Six months ago I was transferred from a vibrant life-giving parish that I loved and had served for ten years to one that was profiled as dying. Though probably time to go, and diocesan priests like me know that we are ordained to serve a diocese not a particular parish, transitioning is usually not fun. It wasn’t for me this time around. The parish I was sent to serve, Saint Charles, is in its seventieth year of existence, named to honor Charles Borromeo, a sixteenth century cardinal and ecclesial reformer. The name also pays tribute to Charles Leblond, diocesan bishop at the time (in 1947 the region north of the Missouri River belonged to the former Diocese of Saint Joseph). The parish had many amazing years and decades as one of the largest and most influential Catholic communities of Kansas City-Saint Joseph (which was formed within a decade of its opening). But throughout its existence, the parish got split multiple times to form new ones in neighboring developments; and the past fifteen years have brought a strong and rapid decline to its surroundings, resulting in a seventy-five percent decrease in school enrollment during the last decade and a mass exodus of parishioners to outlying areas that offer more promise to families. It is essentially a donut hole in the northland region containing small, box-houses and rental properties, occupied by elderly or financially strapped residents.
As I settle in, I’ve been contemplating our mascot: we’re The Saint Charles Chargers. I am charged with caring for the people and the property, the failing finances and the faltering facilities, the declined enrollment and the diminished census, the downward spiral and the depressed spirit among those who remain. It would be nice to charge forward like the lightning bolt on the jerseys and sweat shirts worn here. I want to do that; I want to offer a high voltage spiritual recharge for this wonderful faith community filled with good-hearted people that have become worn-out and drained by the wear and tear of difficult years. I can ignite a spark but I don’t know how much of a long-term impact we can sustain.
Yet I have ideas to reignite and revitalize the faith community, revamp and rebrand the school, repair and rebuild the structures, and give what I can to recharge the people’s spirituality. I am grateful that, in my almost thirty years of priesthood, I have been given the good fortune of meeting many wonderful Catholics in the Kansas City area who are willing to help. This blog will allow you to follow along with our progress, join in if you’re inclined to do so, and pray that we do what is best for my new community, honoring God by the works we do.
~Fr. Don Farnan