MCC celebrates 50 years as the voice of Missouri’s Catholic church

Bishop James V. Johnston of Kansas City-St. Joseph and Bishop Emeritus John Leibrecht of Springfield-Cape Girardeau approach the altar for the Closing Mass of the 50th anniversary of the MCC on Oct. 7. (Marty Denzer/Key photo)

By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Associate Editor

JEFFERSON CITY — It all started with education. In 1965 Congress enacted the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which required public school districts to provide services to eligible private school students on a comparable basis to those provided to public school students. But the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education refused to comply, citing the Blaine Amendment which restricted federal monies to private school (read Catholic) students.

Msgr. Michael McAuliffe, superintendent of Catholic schools of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, visited Missouri Education Commissioner Hubert Wheeler, but Wheeler spoke only on the mysteries of his new phone system, avoiding discussing the discrimination faced by private school children.

This sparked conversations among the four Missouri Catholic school superintendents about forming a statewide public policy organization to promote Catholic school students’ interests. By 1966 the discussions had expanded to include diocesan attorneys and Catholic leaders involved in non-educational issues. The Missouri bishops, Cardinal Archbishop Joseph Ritter of St. Louis, Bishops Charles Helmsing of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Joseph Marling of Jefferson City, and Ignatius Strecker of Springfield-Cape Girardeau approved the idea of a Missouri Catholic Conference in March 1966. Father Norman Rotert of Kansas City-St. Joseph was named chair of an advisory board to iron out the details, which took the remainder of the year.

When made public in January 1967, the MCC consisted of a Board of Directors comprised of the Missouri bishops, an advisory board — a priest and layperson from each diocese, and two representatives from each of the new departments on education, social concerns, legal matters, information and ecumenism.

Headquartered in Jefferson City, the MCC has, for 50 years, served as the voice of the Catholic Church in the state. It has tracked bills and referendums in the Missouri State legislatures, and has worked with legislators to propose bills and referendums for the betterment of the people of Missouri in the protection of all human life, social and economic justice, the defense of religious liberty, education, criminal justice and to uphold marriage and family and welcome immigrants and refugees.

Oct. 7, 2017, the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, was chosen for the celebration of the anniversary of the MCC’s founding. Although its annual assembly is ordinarily held at the Missouri State Capitol, for the 50th Anniversary the conference and closing Mass were held at St. Joseph’s Cathedral. Three workshops were held: Catholic Education — Msgr. Michael Witt, professor of Church History at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary; Pro-Life — Sue Thayer, formerly of Planned Parenthood in Iowa; and Social Justice — Joan Rosenhauer, Vice President, Catholic Relief Services*.

Archbishop Christophe Louis Pierre, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, delivered the Keynote Address to a crowd.

As Pope Francis’ personal representative to this country, he shared a message from the pope he received from the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

“His Holiness Pope Francis asks you kindly to convey his cordial greetings and good wishes to all assembled for the celebrations marking the fiftieth anniversary of the Missouri Catholic Conference. … and prays that this anniversary will be the occasion not only of gratitude for the blessings and accomplishments of the past half century but also of a renewed effort to favor the pastoral effectiveness of the Church’s mission in the State of Missouri amid the challenges and opportunities of the present …”

He spoke of Francis’ vision of a synodal church — “walking together … speaking and listening to each other humbly, open to the voice of Christ and the Holy Spirit…” to build up the Kingdom of God “as the MCC has been doing for fifty years.”

Archbishop Pierre described Evangelii Gaudium, the pope’s 2013 “Apostolic Exhortation” on the missionary dimension of the Church, as a call for the Church to evangelize. Archbishop Pierre reflected on evangelization in light of the Joyful Mysteries on the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.

The first Joyful Mystery: the Annunciation. One cannot undertake the mission of evangelization without committing oneself to holiness, listening silently to the voice of God, accepting his will and acting on it. “Amid cacophony, we need silence to hear God’s voice and to reflect,” he said.

The second Joyful Mystery: the Visitation. “Missionary discipleship moves from listening and prayer to active engagement in the world.” The mystery of the Visitation points to one aspect of missionary discipleship, building a culture or encounter, as Mary did when she went to visit her cousin Elizabeth, and sharing the joy of Christ.

The third Joyful Mystery: the Nativity. Mary presented her son, Christ the Savior, to the whole world, a presentation which changed it. The “mission of evangelization means presenting Christ, with all the newness and hope he brings, to those in darkness at the point of despair.”
He then mentioned the Christmas carol, “Joy to the World,” a summation of what Christ is, and suggested it be sung, and it was.

The fourth Joyful Mystery: The Presentation in the Temple. Salvation is what the Church, going forth to personally offer Christ’s light in the darkness the world is offering. Quoting Pope Paul VI, Archbishop Pierre said “’People prefer to listen to witnesses, … thirst for authenticity’” and call for evangelizers “’to speak of a God whom they themselves know.’”

The fifth Joyful Mystery: The finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple. The journey of Catholics together is about gathering the Children of God in the Father’s house, a synodal Church, journeying together. “This is why the Church is in a permanent state of mission, proclaiming the Good News.”

Archbishop Pierre advocated reflecting on how, by working together, the Gospel might have a greater impact on the life and structures of individuals, the Church and the world in a rapidly changing environment, marked by secularization, individualism and isolation.
The closing Mass was celebrated by St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson, concelebrated by Archbishop Pierre, Jefferson City Bishop John Gaydos, Kansas City-St. Joseph Bishop James V. Johnston, Jr., Springfield-Cape Giradeau Bishop Edward Rice, Bishop Mark Rivituso, Auxiliary Bishop of St. Louis and Bishop Emeritus John Leibrecht of Springfield-Cape Girardeau. Five priests also concelebrated — Msgr. Robert Kurwicki, pastor of St. Joseph Cathedral, Father Greg Oligschlaeger, Vocations Director, Jefferson City Diocese, Father Michael Boehm, Vicar General, Archdiocese of St. Louis, Msgr. Donald Lammers, Jefferson City and Father Steve Hansen, Pastor, Coronation of Our Lady, Grandview.

After Mass, the assembly walked out into brilliant sunshine after a rainy morning to return home.

*Stories about the workshops will appear in the Catholic Key’s Respect Life issue, Oct. 27.






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November 29, 2020
The Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph