Joint diocesan prayer breakfast highlights St. Paul’s Outreach

During St. Paul’s Outreach’s joint-diocesan prayer breakfast May 1, partners in prayer pray for their children, local young adults and those elsewhere, and for each other. (Marty Denzer/Key photo)

By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Associate Editor

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — The meeting room in the Ritz Charles displays a notice that seating capacity is 400 people. The 6:30 a.m. Mass on a rainy, chilly May 1, concelebrated by Bishop James V. Johnston Jr., of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas, and Benedictine Abbot James Albers, of St. Benedict’s Abbey, Atchison, Kan., and a number of priests from both dioceses, was attended by nearly that many. Young and not so young people, most affiliated with St. Paul’s Outreach, filled the room with prayer and song.

The theme for the Mass and the breakfast that followed was, “A Light in the Darkness.”

OK, but you ask, what is St. Paul’s Outreach?

Social and cultural conditions surrounding Millennials after they leave their childhood home, including college campuses, can wreak havoc on their mindsets and their faith. Recent research (2012) shows only 10 percent attend Mass, even if just once a month.

St. Paul’s Outreach started in 1985 as a group of enthusiastic young adult Catholics at the Catholic Youth Center at the University of St. Thomas campus in St. Paul, Minn., headed by Gordon DeMarais, who continues to serves as president today.

The young adults soon found that many other college students were longing to belong to something bigger than themselves, longing for real relationships. The SPO’s message and mission, and word began to spread outside the Twin Cities. College students and young professionals began asking for SPO to come to their campus or city and that demand led to Mission Centers developing in other parts of the country.

There are currently Mission Centers in eight states: Minnesota, Ohio, New Jersey, Texas, Arizona, Massachusetts, and Florida, and closer to home, in Roeland, Park, Kan. SPO came to the Kansas City area in 2011 and now there are Mission Center chapters on the campuses of UMKC, Benedictine College, Atchison, Kan., and Johnson County Community College, Overland Park, Kan. Kansas City Young Adults, an intentional community of professionals in their 20s and 30s who wish to live in community and practice their faith is also a chapter.

The Mission Centers and chapters are led by young adult missionaries who show other young folks that everything they long for can be found in the Church, that they can live in a different environment, one that is not solely materialistic and secular, but grounded in Christ. And they can be happy.

SPO has both a national and a local impact. Nationally, more than 150 alumni have realized vocations to the priesthood or religious life; 98 percent attend Mass weekly, and help support the church. Ninety one percent of alumni spend time in prayer daily and 82 percent consider themselves passionate Catholics after participating, compared to 33 percent before participating in SPO.

Locally, the missionaries have reached 8,500 students and young adults, and 3,000 have attended SPO retreats. Faith formation programs attracted 850 young adults, and hundreds now serve in various lay ministries on both sides of the state line. Nineteen have chosen to serve SPO full-time.

Bishop Johnston gave the blessing before breakfast. During the breakfast, Nick Redd, Kansas City Young Adults mission leader, and Anne Hickerson, Benedictine College mission leader, talked about what they did and why. As missionaries, they strive to bring young adults into a relationship with Christ and into the Church. A short video explained more about St. Paul’s Outreach.

The SPO Servant Leadership Award was given to the Dunn family and J.E. Dunn Construction for five years of support and dedication.
Redd and Hickerson invited all present to partner with a tablemate or someone across the room and pray together. Arms around each other’s waists, prayer partners prayed for their children, young adults in the room and elsewhere, and for each other.

The prayer breakfast had a fund-raising goal of $380,000 to help the missionaries continue to reach out to young people, evangelize, and bring them into the Church. As of May 1, $350,000 had been raised.

As the breakfast wound to a halt, new missionaries were commissioned.

Archbishop Naumann and Bishop Johnston together gave the final benediction. As attendees departed, the rain ceased and the sky lightened.

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July 28, 2017
Newspaper of the Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph