Bishop urges educators to focus on making disciples

Bishop Carl A. Kemme spoke to Catholic school administrators and pastors Friday, Aug. 6, in Good Shepherd Hall at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Wichita. (Advance photos)

The culture is in a post-Christian apostolic era Bishop Carl A. Kemme told school administrators Friday, Aug. 6.

“We are leaving a period of Christendom where the Judeo-Christian belief system permeated almost every aspect of our lives, where great institutions and religious orders were founded to provide crucial maintenance,” he said.

“That is ending and is being replaced by a period of a return to a radical discipleship, a period in which the Gospel is not always widely accepted or understood, and in many ways rejected. But this new period is an opportunity for the church to focus on the inherent mission of the Gospel when Jesus said, ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations.’”

The bishop spoke after lunch to about 80 school administrators and pastors meeting just before the new school year in Good Shepherd Hall at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.

He said those attending were part of a mission that includes all of the faithful of the Diocese of Wichita.

“It is critical that we not lose sight of the mission so that we respond appropriately to what exactly God is asking of us and calling us to do in this moment in time.”

He thanked those attending for their generosity in being part of the educational ministry of the diocese. “No doubt, all of you could have chosen a more comfortable and less stressful way to make a living, provide for your family, and to serve. Like myself, you are here because the Lord has chosen you for this work. I thank you for accepting that call.”

Leadership in the world and in the church comes with great sacrifice, Bishop Kemme said, assuring them of his prayers and support as a new school year begins.

We are on a mission

On the subject of mission, Bishop Kemme said, the church, the diocese, the parish, and schools are on a mission.

The new era that the culture is entering is profoundly different than it was a few years ago, he said. “The church began during an apostolic era, as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles. Down through the ages, those apostolic periods have come and gone, usually replaced by long periods of what is called Christendom.”

As a result, Bishop Kemme said, the faithful of the diocese must have the courage to revisit its mission and transform all of its institutions, including its schools, with a new sense of mission to meet the demands of this new apostolic period. Although it will be challenging, he added, it must be done to preserve parish communities, schools, ministries, and the stewardship way of life.

“Not as relics of the past but as repurposed, transformed, and dynamic entities meeting the demands and challenges of the post-Christian and increasingly secular culture in which we now live,” he said.

“We can no longer be about business as usual, hoping against all hope that we will survive the encroaching culture changes that confront us now. New times call for new approaches and strategies.”

He urged the administrators and pastors to develop new strategies so that the diocesan Catholic schools “will be nothing less than cutting edge” in education and Catholic formation. Strategies to inspire students with “a zeal and ardor for the faith of Jesus Christ, so that they can emerge in our world as true disciples on fire with the Holy Spirit.”

Early Christian knew their role

The Christians in the first apostolic period knew their mission and lived it, Bishop Kemme said.

“Nothing, not even persecution or martyrdom, would deter them from advancing the mission of the Gospel. They desired nothing but to share the Good News of salvation in Christ Jesus.”

The faithful today, by virtue of their baptism, have the same mission. he said. “But it is a mission we must embrace ever more completely in this new time in which we have been chosen to live. It is that same apostolic zeal I want to see unleashed in this local church and especially in our schools.”
Bishop Kemme said the diocesan pastoral plan is an invitation for each of the persons attending to develop a particular vision, mission, with accompanying priorities for parishes and schools.

“I want to encourage you to begin, if you have not done so already, a process with yourselves and other collaborators in your communities, to bring about a clear expression of your vision and mission, setting forth your own more particular priorities as you advance in the years ahead.”

The bishop said the new director of the Office of Leadership in Missionary Discipleship, Ryan Purcell, would assist them in their efforts. “I am confident you will find in him the support you will need as you begin this important process, which I hope will lead to amazing parishes, amazing schools, and amazing diocesan ministries and services.”

Amazing Parish Conference

Bishop Kemme then talked about the Amazing Parish Conference held June 21-23 in Overland Park.

“I am personally sold on the Amazing Parish model. I use its concept of leadership teams in my own governance of the diocese. I hope that eventually all our parishes and schools will consider this as a pathway to meeting the demands of our ministry in an apostolic period.”

He said Amazing Parish utilizes three building blocks: a culture of prayer, a culture of healthy teamwork, and a culture of active discipleship. “And I might add an amazing school.”

Prayer is the foundation of everything, he said.

“I want to challenge each of you to begin this year to build that culture of prayer in your work together as pastors, principals, educators, team members, and staff.”

Prayer is needed to form zealous disciples for the Lord, Bishop Kemme said.

“We should be found regularly engaged in active prayer in our offices, classrooms, on the courts and fields, in the hallways of our institutions, wherever we find ourselves so that we do not rely solely on ourselves, but always on God’s grace.”

All must work together

This will not be accomplished overnight, he said, and not without a great deal of effort on everyone’s part.

“We must work steadily and patiently to build a brighter future. The operative virtue in these apostolic times is courage. Yes, it will take great courage to revisit, to reimagine, and to repurpose all our institutions, including our schools. Yes, it will take considerable courage to invite people to pray with you and us to offer to pray for them and their particular needs. But that is what we are called to do.”

Others in the history of the church have met such challenges, Bishop Kemme said.

“We are now called to do the same. When I gaze upon the diocese entrusted to my pastoral care and service, I see good things; I want to see greater things. We are called to be better, not only because we can but because the times in which we live demand it. I want to roll up my sleeves and do my part to make that happen. I hope you too will join me.”