Save souls and form soul savers

David Saunders has decades of education to fall back on in his new role at the Spiritual Life Center in Wichita. (Advance photo)

Saunders ties his role to the Pastoral Plan for the Diocese of Wichita

The Spiritual Life Center’s recently updated vision to “Save Souls, Form Soul Savers” supports the Diocesan Pastoral Plan which, in part, states: “The Mission of the Diocese of Wichita is to go forth faithfully to preach the Gospel to all God’s children and to evangelize today’s culture.”

In response, the SLC, the Bishop’s Leadership Team, and several parishes are starting to utilize Patrick Lencioni’s work and the supports offered through, based in Greenwood Village, Colorado, which serves “to uplift, improve, and help parishes turn from maintenance to missionary communities.”

Saunders, who has four months under his belt overseeing mission and administration at the Center, said another role for the SLC will certainly be to help the faithful of the diocese grow in their ability to better unite with God. Ideally we grow in our intimacy with God through prayer lives more enlivened and lived from the heart, “after all, we are expected not only to pray daily but to pray always.”

“Therefore, we’re probably going to do a fair number of things to help people with their prayer lives,” he said from his office.

The months-long interim resulting from the pandemic allowed Saunders, SLC director Father Darrin May, and others to prayerfully discern the mission and vision of the diocesan retreat center and start on what Lencioni calls “The Playbook.”

SLC is ‘glorious’

“The Spiritual Life Center has been a glorious place,” Saunders said. “It’s been so engaging and has been responsible for so many encounters. It is such a unique gem in this unique diocese. The things that have happened and occurred here have been glorious and beautiful.”

The SLC has been fulfilling its mission statement, he said, yet added that the wider culture has moved, significantly, over the last few decades from a Christian to a non-Christian culture. This requires, as St. John Paul II said, a New Evangelization with new ardor and practices.

“So, how does helping people encounter the Lord become new in ardor and practices at the SLC?” he said. “And what do evangelization, discipleship, and stewardship look like when, frankly, tons of data and observation tells us that many people, even many coming to Mass, were not well evangelized nor catechized?”

Supporting the pastoral plan

Saunders and others at the Spiritual Life Center are pondering how it can support the diocesan pastoral plan, how it can support the parishes, and how it can support individuals in their walk with God – especially in prayer.
“It’s my role to help discern, put some of those pieces together, and then help the Holy Spirit and Father implement them” he said.

Although he most recently was evangelization coordinator at Church of the Magdalen in Wichita, Saunders was an educator for decades having taught for 10 years and was a principal for 20 years in Wichita at five different schools with significant challenges.

“I loved that role,” he said, and when Father John Jirak offered him a job, Saunders thought it would be a wonderful fit.
To fulfull its mission, the Spiritual Life Center is reaching across the Atlantic, he said.

The center is hosting a weekend retreat Oct. 30-Nov. 1 with Fr. Jacques Philippe, a prolific writer about modern Catholic spirituality. He was not able to fly from France to Wichita because of the pandemic but will participate long-distance.

Those who come to the center will get to listen to Fr. Philippe’s new prerecorded talks on prayer and participate in a live video Q&A session with him, as well as experience the prayer time, sacraments, meals, and quiet space the center has to offer.

All registration options are available at the SLC website, along with more information about the event and about Fr. Jacques Philippe. To register visit or call 316-744-0167.