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Bishop Carl Kemme Reflects on Catholic Social Teaching

Most Rev. Carl A. Kemme, Bishop of Wichita, is one of the eight Catholic Bishops who sit on our board of directors. With the upcoming World Day of the Poor, Bishop Kemme reflected on the work of Cross Catholic Outreach and our model of providing aid through the concept of integral human development.

Most Rev. Carl A. Kemme
Bishop of Wichita

CrossRoads:

Bishop Kemme, thank you for taking time to speak with us today. As a member of our board of directors, you’re very familiar with our model of helping the poor through Catholic missionaries around the world. The vision statement for the Diocese of Wichita talks about missionary disciples, how do you see your role as a member of our board to bring that mission to fulfillment?

Bishop Kemme:

Yeah, well, thanks for the question. Several years ago, the Diocese of Wichita developed a pastoral plan as a response to Pope Francis’s Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium, The Joy of the Gospel. And we wanted our pastoral plan to really reflect that in a very powerful way here in this local church. So we, we’ve focused on the catchphrase “fully alive as missionary disciples.” We were drawn in our discernment to St Irenaeus and as his famous line “the glory of God is man fully alive.” That sense of being fully alive is a very appealing and engaging theme. I believe that Pope Francis, in his ministry, as our Holy Father is highlighted that the sense of discipleship. So, I was really pleased and honored to have been asked to serve on the Board  of Cross Catholic Outreach, and because I believe strongly that, that the church has to go outside of itself.

You know, parishes that only serve themselves or any kind of ministries that are inward directed, will die on the vine. It’s really when we’re outward looking, when we’re focused on others that we become fully alive. Just like the apostles on Pentecost. They they burst it out of that upper room fully alive with the Holy Spirit. And they just they use went. They took the Lord’s Great Commission, go make disciples of all nations. I think cross Catholic Outreach is doing that in a very powerful in a very unique way. And I’m, I’m delighted to, to play a small part in that.

CrossRoads:

Several years ago, as you know, Pope Francis instituted World Day for the Poor. Every year he chooses a different theme. This year, the theme is “Stretch Forth Your Hand to the Poor,” which comes from the Book of Sirach. Bishop, can you talk about the duty we all have as Christians to extend a hand to help others?

Bishop Kemme:

I’ve always thought Pope Francis is a master at these very visual images, powerful images to relate to Christian kindness. So this sense of stretching forth one’s hand is obviously an imitation of Jesus.

In the Gospels, we see that very powerfully where Jesus is always stretching forth his hand, to the sick or to the poor, to the hungry. And it’s nothing that I coined, but the only hands Jesus has today are ours. And when we realize that he’s asking us to use our hands that are united to our whole persons and our mind and our body to and our hearts to bring His grace and work and ministry to those who are suffering and those who are marginalized and those who are in destitution.

To me, the hands of Jesus, whether that’s in charity or healing or teaching or forgiveness and compassion, these, these are, this is how we live out our faith. So I love the image of stretching forth your hand to the poor. I think it’s it really speaks to me and it speaks to all of us in the church who are involved in the ministry of Jesus. It’s not our ministry, it’s His. And it’s His working in through us as the instruments of His grace.

CrossRoads:

The Holy Father has written very beautifully about the poor over the years and he speaks about them often. In one of his encyclicals. He wrote that every individual Christian, and every Christian community is called to be an instrument of God for the liberation and the promotion of the poor. How do you see the work of cross Catholic to carry out that call?

Bishop Kemme:

When you think of the many countries and the many places where Cross Catholic Outreach is present and doing great work, you realize the true Christian witness of this organization. The ministry is really making a difference. And it’s not just a humanitarian thing. It’s a real grace to liberate the poor to serve them as Christ did, to lift them from poverty and hopelessness and to do so not because we feel sorry for them, but because it is an act of justice.

I think Pope Francis has challenged the Church and in sometimes not so comfortable ways to remember that we owe justice to our to our brothers and sisters who are poor. We don’t do it because we are sympathizers or that we feel sorry for them, but that we love them as human beings. And this is their right to receive this liberation , this transformation, this uplifting so their lives will be as God wanted them to be so that they can bear great fruit. So, I think the whole sense of liberation of the poor is where the Church has always been involved and it’s certainly a bedrock of Pope Francis’s pastoral ministry in the Church today.

CrossRoads:

Another Pope spoke a lot about helping the poor especially in the developing world. Pope Paul VI, coined the phrase that we hear a lot today, integral human development. He said “that development must be well rounded, it must foster the development of each person, and of the whole person.” How do you understand the work of Cross Catholic Outreach as being a model of charity based on this notion of integral human development.

Bishop Kemme:

The part I like most about that phrase is the whole person and that’s often missing in many of our charitable ministries. You know, we may feed the hungry, we may clothe the naked, we may heal the sick, but Jesus ministered to the whole person, mind, body, heart and soul. Now you know that the Church has been entrusted with that same mission. So it’s the whole person, the family and not only bodily service and care, but also spiritual. And so the thing that I admire about Cross Catholic Outreach is is the combination of the material assistance that we give and then combining that with the sense of the spiritual and doing so together. That’s what makes it very powerful and Catholic and life changing in the best sense of the word. St Paul VI and I’m sure all the Popes since have underscored that sense of integral human development. There’s that new Dicastery (for Promoting Integral Human Development), which is an amazing term. It’s not just a humanitarian charity. It’s really about the ministry of the whole person.

CrossRoads:

Cross Catholic Outreach is approaching a very special anniversary. It was five years ago that we were granted the status of being an official international  Catholic charity. At that time, it was Pontifical Council Cor Unum that granted us canonical status. Can you reflect a little bit on the importance of this designation?

Bishop Kemme:

I think anytime that the that the universal Church recognizes an international ministry it really elevates its profile. Elevate is a word that we’re using a lot in the Church as we discover how can we elevate the human person? How can we elevate individuals? How can we elevate families? When Cross Catholic Outreach received that designation it really elevated the charity? And not that there aren’t others, but it it gave universal recognition within the Church. I think it was a really great gift to Cross Catholic and it helps us promote our mission in a way that the whole church recognizes that we are an outreach that is really making a difference. For the ministry to have been recognized by the Holy See, by the universal Church as as worthy of that designation, it was and remains a true blessing.

CrossRoads:

As Catholics are so blessed to have the saints as our role models, especially the ones that really reminded us about our duty to the poor. I’m just wondering, Bishop is there a Catholic saint that you draw the most inspiration from?

Bishop Kemme:

Well, I would like to tell you we have some missionaries in the Diocese of Wichita from India. There are two religious orders of religious women that serve in health care ministry here, they’ve been with us for 20 or maybe 30 years, wonderful sisters. And then, five years ago, we invited the missionaries of St. Francis de Sales, a religious order of men to serve in the diocese and they were constantly inviting me to go to India and I really wanted to do this, although I knew that it would be a very difficult trip. And it was but it was also a life changing trip. So about a year and a half ago, I went with them to India for two weeks. Now the highlight of the trip was to visit the tomb of St. Teresa of Calcutta, who I had, like millions and millions around the world, admired and thought so highly of. Unfortunately, I never had the pleasure of meeting her in person. But I prayed at her tomb for a good long time and visited a number of her great ministries around Calcutta. These are places where there’s intense poverty and its so wonderful that her sisters are still carrying out her charism of serving the poorest of the poor. You know, she stands out, I think as one of the best examples of service to the poor and I think we will be reflecting upon her extraordinary life for generations. I don’t think we could do any better than just pray for her intercession and pray that her great missionary love for the poor would capture our hearts. I talk about her a lot since I’ve been to been to India and visited her her tomb prayed of her tomb and prayed the mass there in Chapel right next to it. It was a really extraordinary experience. So I couldn’t help but think of her when you ask that, that question about which saint. There are so many of course so many. But she stands out in my mind as the queen of saints that love the poor in so many ways.

CrossRoads:

Finally, Bishop I wonder if you could just speak to our donors and give them a word of encouragement for their sacrifice. forgiving, that is really transforming lives all over the world.

Bishop Kemme:

We in the Church survive and flourish because of the goodness of people. I know these are hard times in terms of charitable giving and people are concerned about their own needs and so forth. But this is also a great opportunity for us to really practice our faith and trust that God will not be outdone in generosity. I have been blessed to visit the mission field in Haiti, Guatemala, and India and I’ve seen firsthand the work of the church and how its transforming lives. When you see that, whether you see that in person or whether you see that in video or pictures or personal witness, you can be assured that whatever we give in terms of resources, time, talent, treasure is transforming lives.

Here in the Diocese of Wichita, we are a stewardship diocese and we really preach about stewardship, which is an investment of your time. You know, the investment of your talents and your treasure, when you see how much of a difference they makes you can’t help but be inspired. So my thanks, of course, along with the other directors of the board, and my thanks to all the donors who give so generously and help our mission help us to fulfill our mission to serve the poor materially and spiritually it’s a it’s a great mission. And I I’m 100% supportive of it and I look forward to to encouraging that for for years to come.

CrossRoads:

Bishop Carl Kemme of the Diocese of Wichita, thank you for talking to us today.

Bishop Kemme:

Thank you, I enjoyed it very much.

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