Bishop Carl A. Kemme has told various groups in the last few months that when he gives the keys of his office to his successor, he doesn’t want to hand over a diocese that he has simply maintained, Bishop Kemme wants the new bishop to inherit a diocese that is growing and thriving.
To begin building a foundation for Bishop Kemme’s vision, a group of representatives from the Diocese of Wichita, including Bishop Kemme, will be in Orlando, Florida, July 1-4 for a “Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America” sponsored by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Working Group on the Life and Dignity of the Human Person.
The convocation is a response to Pope Francis’ call in his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, the Joy of the Gospel, “to embark upon a new chapter of evangelization marked by this joy [of the Gospel].”
Father David Lies, vicar general of the diocese, said last week that bishops are using the word “unprecedented” in referring to the convocation because it has been a long time since the U.S. bishops have hosted a convocation.
The event will feature TED-style – high-quality and relatively brief – talks with related breakout sessions initiated and concluded by a bishop who has a connection to that particular topic.
Father Lies said Bishop Kemme is leading the delegation in hopes of getting a better understanding of the culture and how to respond to it, and to better understand methods of evangelization, with the idea of adapting that information to set in motion a process of evangelization in the Diocese of Wichita.
The diocese can look back on benchmarks, Fr. Lies said, such as Bishop Emeritus Eugene J. Gerber’s Catholic Life Center, the seed of stewardship he nurtured in the diocese with Monsignor Thomas McGread, and the Totus Tuus catechetical movement.
“The bishop wants very much to keep that inspiration going for a vital Catholic life in the diocese,” Fr. Lies said.
Pope Francis desires to develop a way to share the Gospel with those who have lost a sense of “fervor for the faith” and have been caught up in the desires of the world, he said.
Bishop Kemme hopes to form a diocesan pastoral council drawn from those attending the convocation to assist him in the leadership of the diocese, and to set an example for pastors to implement pastoral councils in their parishes.
The bishop would use what is learned, along with his own ideas, to move the diocese from the idea of maintenance to one of mission, Father Lies said.
A series of listening sessions are planned for the diocese from August through November based on what is learned at the convocation. In addition, a listening session will be held with the diocesan curia in October, and with diocesan clergy in November during their annual conference.
“So, this is just to keep gathering input, praying with it, and developing a simple, but clear, pastoral vision for the diocese for the next three to five years,” Father Lies said.
Bishop Kemme is currently entertaining three questions that might be used for the sessions, although they may be modified after the convocation: What are we doing well in the diocese? Where do we need to grow as a diocese? And if we could do anything as a diocese, what would it be?
Father Lies asked for prayers from the faithful of the diocese for fruitful results.

Convocation story at-a-glance
• The Diocese of Wichita will be represented by Bishop Carl A. Kemme and 16 persons who represent a cross-section of the diocese.
• The convocation hopes for two key outcomes: That leaders will be equipped and re-energized to share the Gospel as missionary disciples. And that they will take away fresh insights from participation in a strategic conversation about current challenges and opportunities informed by new research, communications strategies, and successful models.
• Bishop Kemme hopes to use the convocation as a stepping stone to implement a plan of evangelization in the Diocese of Wichita.
• Here are the questions the convocation will consider: What is the nature of this current historical moment in the church and in our nation? How do we respond to this moment as missionary disciples? Where are we called to go? To whom are we being sent on this mission? What will we do when we get there? How will we engage the mission?
• About 3,000 delegates from 150 U.S. dioceses will attend the event in Orlando, Florida.

Want to watch the convocation?
EWTN will broadcast much of the convocation online and through its cable providers. For details, visit as the event nears.