writer and social media editor in 2015. After a move to Denver, Moira resumed her full-time position at The Leaven and continues to write and manage its website, social media channels. Her favorite assignment was traveling to the Holy Land to take photos for a group pilgrimage in 2019.

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