By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor
KANSAS CITY — Exactly one month to the day after the some 200 employees of the Catholic Church of Kansas City-St. Joseph moved in, Bishop Robert W. Finn blessed the new Catholic Center, “a sign and pledge of the church’s presence in the heart of the city.”
Speaking before the assembled workers and hundreds of invited guests at the April 28 blessing, Bishop Finn thanked architects, movers, planners, security, maintenance and all his workers for making the transition so smooth from the former chancery at 300 E. 36th St. in midtown Kansas City to the historic downtown building at 20 W. 9th St., commonly known as the New York Life building, the city’s first “skyscraper” when it first opened in 1890.
Now dwarfed by more than a century’s worth of construction in the bustling business center of the metropolitan area, the 10-story structure still had its most beautiful face on for the crowd of people who filtered in and out throughout the afternoon to see the new seat of the Catholic Church for 27 counties in northwestern and west-central Missouri.
“This really has been a formidable collaborative effort of many, many people,” Bishop Finn said of the scores of people who worked during the purchase negotiations and the planning for the move downtown.
It was a day to celebrate the new building, but Bishop Finn said it was also a day to celebrate the work that will take place inside, as well as the people who are dedicating their professional careers to do it.
For the first time in decades, all operations of the diocese have been brought under one roof.
That includes Catholic Charities of Kansas City-St. Joseph, whose employees were the first to make the move to the new headquarters in February, just a few blocks north and east from their former home at Donnelly Hall, adjacent to the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.
The move also consolidated diocesan and Charities offices that had been, since the late 1990s, housed separately in leased space in the Gillham Plaza office building at Armour and Gillham Roads, adjacent to the former chancery.
In honor of and gratitude for the new home, Charities CEO Mike Halterman surprised Bishop Finn with a framed portrait of the new Catholic Center on behalf of the employees.
“We want to recognize Bishop Finn for his vision,” Halterman said.
“Catholic Charities has now consolidated its operations under one roof,” he said. “Without the bishop’s vision, that would not have happened.”
It was especially appropriate, Bishop Finn said, that the ultimate blessing would take place within the Octave of Easter, the feast of Christ’s triumph over sin and death.
“This place will be a place for those who seek comfort and solace in Christ,” Bishop Finn said. “In these Easter days, I wish you all the hope and peace of the Risen Lord.”
The reading for the solemn dedication and blessing was chosen from Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, 2:19-22.
“So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Christ Jesus as the capstone.
“Through him the whole structure is held together and grows into a temple sacred in the Lord; in him, you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.”
The responsorial psalm was Psalm 24: “Open wide your gates; Let the King of Glory in!”
As those gathered sang hymns in the long and wide first floor galley, on a mosaic tile floor laid painstakingly piece by tiny piece by craftsmen more than a century before, Bishop Finn blessed with holy water the exterior of the building and the office spaces, meeting rooms and common areas on the first and ground floors.
Meanwhile, Vicar General Msgr. Robert Murphy went to bless the second floor, where his office is located as well as that of Bishop Finn, Bishop Emeritus Raymond J. Boland, Chancellor Msgr. Bradley Offutt, as well as the diocesan offices of Missions, Strategic Planning, Stewardship and Development, Bright Futures Fund, Respect Life, Human Rights, Human Resources, and Employee Benefits and Wellness.
On the fourth floor, Deacon Ken Greene blessed the new home for the diocesan School Office, the Foundation for Inclusive Religious Education and the Bishop Helmsing Institute, as well as Intergenerational Ministries (Youth, Young Adult and Campus Ministries and Family Life offices), Hispanic Ministry, Communications and The Catholic Key.
Diocesan Vocations Director Father Richard Rocha blessed the offices of Finance, Sacred Worship, Diaconate, the Tribunal, the Archives and Management and Information Systems on the fifth floor.
Msgr. Bradley Offutt blessed the new home of Catholic Charities on the sixth floor, and their offices including Administration, the Catholic Charities Foundation, Children and Family Services, Foster Care, Services for Pregnant Women, Services for Young Families, Adoption Services, Community Services, Community Education, Counseling and Senior Care Services.
There is still work to be done, Bishop Finn said.
A permanent chapel “is very much under construction” on the first floor, directly down the ornate mosaic floor from the building’s front doors. Until it is completed and dedicated, a temporary chapel on the seventh floor will serve for regular Mass for the church’s workers.
The third floor is also under construction, one day to serve as the living quarters for Bishop Finn and his successors.
As important as the building and the people who worked there are, it is still in support of the work of the diocese’s parishes and missions to bring the good news of the Risen Christ to the people, Bishop Finn said.
“Day after that, that work takes place in 27 counties, and I daresay, beyond,” he said.
As he ended the litany of names in gratitude for the months of negotiation, planning and preparation that brought the diocese to that day, Bishop Finn also offered himself a blanket pardon.
“If I left anybody out,” he quipped, “you’ll get your blessing directly from God.”