For Catholics in Northwest Kansas, the biggest story of the year here came on Oct. 3, when Pope Francis announced that Bishop Edward Weisenburger would become the next bishop of Tucson, Ariz. Nearly six years after he became bishop of the Diocese of Salina, the faithful learned he would be leaving. On Nov. 29, he was installed as the Diocese of Tucson’s seventh bishop.
Absent a bishop, the Salina Diocese is overseen by an administrator, Father Frank Coady, who was appointed Dec. 1 by the diocesan consultors — a board of nine priests from the Salina Diocese — to serve until a new bishop is installed.
During his press converence in Tucson, Bishop Weisenburger lauded some of the diocese’s high points from 2017. The first was the opening of a new headquarters for Catholic Charities of Northern Kansas. The new building, located at 1500 S. Ninth in Salina, is more than 16,000 square feet. It more than doubles the amount of space for the organization. The new building was blessed March 25 and open for business April 3.
“We are very excited about the possibilities with our new facilities to help more people in poverty,” said Michelle Martin, executive director of Catholic Charities. Permanent Deacon Larry Erpelding, who is the president of the Catholic Charities Board, said: “It is a new home, a home which has great promise in terms of potential for what Catholic Charities will be able to do in the future.”
The purchase of the building and the bulk of the construction was made possible by an anonymous donor. Even though it is in a new facility, the majority of Catholic Charities’ budget continues to come from donations.
“As we have moved away from government-supported grants, the support of donors has become even increasingly important,” Martin said. “We have been blessed by the faithful support of so many people and remain humbled and grateful.”
Another highlight of 2017 was the ordination of three men to the priesthood. Father Leo Blasi, Father Ryan McCandless and Father Justin Palmer were ordained as priests June 3 in Sacred Heart Cathedral. The last time three were ordained to the priesthood on the same date was June 2, 1962 in the cathedral. Father Palmer celebrated his Mass of Thanksgiving at St. Wenceslaus on June 4, exactly 55 years after his late great-uncle, Father Maurice Ptacek, offered his own Mass of Thanksgiving at the same church.
Cawker City — An overflowing crowd filled SS. Peter and Paul Church and echoed the chorus of the “Lilies of the Field” for the Great Amen during the Dec. 4 Funeral Mass for Father Don McCarthy. Father McCarthy, who was a priest for more than 58 years, died Nov. 27. “I gotta give him credit, the whole purpose was to get people to sing,” said Father Damian Richards during the homily. “(Lilies of the Field Amen) did what it was designed to do. That amen is proof of the hope of God. There was no way you could sing that song sadly. It’s impossible. It’s a joyful song. It reflected that joy and hope.”
More than 300 people, young and old, as well as 40 priests gathered to say goodbye to Father McCarthy. He was a pastor, in addition to working in administration in nearly every Catholic high school in the diocese, and a few grade schools, too. In addition to parish and school duties, Father McCarthy was a high school athletics referee for 50 years. “I asked ‘Why do you referee,’ ” Father Richards said. “He said ‘So I can be there among the people and be there among the youth.’ “I’ve met people that ‘The reason why I am Catholic is that Fr. Don was a referee while I was wrestling or while I was playing football’ … I had many who told me that.”
Father Richards reflected on the readings from the Mass. The first reading was Isaiah 61:1-3: “God has sent me to bring good news to the afflicted.” “A priest’s job is to proclaim the good news to the people,” Father Richards said. “Especially to let people who are lost, who have forgotten, who have never found the hope of God … to let them see God’s hope. “Father Don preached the message of hope. He was a hopeful priest.”
The second reading was 1 Peter 5:1-4, which is often read at the ordination of priests, and encourages the listener to “tend the flock.” “That part of being a priest, Father Don got. He understood the giving nature of the priesthood, that we are there to serve others. He understood that and worked very hard at living it out,” Father Richards said.
He pointed out Father McCarthy was known for potluck dinners, and the congregation chuckled. “Everybody laughs and jokes that he loves to eat and that it was the food he came for, but it wasn’t,” Father Richards said. “It was the people. That’s what he wanted to be a part of. “The thing that Father Don knew was that a priest should be out among the people. He knew the best way to get them to church was to go out among them first.”
Junction City — On the first day of school, students stream in and out of classrooms. In the hallway is the 2016-2017 Seminarian poster for the Salina Diocese. Just a few steps away, inside Room 206 is a familiar face: Alex Becker. On Aug. 16, Becker was in St. Francis Xavier High School not as a seminarian, but as the new math teacher. “By and large, the students have been really interested in (my experience as a seminarian) and it seems like some of them have been more willing to discuss their own interests in seminary in the future because they know it’s not an ‘If you go, you’re committed for life,’ ” Becker said. “They understand it is a process, it’s not a forever decision.”
A graduate from Kansas State University in Manhattan, Becker received a degree in statistics with the intention of working in sports statistics. Upon graduation from K-State, he headed to Conception Seminary College as a pre-theology student. As he neared the conclusion of pre-theology, he prayed about continuing on to theology school. Becker said he didn’t feel called to continue, and shared that with Co-Vocation Director Father Gale Hammerschmidt during a seminary visit. “It worked out as a happy coincidence,” Becker said. “Father Gale had recently gotten word from their math teacher that she was taking a job elsewhere, so he was already looking for a math teacher. “I told him I had been not feeling called to continue and he told me to continue praying about that, to make a good decision for sure. Not to rush into anything.”
Then Father Hammerschmidt mentioned the math position that was opening up at St. Francis Xavier school. “As I prayed about it, I became more and more at peace with the idea of leaving and more and more at peace in taking the job here,” Becker said. “It would be serving the diocese as I had wanted, just in a different way.” Because he has a college degree in math, he is enrolled in an online transition to teaching program at Fort Hays State University in Hays, which will take two years to complete. “When I first pursued the degree (in statistics), the one thing I would not do was teach high school,” Becker said. “Any time in my life when I say ‘I’m sure this is not for me,’ it ends up being exactly where I go.”
As a teacher, he is expected to be a role model, similar to when he was a seminarian. The biggest change for him is going from a school environment where he is surrounded by peers, to instructing the students. “Also, going from a situation where my prayer life is regimented and things are built into my schedule, I now have to take the initiative to make time for that,” Becker said. “It’s still a transition.”
Father Hammerschmidt said he is thrilled with Becker’s transition to teaching in the diocese. “Obviously, we are disappointed when people leave the seminary, we understand it’s not a failure of the system, but that the system is actually working,” Father Hammerschmidt said. “We find it noble when someone has the courage to at least to investigate whether or not the priesthood is their call. There is no better place to discern one’s call than at the seminary.”
By The Register
Salina — The Register, the newspaper of the Diocese of Salina, is delivered to all registered parishioners.
To be able to continue to do that, however, requires some help on their part.
Today’s issue includes a donation envelope. Every household is asked each year to donate $25, roughly the cost of printing and mailing the newspaper.
Until three years ago, The Register was mailed only to those who subscribed. In January 2014, the publication model changed, and the newspaper was sent to every household registered with a parish in the diocese.
To accommodate the increased printing and mailing costs — from 5,500 to about 17,500 copies — the decision was made to reduce publication from weekly to twice monthly — on the second and fourth Fridays.
Instead of selling subscriptions, The Register would seek a $25 donation from each family to underwrite the additional costs.
In addition to each household receiving the newspaper, each Register edition also is available online at salinadiocese.org/the-register.