Wichita Vagabond missionaries reach out to youth parish ministries may miss
Want to help reach inner-city youth?
There are several ways to help Vagabond Missions. Volunteers are needed to directly interact with youth at a Bible study or a Breakout night. Others may support the ministry by providing meals for the evening programs. “We always need prayers,” Churray said. Contact him at [email protected].
When Andy Churray met his wife-to-be, Kapaun Mt. Carmel graduate Megan Rott, while they were students at Franciscan University, he had never heard of Wichita, Kansas.
Today, he’s living in his wife’s hometown and sharing the Gospel with inner-city youth. He’s associated with Vagabond Missions, one of 13 mission sites in nine cities in eight states.
The native of the Diocese of Richmond, Virginia, said he and Megan just celebrated their 14th wedding anniversary. They were married on New Year’s Eve in 2009 and before their first anniversary, a friend and Vagabond founder asked them to be missionaries in Brooklyn, New York.
Finding those in need
“The whole emphasis and idea came from being involved in Catholic youth ministry and seeing the Lord work in young people’s lives and also being confronted with the reality of teens growing up in less fortunate areas,” he said from his office in the ministry’s facility at 13th and Waco in Wichita.
Vagabond focuses on youth in areas of a city where family life may be less stable and where parishes have fewer resources and opportunities.
“We want to bring effective Catholic youth ministry to inner city areas,” Churray said.
Served in Brooklyn, N.Y.
He and Megan served in Brooklyn for three years before moving to Wichita with their first child, Rosemary, to be near family. Andy began teaching at St. Thomas Aquinas School but the missionary spirit was still with him.
During the second year of his three-year stint at St. Thomas, Churray said he discerned God could be calling him to establish a Vagabond Mission in Wichita.
“We felt like the Lord could use us here — that we might be being called to start a Vagabond Mission here to help reach teens who aren’t in the Catholic schools, who aren’t being engaged, aren’t being reached by the church in the more traditional methods.”
Bishop Kemme gives his nod
Bishop Carl A. Kemme gave the Churrays his approval in 2015 to move forward. The next year Vagabond was officially ministering in Wichita. After initially considering establishing a base near Holy Savior Parish, they decided to focus on the youth around North High School, south of St. Patrick Parish.
The ministry has approval from the Wichita school district to visit with students at North High and to invite them to take part in activities at the youth center, a block east of the high school.
The ministry was able to expand to the St. Margaret Mary Parish neighborhood when it had 12 missionaries but has consolidated recently because it now has only six. The focus today is on the St. Patrick and Holy Savior parish neighborhoods, and the neighborhood around South High School.
Sarah Lynch, a New Jersey native and one of the missionaries serving in Wichita, said she invites youth to the Open Underground, a twice-a-week evening of video games, foosball, billiards, and other activities, or a place where they can do their homework.
“They do enjoy just decompressing here,” she said. “And we give them rides home if they need it.”
Open Underground is a way to meet the youth and invite them to Breakout, a more structured evening of activities and food, Lynch said.
“And then we always have a short talk at the end, maybe a five- to seven-minute talk. We want to give them some wholesome content to go home with that’s faith-related.”
This year the missionaries shared testimonies about how and why they live out their faith and the struggles that came with that, she said.
“I really like being a missionary. It’s challenged me in a lot of ways. I’ve been a missionary since August of 2021 and I’m not the same person that I was before starting in mission.”
Lynch said her role has helped her overcome shyness.
“It’s challenged me to become more of a leader and grow and boldness and confidence because we are responsible for these teens.”
The community of missionaries she is involved with helps her live a faith-filled lifestyle, she said. “It’s helped me grow in my faith because growing up I didn’t have friends who put faith at the forefront of their lives.”
Chase Dorsett, from Mobile, Alabama, said he is mandated by his baptism to be a missionary, whether it is with Vagabond or not.
“We’re required to go out into the world and preach the good news, to tell everyone about Christ, that he is here for us, and that he loves us,” he said.
Dorsett said the church has been promoting the idea of New Evangelization for decades but that for many in the areas Vagabond serves it’s the first time they’ve heard the Gospel.
“It’s so cool to like be able to preach the Gospel to them. I think at the heart of a missionary is someone that first and foremost you have to seek the Lord, you have to know the Lord, and then from there comes being able to bring him to others.”