Before I moved to Kansas in the summer of 2005, I always associated it with—you guessed it—The Wizard of Oz and tornadoes. In fact, my freshman year at FUS, I got WoO and tornado jokes from other people on pretty much a daily basis! But many people from other states may not realize something about Kansas—Wichita area, specifically—which I only discovered while living there: Catholicism is alive and growing!
While I cannot capture the sheer awesomeness of Wichita in a measly little blog post, I want to highlight some of the top reasons of why I believe Wichita a great place for Catholics in the middle of the United States:
1. Mass. Everywhere. All the time. All throughout the day, every day, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is celebrated all over the place in Wichita! And a fair number of people attend many of these Masses. When Jacob came to Wichita a few summers ago, he was amazed at how many people (about thirty or so, I believe) would come to one—of the two—daily Masses at my parish. While many churches scattered across the U.S. are merging and Masses are more scarce, churches—and the availability of daily Mass—are on the rise in Wichita. And it’s awesome.
2. Adoration! I had never really experienced Perpetual Adoration before coming to Wichita. But, what do you know, many of the (several) churches in Wichita have Perpetual Adoration. How cool is that? People of all ages, across the city, adoring Our Lord. Talk about epic!
3. Free Catholic Schools. Yes, you read that correctly. FREE. While in many states, Catholic education costs thousands of dollars—and as a result, schools are small with many families unable to afford it—in Wichita, thousands of Catholic kids from all financial backgrounds attend Catholic schools grades K-12. Can I just say that this is mind blowing??? Many of these schools include daily Mass at least twice a week for the school kids, and some schools also schedule Eucharistic Adoration and other religious events (ie: May Crowning, all-school Rosary) into the schedule. Now, you may be wondering, how can this be possible???? Enter my next point:
4. The Stewardship Way of Life. Stewardship is “The grateful response of a Christian disciple who recognizes and receives his gifts and shares these gifts in love of God and neighbor,” according to the diocesan-wide definition. Practically speaking, what’s this mean? You give your time, talent, and treasure to God, your parish, and your community. This goes way beyond the 10% income tithe. Stewardship includes committing to Adoration hours, youth groups, soup kitchen outreaches, pro-life volunteer work, praying for seminarians, volunteering in liturgical ministries, etc. Each fall, every registered family receives a Stewardship packet which has age-appropriate forms for each person (and these things are detailed!) and you sign up for all the ways in which you will actively give to God in the coming year.
With the whole diocese giving in this way, the parishes pay the tuition bills for the school kids, hence the free education. Through all the stewardship, I really found the joy and beauty of actively giving one’s whole self to God at all times, not just putting money in the basket each week.
5. Totus Tuus. This program, known throughout the nation, started in Wichita! Besides the weekly parish programs, there is also a Camp Totus Tuus in the Wichita Diocese (which has age-appropriate camp sessions for grades 5-12), as well as a week of Totus Tuus for special needs kids. It’s an awesome program, with teachers who are passionate for the Faith.
6. The Midwest Catholic Family Conference. The first weekend in August each year, Wichita hosts this fabulous conference. Families come to Wichita from other states for this conference! It’s pretty awesome—superb speakers (to give you an idea, in past years, Fr. Benedict Groeschel, Imaculee Ilibagiza, and Jason Evert have all presented here. To hear about the year Jason Evert came, look here), programs for all ages, great Catholic vendors, fantastic liturgies…if you live anywhere near Wichita, I recommend checking it out here!
7. Churches scattered throughout the city. It is so easy to stop in and see Jesus whenever, or at least to see Him as you drive along the road. 90 parishes are in the Diocese of Wichita (the diocese spreads across 25 counties), filled with 114,195 Catholics, and it’s insanely awesome! And, while I’m not a personal fan of the architecture of many of the churches, there are some super gorgeous ones. Also, just outside the city of Wichita, there are small churches in different small “farming community” towns, all of which are lovely.
|TEC 128, which I served on the summer|
before I came to FUS!
8. The Community. Wichita is weird. It feels like a small town, even though it is not a small town (in 2012, the population of Wichita was 385,577). There are many large families in Wichita, which probably has to do with this. People settled here years ago, had big families, their kids married, settled there, had big families—and as a result, there are many strong families who help build a sense of community. In general, the Catholic community is great; lots of Catholic diocesan events and parish events to build community, a Vietnamese community, a Hispanic community, and even a small Latin Mass community! There’s also a really strong Teens Encounter Christ (TEC) community, which I have made several good friends through. There’s also Theology on Tap, which is pretty big in Wichita, though I sadly have never gone. Also, in September, “Love & Responsibility Wichita” is starting up, in which people can study Man, Woman, and the Mystery of Love and L&R together. Plus, Wichita has a great Catholic homeschool community, which probably has about 70 or so families. There’s also a huge Christian homeschool group, which some Catholics even join to widen the scope of activites!
9. The Catholic Culture. It isn’t until I met people from FUS that I realized how strange aspects of the Wichita Catholic culture are compared to other places. The biggest thing that hits me is dancing. I love to dance, and many Wichita Catholics do, too. In fact, for the young adult and teen community, the majority of include Adoration, a talk, and a dance. And I’m not kidding, I get Facebook invites for these at least every couple weeks. It’s so cool! Wichita Catholic dances typically involve swing dancing, line dancing, and some two-stepping. Turning 18 was a big deal for me, not because of lotto or anything like that, but because at 18, I would be old enough to go to country-music night clubs! In Wichita, there are two night clubs that are often frequented by Catholic young adults: Denim and Diamonds, and Club Rodeo (my personal favorite—it had a big dance floor and live bull riding, which was pretty cool). So, when I turned 18, I happily could join my Catholic friends in going to Mass, hanging out, two-stepping and swing dancing the night away, praying, and having an overall awesome time.
|Photo Courtesy of the Catholic Diocese of Wichita|
10. The Seminarians and Priests. The Diocese of Wichita usually has 40-45 seminarians studying for the priesthood; and a good number of the seminarians enter straight out of high school. It’s awesome to see so many men courageously and actively discerning God’s call for their lives, whether or not they stay in seminary! Plus, being friends with seminarians has a definite plus: if God calls them to be priests, I will end up knowing a bunch of priests who can pray for me! J There are a lot of young priests in Wichita, who are very personable and lively, bringing their parishioners to God. It’s really, really awesome!!!
11. The Immaculate Heart of Mary Sisters. This order is really great. Unlike the few aging liberal orders in Wichita, the IHM sisters are orthodox, young, and lively! Many of them teach in the Catholic schools, giving the youth the awesome opportunity to be taught by a religious sister! And the IHMs love parties. Whenever I’ve had them as teachers, they always seem to schedule class parties for major Feast Days. The IHMs also run the “Handmaids of Mary;” a group that is in each of the three Catholic high schools. Handmaids is a group for young women who want to be like Mary, and strengthen devotion to her. Handmaids typically lead Marian devotions at their Catholic high schools, have parties at the Convent, and hang out with the Sisters. Yeah, it’s awesome.
12. The Spiritual Life Center. It hosts a lot of cool retreats and days of reflection; when I was a sophomore in high school, my dad and I went here for a weekend-long silent retreat, which was super epic. The Spiritual Life Center also has an extremely awesome Adoration chapel, “the rock chapel.”
As I’m sure you can see by now, Wichita is indeed a quite awesome place for Catholics. Yet, because many people grow up in this environment and become used to it, it is easy for people to take it for granted, grow complacent, and eventually stop growing in the Faith. And this can happen to people anywhere. So what can we do about it?
1. Frequent the Sacraments often. God strengthens us through His Body and Blood, as well as in Reconciliation. Get to Confession more often, and try to make daily Mass a priority at least a one or two extra times a week.
2. Visit new parishes. When I lived in Wichita, I was set in a pretty strong routine, and routine is good. I highly support being a member of your parish. However, it can be good to branch out, change it up every now and then, and get to know the diocese! When Jacob and I visited Wichita, the first day we were there, we couldn’t make it to the usual daily Mass we would’ve gone to. So, we traveled an extra 8ish minutes to Our Lady of Perpetual Help for its Spanish Mass, and I was so glad! I had never gone to that church, and wasn’t connected with the Hispanic community at all. But we met a packed church (for a Tuesday evening Mass!) and a loving community that welcomed us (the pastor specifically called on us at the end of Mass to ask us where we were from and welcome us—we were the only white kids in the whole church J )
3. Challenge yourself to grow. Pick something concrete, and do it! Whether it’s going through a spiritual reading book or volunteering at a soup kitchen, picking new things to do will help you grow, discover and enrich new gifts, and keep life exciting!
Have a blessed day!