By Jessica Langdon
Special to the Catholic Key
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — When Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann penned his Leaven column for this week, he likely couldn’t have imagined how true his words would turn out to be when he remarked that “Pope Francis seems to always have a few surprises up his white sleeves.”
For on April 21, the Vatican press office in Rome announced that Pope Francis had accepted the resignation of Bishop Robert W. Finn as leader of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph and had appointed Archbishop Naumann as the apostolic administrator of the Missouri diocese until a permanent bishop is appointed.
“It has been an honor and joy for me to serve here among so many good people of faith,” Bishop Finn said in a statement released by the Diocese of Kansas City St. Joseph. “Please begin already to pray for whomever God may call to be the next Bishop of Kansas City – St. Joseph.”
As Archbishop Naumann steps into the role of episcopal leader of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, he will also carry on his schedule and duties as archbishop of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.
In accepting his new appointment, Archbishop Naumann requested prayers from the faithful in both Kansas and Missouri, and noted that the church is ultimately “not our church, but Christ’s church,” and it’s only for a time that those serving in its leadership are stewards of it.
“By definition, the role of an administrator is for a very short season,” explained Archbishop Naumann in a letter to the people of the Missouri diocese.
“This will not be a time for innovation or change, but a time to sustain the ordinary and essential activities of the Church and, where possible, to advance the initiatives that are already underway,” he said.
Having lived in the Kansas City community for more than 11 years, he wrote, he is aware of the beauty and vitality of the Catholic community across northwest Missouri.
“Living in the same media market, I am also keenly conscious of some of the challenges and difficulties this diocese has suffered in recent years,” he said.
Archbishop Naumann visited with administrative cabinet and staff of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph on the day of the announcement. He also offered Mass afterward for the staff at the Catholic Center in Kansas City, Missouri. He later met with priests of the diocese on April 23.
“I pray that the coming weeks and months will be a time of grace and healing for the diocese,” Archbishop Naumann wrote in his letter.
His appointment as apostolic administrator did not have a specific time frame, said the archbishop, but is intended to last until a permanent bishop is appointed for the diocese.
“It is my desire to do all that I can to prepare this diocese to welcome well its new bishop,” said Archbishop Naumann. “I pray that your new bishop, when he arrives, will find a community united both in their love for Jesus and his bride — the church — as well as eager to proclaim the truth and beauty of his Gospel to the world.”
He asked for the prayers of the people on both sides of the state line for himself, the people of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph and the next bishop appointed to serve the diocese.
And he looks to the coming weeks with hope.
“One of the great signs of the new springtime in the church that we give thanks for on both sides of State Line Road is the increase in recent years of priestly vocations,” he said. “Both dioceses look forward with eager anticipation in a few weeks to the ordination of many new priests — nine for the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph and four for the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.”
A version of this story appeared in the May 24 edition of The Leaven, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.