By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Reporter
KANSAS CITY — When the workday is over, many young professionals like to kick back, enjoy food and drink and the company of friends. And that’s just what the 20-and-30-somethings involved in City on a Hill Young Adult Ministry do, with an added touch — prayer, in the form of a liturgy or Holy Hour.
City on a Hill was founded in 2006 by a group of young adults who were passionate about their faith. Carrie Kafka, since 2006 the director of the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocesan Young Adult and Campus Ministry, said that in the beginning, the ministry offered two or three events a month for faith and fellowship. The first was Third Thursday liturgies, an effort by the vocations office to reach out to young adults. Kafka said that 50-75 people usually attended. Eventually, Tuesdays at the Boulevard took over Third Thursdays. (Third Thursday liturgies are now offered by the Vocations office to pray for vocations to the priesthood and religious life.)
“This is all about reaching souls for Christ,” she said. —It’s a misperception that folks are out of touch. Faith permeates everything we do. City on a Hill adults live in this world but not of this world. They are balanced between faith and worldly life.”
Where not so long ago, the ministry offered two to three events per month, now there are three or four each week for young people to get involved in.
Catholic Challenge Sports, a way of reaching out to young adults through the whole human image —body, mind and soul —was founded in 2007 by a group of young people who loved Christ, friendship and Frisbee, among other sports. One of the founders, Matt Maes, said that the sports challenge creates a community of young adults who feel welcomed by their church, a church that serves their needs. Founded on Ultimate Frisbee and softball, Catholic Challenge Sports now fields teams for dodge ball, kickball, sand volleyball and flag football. There are tournaments for basketball, miniature golf and bowling. And there’s still softball and Ultimate Frisbee.
The theme of Catholic Challenge Sports —mind, body and soul —has become the overarching theme for City on a Hill, Kafka said. “From Bible studies and prayer to outreach services to Liturgies to theological discussions, to pizza and beer and country dancing at Diamonds and Denims, we connect with others of our faith. We form and build intentional friendships, and relationships. Of course, organic fellowship, where you meet and get to know someone you never expected to meet, or unplanned parties, automatically happens, which is great!”
City on a Hill adults are growing in their faith, being inspired to come back to their faith, she said. “We are people at all stages of faith realization: we are Christmas and Easter Catholics, and we are those who attend daily Mass. City on a Hill strives hard to meet people where they are.”
Theology on Tap. Offered monthly at the Well in Waldo, Theology on Tap is an evening of food and drink, fellowship and a chance to learn about the relevancy of Catholic Church teaching in daily life. Beer, a bunch of buddies and talking about the Bible. How good can it get?
“When young adults learn what the Church really is, and what it really does, they get excited to explore their faith further,” Kafka said. “City on a Hill makes opportunities available for them to do so.”
Tuesdays at the Boulevard. On the third Tuesday of each month, young men and women gather at Sacred Heart Guadalupe Church for Mass after work or classes. They have the opportunity to pray the Rosary as a group or go to confession before the liturgy. On a recent Tuesday evening, the sun was lowering west of the church as about 100 young adults entered the church, some chatting and laughing quietly, others silent, lost in thought. Msgr. Brad Offutt, chancellor of the diocese, was the celebrant.
In his homily, Msgr. Offutt said, “We may not talk to ourselves out loud, but we do a lot of talking to ourselves inside — in the middle of the night or in the middle of the day. It’s the mainspring of consciousness.”
“There’s a lot of interior noise in the world today, he continued. “Prayer becomes more a way of how can I pull God’s chain, than How can I let him pull my chain?”
He suggested that a better a way to pray would be to “Sit as quiet as possible and still yourself. Quiet and empty yourself if you would stand the slightest chance of hearing what God is trying to tell you.”
How much time are you giving God, the priest asked. “Try 10 minutes every day, if you can. Prayer won’t get boring. It becomes something you hunger for.”
After Mass, the young people flocked over to the Boulevard Brewery, about a block away, for an evening of spirited and spiritual conversation and fellowship. Waldo pizza supplied the food, Boulevard Brewery staff filled glasses with beer, and tables filled with young people. The deck outside beckoned, the lights of downtown glowing brighter as the sun set.
Inside, talk and laughter. “Finding out about Tuesdays at the Boulevard is a word of mouth thing, said Michael, a frequent attendee. It’s a great young adult ministry. I’ve been coming for about a year now. It’s a safe environment, no techno music blasting in your ears. It almost feels like a Catholic singles group at times, but it’s more than that.”
Joe, another regular, added, “I love crafted beer and being able to enjoy it where it is crafted is so cool. It’s about meeting people of like minds, Catholic individuals, it’s awesome. The dynamic is cool and laid back. We can socialize and meet new people.”
Joe’s wife, Karissa, said, “In college there was a place you could go to be with friends and feel comfortable. After college, with Tuesdays at the Boulevard, there’s still a place you can go. You come together with other people who are into your faith.”
“It’s a Catholic underground,” Michael jumped in. “A tool for evangelization, aided by pizza and beer.”
“We’re celebrating life,” said Joe. “The pizza and beer is good, but sharing your Catholic faith is great — that’s why we go to Mass first.”
“Yeah,” Michael said, grinning. “You get communion, then you come here and commune.”
Reservoir. A relatively new initiative, Reservoir, a monthly holy hour for young adults, is held at St. Peter’s Church in the Brookside neighborhood. The first holy hour only received three days of advertising, yet 35 young men and women showed up for Mass and the holy hour, followed by small group discussions, dinner and night prayer. Kafka said then, “Young people are looking for opportunities to stop all the noise around them, so they can listen to what God is telling them.”
Now, 50-75 young adults gather at St. Peter’s monthly for the holy hour, which gives them a chance to enhance their prayer life and listen to what God is telling them.
Band of Brothers. Several years ago, two young men, Matt Maes and Greg Doring, saw the attraction of Catholic Challenge Sports, the way it helped unite young men and women in a common interest. Recognizing a need for an authentic model of Christian masculinity in society today, they came up with the idea of a Band of Brothers, a group that strives to develop virtue through spiritual and intellectual study, prayer, work and recreation, and socialization.
The name, Band of Brothers, immediately calls masculinity to mind: Shakespeare’s Henry V St. Crispin’s Day Speech, just before the king’s soldiers marched into war, and the 101st Airborne Division, again soldiers, in WWII. The focus of these young men, however, centers around Catholic manhood, the support and strengthening of men pursuing Godliness in their daily lives.
Now led by Ferd Niemann, 15-20 young men, students and professionals, meet regularly in the UMKC neighborhood twice a month on Tuesdays. Neimann said they come from all over the metro area, from north of the river to Gardner, Kan. Topics of conversation include accountability, ways of living a virtuous life, prayer and worship.
Father Rocha said, “Band of Brothers is a win for the Church. These guys stay close to God in the sacraments, and truly live their faith. They are accountable to each other.”
Neimann said that “Band of Brothers encourages a young man to be a Catholic man, the way you’re supposed to be a man. A real Catholic man is virtuous,” he said, “not just interested in drinking or sexual relationships with 25 women.”
The young men gather for prayer and discussion of their faith, often followed by a poker game or just hanging out.
Sisterhood. Women wanted their own small groups to enhance their faith. So, Sisterhood small groups was formed to give young women the opportunity to strengthen their faith and develop stronger virtues in their lives, as well as form genuine friendships with other young women though group study, fellowship and accountability.
Small groups of six to eight women, meet several Tuesdays each month.
The “first ever” fund raiser for City on a Hill ministry was held March 5 at the 89-year-old Vox Theater in Kansas City, Kan. “Mardi Gras, Last Hoorah,” was an evening of desserts and drinks, dancing and a silent auction attended by more than 100 young adults. There were flowers and feathered Mardi Gras masks and beads on each table, with a long table literally groaning with desserts. Men in suits and young women in flowing dresses perused the silent auction tables and mingled with others in fancy dress. There were items from the Roasterie Coffee Company, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Waldo Pizza, Marriott Hotels, Panera and Half Price Books, Boulevard Brewery, and a number of individuals. Father Richard Rocha, Father Steve Cook, pastor of St. Peter’s Parish, and Deacon Ralph Wehner, director of the diocesan office of Worship and a master chef, offered dinner for six on the new deck at St. Peter’s rectory.
Kafka said she was very pleased with the silent auction. “It was a great bunch of people who love to grow in their faith and party!”
Just talking about the evening brought a smile to her face. “It was most exciting. There was a heightened awareness among the people we serve that in order to keep our programs going and growing, we have to raise the money to support them and to keep costs low for our events. We now serve about 300-350 young adults each month through our programs.”
Kafka said she had never put on something like Mardi Gras before and so was uncertain as to how it would turn out. “It was a leap of faith. There is always a risk at the front end of something new, but I am elated with the result.”
The evening, including the auction and donations, grossed $5,370.50.
Father Richard Rocha has a vested interest in the group of mostly single young adults. While he lets God do the talking when it comes to vocations, Father Rocha is there to provide the sacraments to the young folks. “Even if I’m not the main celebrant at Mass,” he said, “it’s important to make connections, to have a priest presence, with young people in a community.”
Several of the guys, four or five, have expressed an interest in a religious vocation, Father Rocha said. “I’ve been there, and so I’m available to them. They are growing in their faith. Whether or not they embrace priesthood or religious life, they will be strong, good husbands and wives, and replenish the community with children in the future.”
Band of Brothers, Sisterhood, Tuesdays at the Boulevard, Reservoir all the City on a Hill programs, are wins for the church, Father Rocha said. “They’re taking the bar and raising it up a notch to truly live their Catholic faith. There will be good fruit, a strong young adult community in our diocese. And it will grow. New people are coming in and want to be plugged into the ministry, what it has to offer.”
His brother priests willingly sacrifice their time to come late in the evening to hear confessions and celebrate Mass for Tuesdays at the Boulevard and Reservoir, Father Rocha said. “It’s hard to miss or ignore something like City on a Hill and we want to be a part of it.”
City on a Hill ministry also offers strong campus ministry programs and opportunities for retreats twice a year.
Joe at the Boulevard summed up City on a Hill Young Adult ministry succinctly when he said, “It is the Catholic Church beyond the doors of the church.”