In this Sunday’s Gospel, we find Simon Peter asking Jesus to depart from Him because he was a sinful man. Jesus knows everything about him, including his sins, and tells him to “follow me.” This encounter with Jesus led Peter to abandon everything, including a haul of fish that he no doubt dreamed about one day having, to follow Jesus and join His “fishing company.” Jesus knows everything about us. Yes, all our failings and the shameful things we have done. In spite of ourselves, He calls each one of us by name and invites us to follow Him. We too are called to be part of Jesus’ fishing company and to “catch” others and bring them into the Kingdom of God.
The World Day for Consecrated Life will be celebrated this weekend as well. This special day was instituted in 1997 by Saint Pope John Paul II as a day of prayer for men and women in consecrated life. Please pray for all those who have made commitments in the consecrated life. May they continue to be inspired by Jesus Christ and respond generously to God’s gift of their vocation.
This Sunday, I will be in Wichita to be with hundreds of college students from around the state for their annual SEEK conference. This conference is organized by the Fellowship of College University Students (FOCUS), whose mission is to share the hope and joy of the Gospel with the world.
Attending a SEEK conference is a wonderful opportunity to discover Jesus Christ in a new way and to dive deep into what God has called us to do—to live as disciples—and see your family, parish and community ignited with the Catholic faith. Besides the conference for college students, Sacred Heart in Colby is also hosting a SEEK conference this weekend at its parish. Additionally, St. John’s in Beloit will be hosting a SEEK Conference February 25–26. All are encouraged to attend. Registration deadline is February 18. For more information, visit the parish website HERE.
On Monday, February 7, I will be attending the induction ceremony of Dr. Nick Compagnone into the Kansas Association of Independent and Religious Schools Hall of Fame (KAIRS). We thank God for the generous and dedicated service of Dr. Compagnone as both a superintendent and principal in our diocese for the last four plus decades.
Speaking of Hall of Famers, Father Earl Befort, a Capuchin priest in Victoria, was recently named to the Hays Chamber of Commerce Hall of Fame and awarded their highest honor for his outstanding service in the community. Congratulations to Father Earl!
A statue of St. Josephine Bakhita, the patron of human trafficking victims, will be placed in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican this coming weekend. The bronze sculpture is dedicated to trafficking victims and to all women, especially the religious sisters who work to free women from modern day slavery. The International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking is February 8. This day was chosen for the day of prayer because it is the feast day of St. Josephine Bakhita, who was born in Sudan in 1869. She was kidnapped at the age of seven and sold into slavery by Arab slave traders. During her time as a slave, she was beaten, tortured and scarred.
This week, I have been tagging along with our superintendent, Geoff Andrews, visiting our Catholic schools for Mass and other fun activities during National Catholic Schools Week. I even had the opportunity to celebrate a few school Masses in the Diocese of Dodge City. There is so much joy, peace and love in our Catholic schools! I am so grateful for all who help support them.
We are having listening sessions throughout the diocese for the Synod on Synodality. I would very much like for as many people as possible to participate, even if you are not a member of one of these parishes, I encourage you to attend one of the following session:
February 20th – 2 PM – St. Francis of Assisi Parish Center, Norton
February 27th – 3 PM – St. Edward Parish Hall, Belleville
March 6th – 2 PM – Sacred Heart Parish Hall, Colby
March 13th – 3PM – Downtown Hall, Tipton
March 20th – 3 PM – St. Nicholas of Myra Parish Hall, Hays
March 20th – 6:30 PM – St. Thomas More Parish Utopia Room, Manhattan
March 27th – 2 PM – St. Mary Queen of the Universe Parish Hall, Salina
So proud of the many high school and college students—and the chaperones too—who made a pilgrimage to the March for Life in Washington D.C., and also those who journeyed to the Rally for Life in Topeka. Our young people are the pro-life generation. One of the most beautiful things to see is the peace and joy of their presence in defending life.
Recently, I joined the other Kansas bishops for a meeting with the Kansas Catholic Conference. Think of them as the public policy arm of the Church in Kansas. In that arena, the #1 priority is, of course, the Value Them Both Amendment that will be on the ballot on August 2, 2022. The whole country will be focused on what happens in Kansas. Thank you for promoting life.
Besides the Value Them Both Amendment, we also discussed Payday Loan Reform; the possibility of cutting sales tax on groceries to help people with lower incomes in Kansas; Maternal Mortality Prevention (this bill is designed to prompt more research into why black moms are dying at 2-3 times the rate of non-black moms in the year after they give birth); expanded mental health funding; and finally, the problem of the growth of gambling in the state.
At the Catholic Conference meeting in Topeka, we also had an opportunity to meet with the state leadership team of the Knights of Columbus, including State Deputy Jamey Roth and his wife, Angie, from Victoria. Some of the Knights’ accomplishments include placing thirty ultrasound machines throughout the state, including recent placements in Osborne, Goodland and Hays by the end of 2022. Ultrasounds are incredibly effective in helping moms and dads to bond with their baby even before birth. The Knights are also greatly involved with raising funds to help people with intellectual disabilities and the Kansas Special Olympics. In a nutshell, the Knights have a deep concern for the poor and less fortunate. Their charity is remarkable! By the way, I want to encourage you to join the Knights of Columbus if you have not already.
The Knights of Columbus also gifted each bishop with a little statue of St. Joseph sleeping. This image is something that Pope Francis has frequently meditated on. As Archbishop Naumann stated, “Joseph probably got to a point where he was afraid to go to sleep.” The Lord works while we slumber. I love the gift from the Knights and have placed it in my chapel.
I couldn’t make the last Catholic Charities board meeting, but I was able to meet with executive director Megan Robl to discuss all that’s happening. Our Catholic Charities keeps expanding to help more and more people throughout our diocese. Thank you for your support of what they do to help others.
The 2022 Bishop’s Annual Appeal – Call to Share begins the weekend of February 19-20. Thank you in advance for your support and generosity!
I recently began reading a book titled, “Reclaiming Vatican II: What it (really) said, what it means, and how it calls us to renew the Church” by Father Blake Britton. It comes highly recommended by Bishop Robert Barron of Los Angeles. I think the book is fabulous, and I highly recommend reading it.
Lent is right around the corner with Ash Wednesday on March 2. May our lives be continually united with the life of Jesus.
Many of you have gotten to know Katie Greenwood, the editor of the Register and faith magazine. She is getting married next Friday, February 11. We are all very happy for her and her fiancé, Nathaniel. I had a little something to do with them getting together. When I celebrated the sacrament of confirmation in Hill City, I went to brunch with Nathaniel’s family. I hadn’t met Nathaniel before. I immediately thought of Katie when I asked him if he was dating anyone. He said no but would like to. They met, and the rest is history. I thought of starting a matchmaker website but told myself I have many other things to do
At the end of February, I will be attending an eight-day silent Ignatian retreat. I will certainly keep the diocese and you in my prayers.
I have a friend from Michigan who sends daily inspirational quotes to a group of people. A recent quote really grabbed my attention: “The bad news is time flies… The good news is you’re the pilot.”
With love and gratitude to all of you,
n light of Saint Josephine Bakhita’s feast day on February 8, I offer the following paragraph from Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical Saved by Hope:
Yet at this point a question arises: in what does this hope consist which, as hope, is “redemption”? The essence of the answer is given in the phrase from the Letter to the Ephesians quoted above: the Ephesians, before their encounter with Christ, were without hope because they were “without God in the world.” To come to know God—the true God—means to receive hope. We who have always lived with the Christian concept of God, and have grown accustomed to it, have almost ceased to notice that we possess the hope that ensues from a real encounter with this God. The example of a saint of our time can to some degree help us understand what it means to have a real encounter with this God for the first time. I am thinking of the African Josephine Bakhita, canonized by Pope John Paul II. She was born around 1869—she herself did not know the precise date—in Darfur in Sudan. At the age of nine, she was kidnapped by slave-traders, beaten till she bled, and sold five times in the slave-markets of Sudan. Eventually she found herself working as a slave for the mother and the wife of a general, and there she was flogged every day till she bled; as a result of this she bore 144 scars throughout her life. Finally, in 1882, she was bought by an Italian merchant for the Italian consul Callisto Legnani, who returned to Italy as the Mahdists advanced. Here, after the terrifying “masters” who had owned her up to that point, Bakhita came to know a totally different kind of “master”—in Venetian dialect, which she was now learning, she used the name “paron” for the living God, the God of Jesus Christ. Up to that time she had known only masters who despised and maltreated her, or at best considered her a useful slave. Now, however, she heard that there is a “paron” above all masters, the Lord of all lords, and that this Lord is good, goodness in person. She came to know that this Lord even knew her, that he had created her—that he actually loved her. She too was loved, and by none other than the supreme “Paron,” before whom all other masters are themselves no more than lowly servants. She was known and loved and she was awaited. What is more, this master had himself accepted the destiny of being flogged and now he was waiting for her “at the Father’s right hand”. Now she had “hope” —no longer simply the modest hope of finding masters who would be less cruel, but the great hope: “I am definitively loved and whatever happens to me—I am awaited by this Love. And so my life is good.” Through the knowledge of this hope she was “redeemed,” no longer a slave, but a free child of God. She understood what Paul meant when he reminded the Ephesians that previously they were without hope and without God in the world—without hope because without God. Hence, when she was about to be taken back to Sudan, Bakhita refused; she did not wish to be separated again from her “Paron.” On 9 January 1890, she was baptized and confirmed and received her first Holy Communion from the hands of the Patriarch of Venice. On 8 December 1896, in Verona, she took her vows in the Congregation of the Canossian Sisters and from that time onwards, besides her work in the sacristy and in the porter’s lodge at the convent, she made several journeys round Italy in order to promote the missions: the liberation that she had received through her encounter with the God of Jesus Christ, she felt she had to extend, it had to be handed on to others, to the greatest possible number of people. The hope born in her which had “redeemed” her she could not keep to herself; this hope had to reach many, to reach everybody.