Year in review

by Joe Bollig

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Every pope makes news, but Pope Francis dominated headlines this year in a way few religious leaders have in recent years. A new phrase was even coined for the occasion: the “Francis effect.”

This was the year Pope Francis took charge: shaking up the Curia, reforming Vatican finances, removing bishops, holding the extraordinary Synod of the Bishops on the family, and more.

In the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas, the “Francis effect” was felt as well. But his call to carry the Gospel message to the peripheries, the review of the year clearly shows, found the local church already “been there, doing that.”

There was no one, dramatic thing that set a theme for the year on the archdiocesan level. Rather, life in the archdiocese consisted of many small events which, when assembled formed the edifice of Catholic life in northeastern Kansas.

The year for the archdiocese was filled with many annual events, anniversaries, dedications, ordinations, personal milestones and pastoral activities.

So, before we close the book on this year of the “Francis effect,” let us take one last look back at the events and people that affected our lives as the church of northeast Kansas in 2014.


• ReachKCK, the new youth ministry inaugurated Dec. 30 at Blessed Sacrament Parish in Kansas City, Kansas, began its first full month of ministry under the leadership of Liz Miller, archdiocesan urban youth outreach coordinator.

• Marysville Knights of Columbus Council 1777 sponsored Trail Life USA Unit KS-0007 and American Heritage Girls Troop KS-0007. TLUSA KS-0007 is the first Trail Life USA troop in Kansas, as well as the first Catholic-sponsored troop in the state.

• Teens at Sacred Heart Parish in Emporia gathered at the parish on Jan. 4 for the Re-New Year Heart Retreat.

• Members of state government attended the annual Topeka Red Mass on Jan. 16 at Mater Dei Parish-Assumption Church, with Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann as main celebrant and homilist.

• The Catholic Charities annual Snow Ball benefit, held on Jan. 18, raised more than $2 million.

• Eight busloads of students from Benedictine College in Atchison were honored to lead the annual March for Life on Jan. 22 in Washington, D.C. More than 600 people from the archdiocese also attended. Meanwhile, approximately 1,500 persons gathered at the Capitol in Topeka on Jan. 22.

• Welcome Central, the ecumenical Christian social service clearinghouse in Leavenworth, opened on Jan. 27.

• St. Michael School in Axtell celebrated its 125th anniversary on Jan. 28. The celebration included sewing a community quilt.

• The annual Support Our Seminarians benefit was held on Jan. 31 at the Downtown Marriott Hotel in Kansas City, Missouri. Funds raised supported the seminarians of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas and the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph.


• Archbishop Naumann was the main celebrant and homilist at a Mass on Feb. 2 at the St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center in Lawrence at which Karen Lombardi became the first consecrated virgin in the history of the archdiocese.

• More than 200 students attended the Kansas Catholic College Student Convention Feb. 7–9 at the Capital Plaza Hotel in Topeka.

• The St. Gianna Physician’s Guild, jointly sponsored by the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas and the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, held “Answer Your Call in the New Evangelization,” a retreat on Feb. 8–9 for Catholic physicians at Savior Pastoral Center in Kansas City, Kansas.

• The Christian Foundation for Children and Aging adopted a new name: Unbound.

• Bishop Robert Finn was the main celebrant at the annual White Mass for medical professionals on Feb. 15 at Our Lady of Good Counsel Church in Kansas City, Missouri. The Mass was jointly sponsored by the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas and the Diocese of Kansas City-St.Joseph.

• Father Leo Cooper, 96, who served the archdiocese as a priest for 71 years, died on Feb. 21 at Villa St. Francis in Olathe.


• The annual Men Under Construction retreat, held March 8 at Ascension Parish in Overland Park, drew more than 1,000 men.

• Archbishop Naumann blessed the new parish hall of St. Mary Parish in Hartford on March 8.

• The Catholic bishops of Kansas joined clergy of other Christian ecclesial communities to sign a statement urging protections for religious freedom before same-sex marriage became law.

• The Runnin’ Revs vanquished the Serra Club All Stars 64-57 in the annual Runnin’ Revs Basketball Game, held April 28 at Hayden High School in Topeka.

• Topeka parishes collaborated to sponsor a series of fundraising 5K races — La Tour de Parish — beginning with a race on March 15.

• Villa St. Francis in Olathe, part of the Catholic Benefits Organization, filed a class action lawsuit on March 12 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma. The organization sought a preliminary injunction against the contraceptive mandate of the Affordable Care Act.

• Seminarian Joe Heschmeyer was named one of the Fellowship of Catholic University Students’ 30 young Catholics under age 30 making a difference.

• The Knights of Malta sponsored the 18th annual healing Mass on March 29 at Curé of Ars Parish in Leawood.


• Archbishop Naumann blessed and dedicated a new 19,600-square-foot Family Formation Center on April 5 at Mother Teresa of Calcutta Parish in Topeka.

• Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and American Heritage Girls filled St. Peter Cathedral in Kansas City, Kansas, for the annual Scouting Mass on April 6.

• Archbishop Naumann presided at a groundbreaking and blessing on April 11 for a new $3.8 million parish center at Divine Mercy Parish in Gardner.

• Archdiocesan seminarians Luke Doyle and Agustin Martinez witnessed the canonizations of Sts. Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II on April 27 in Rome.


• Archbishop Naumann ordained Bishop Carl A. Kemme as the 11th bishop of the Diocese of Wichita on May 1 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Wichita.

• Archbishop Naumann was the main celebrant and homilist at the 100th anniversary celebration on May 11 of St. Joseph Church in Wathena.

• Archbishop Naumann ordained five transitional deacons on May 17 at Curé of Ars Parish in Leawood: Deacon Gerard Alba, Deacon Jonathan Dizon, Deacon Dan Morris, Deacon Matthew Nagle and Deacon Daniel Stover.

• On May 25 at Prince of Peace Parish in Olathe, Archbishop Naumann ordained Father Anthony Saiki, Father Adam Wilczak and Father Jaime Zarse to the priesthood.

• Archbishop Naumann formed on May 28 a 14-member ethics advisory council to provide expert advice to him in the area of ethics, especially medical ethics.


• Villa St. Francis, part of the Catholic Benefits Organization, won on June 4 an injunction against being forced to comply with the contraception mandate of the Affordable Care Act.

• Archdiocesan Junior Knights and Junior Daughters of the Knights of Peter Claver and Ladies Auxiliaries won offices and honors at the organization’s Central States District Junior Conference, held in St. Louis June 13-15.

• Archbishop Naumann celebrated Mass and dedicated a new grotto at Sts. Peter and Paul Parish cemetery in Seneca on June 14.

• Archbishop Naumann presided at the Mass and dedication of a new permanent, detached altar on June 15 at Mater Dei Parish-Assumption Church in Topeka.

• The Leaven brought home a total of 16 national press awards from the Catholic Media Convention on June 18-20 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The paper won four first-place awards, three second-place awards, three third-place awards and five honorable mentions.

• The archdiocese hosted a Digital Media Conference to teach those working in church ministry how to effectively use social media on June 19 at Savior Pastoral Center in Kansas City, Kansas.

• Archbishop Naumann blessed the newly launched Radio Levantate Catolico Internet radio station on June 19 at Our Lady of Unity Parish in Kansas City, Kansas.

• A Requiem Mass for Father Kenneth Walker, FSSP, 28, was celebrated on June 20 at Sacred Heart Parish in Paxico. Father Walker was murdered at his Phoenix parish.

• Msgr. Stuart Swetland, a priest of the Diocese of Peoria, Illinois, was appointed the seventh president of Donnelly College in Kansas City, Kansas. He began his administration on July 1.


• The last archdiocesan-sponsored prayer vigil at the Aid for Women abortion clinic in Kansas City, Kansas, ended when the facility unexpectedly closed on July 26.

• The priests of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas fell to the priests of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph 27-25 at the first Pitching for Priests softball game June 14 at Community America Ballpark in Kansas City, Kansas.

• Archbishop Naumann blessed and dedicated on July 27 an expansion and improvements to St. Philip Neri Parish in Osawatomie.


• Sister Judith Sutera, OSB, published “The Vinedresser’s Notebook,” a book of spiritual reflections using the allegory of viticulture.

• Archbishop Naumann and seminarians went on their annual pilgrimage Aug. 4-8 to New Mexico.

• Bishop Lucius Hre Kung, of the Diocese of Hakha in Myanmar (Burma), visited ethnic Chin Catholics Aug. 10 to Sept. 1 at St. Patrick Parish in Kansas City, Kansas.

• Father Brian Lawless, the Dublin- based vice postulator for the cause of Matt Talbot, visited the Patrick and Shannon Watkins family Aug. 11 to investigate an unexplained cure of their son Talbot.

• Ken Williams, president/CEO of Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas, cut the ribbon at the grand opening of its new Hope Distribution Center and food pantry, located in Kansas City, Kansas, on Aug. 14.

• The Kelly Youth Rally, held Aug. 16 in rural Nemaha County, drew about 1,000 youth.

• Father Gianantonio Baggio, CS, succeeded Father Livio Stella, CS, as animator of archdiocesan Hispanic ministry.


• The Serra Club of Kansas City, Kansas, launched its new website.

• Fred Fosnacht, founder and CEO of My CatholicVoice, led the “Forming Digital Disciples: Using New Media to Create a True Encounter with Christ” event Sept. 9 at Savior Pastoral Center in Kansas City, Kansas.

• Archbishop Naumann presided over the groundbreaking and blessing on Sept. 14 for a new church for Holy Family Parish in Eudora.

• Sister Susan Pryor, SCL, who was in charge of the archiepiscopal residence for 20 years and served two archbishops, retired from her duties.

• For the first time, the four Catholic bishops of Kansas shared election- year reflections in a video format that people could access via a variety of electronic devices.

• Andy Tylicki, president of St. James Academy in Lenexa, announced during a Sept. 15 assembly that the high school was named by the Cardinal Newman Society as one of 71 Schools of Excellence.

• Members of St. John the Baptist Parish in Greeley completed their 121-panel all-parish quilt, which was raffled at the annual bazaar on Sept. 28.

• Archbishop Naumann joined pastor Father Tom Dolezal and members of Sacred Heart Parish in Emporia for a blessing and groundbreaking of a handicap-accessible foyer and eucharistic adoration chapel, as well as new rectory, on Sept. 28.


• Archbishop Naumann led an 11-day pilgrimage to the Marian shrines of Europe, sponsored by the Catholic Foundation of Northeast Kansas, Oct. 7-17. The pilgrimage was to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the CFNEK.

• Benedictine College in Atchison offered the “Wisdom of the Ages” exhibit of documents from Oct. 13-19 and Nov. 8-14.

• Carmelites from across the nation and overseas, as well as archdiocesan Catholics, gathered in Leavenworth for a sesquicentennial symposium celebrating the establishment of the first male Carmelite foundation in North America, Oct. 23-25.

• Bridget and John Murphy, members of the Church of the Nativity Parish in Leawood, were named “Angels Among Us” during the Catholic Education Foundation’s Gaudeamus event on Oct. 25. A record $1 million was raised.

• The archdiocesan office of the permanent diaconate offered a series of information nights to recruit a new cohort of candidates in October and November.

• The Catholic Lawyers Guild of Kansas City sponsored a Red Mass on Oct. 30 at the Church of the Ascension in Overland Park.


• Archbishop Naumann was the main celebrant at a Mass on Nov. 1 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the founding of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Topeka.

• Archbishop Naumann presided at a blessing and groundbreaking of a $2.8 million addition on Nov. 2 at St. Bernard Parish in Wamego. The 21,341-square-foot structure will house parish offices, a hall, classrooms, meeting rooms, a youth room and a kitchen.

• The archdiocese made a massive effort to give all Catholics the opportunity to make the Marian consecration to Jesus through Mary by undertaking the “33 Days to Morning Glory” retreat Nov. 5-Dec. 8, based on the book by Father Michael Gaitley.

• “Defending Families in a Digital World,” a training on the pervasive phenomena of digital and Internet pornography, was held Nov. 14 at Savior Pastoral Center in Kansas City, Kansas.

• Father Gerard Alba was ordained by Archbishop Naumann at St. Peter Cathedral on Nov. 15. His was the fourth priestly ordination this year for the archdiocese.

• Archbishop Naumann, joined by Archbishop Emeritus James P. Keleher, celebrated a Mass on Nov. 18 at St. Mary-St. Anthony Parish in Kansas City, Kansas, in thanksgiving for the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Duchesne Clinic.

• The Little Sisters of the Community of the Lamb were presented with the St. Rose Philippine Duchesne Award on Nov. 23 at Sacred Heart Church in Mound City.

• Curé of Ars Church underwent a $4.5 million renovation.

• St. Matthew School in Topeka was named this year’s “School of Excellence” by the Catholic Education Foundation.


• The Catholic Fine Arts Council of the Catholic Foundation of Northeast Kansas and the Cathedral of St. Peter hosted the “St. Nicholas Festival of Lessons and Carols,” with the polyphonic choir Sursum Corda, on Dec. 5 at the cathedral.

• The archdiocesan Digital Media Center launched a new digital media app to access online Catholic content.

• The Apostles of the Interior Life and the School of Faith began recruitment of the second cohort of people entering the Spiritual Mentorship Program.

• Archbishop Naumann and Bishop Robert Finn of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph blessed the KEXS AM 1190 radio station and tower on Dec. 11.

• Archbishop Naumann on Dec. 15 blessed the new crucifix at the Church of the Ascension in Overland Park.

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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