Few church leaders in Lawrence's history have left their church for another out-of-town assignment with such appreciation, as well as disappointment, as has been the case with Monsignor Vince Krische.
Krische wrapped up his 28 years in Lawrence and at the St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center with a Mass last Sunday. It was a joyous, as well as a sad, sentimental occasion, with an overflow, standing-room-only attendance.
The personable and warm Krische has had a tremendously positive impact on Kansas University as well as Lawrence and the entire area. Those at the Sunday services came from a wide area, and a high percentage of them could not figure out why the popular and highly successful Krische was moved out of St. Lawrence to lead St. Ann Catholic Church in Prairie Village.
Although Krische was positive and enthusiastic in his remarks Sunday, it was clear many attending the services could not understand the reasoning behind the church's decision to make the change and questioned what is going on. They didn't like it.
In his remarks, Krische referred to the parable about a sower going out to sow and, as he sowed, some seed fell along the path and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they didn't have much soil, but they sprouted anyway. However, the soil was thin, the roots were shallow and there was not enough moisture so they withered. But other seeds fell on good ground and brought forth grain, some 100-fold, some 60, some 30.
He said he came to Lawrence and St. Lawrence to sow the seeds of God on God's soil and that over the years, "We've been able to experience a rich harvest."
He recalled the long battle to get city approval to build the St. Lawrence facility, the early opposition by nearby neighbors and the joy and celebration when the court approved building plans.
He thanked all those who have played a role in the success of St. Lawrence and gave particular mention to the late Archbishop Ignatius Strecker of eastern Kansas, who was so supportive of him in his early years in Lawrence. It was Strecker who appointed Krische to the campus ministry even though Krische said he did not think he was prepared for the challenge. At each critical stage of his early years at St. Lawrence, Strecker was encouraging and constantly expressing confidence in Krische.
He said his prayer for all those at the Sunday service was that each person will continue to grow closer to Christ and "be challenged by what you hear." He said his time at St. Lawrence had been a "great ride all these years." He thanked those at the service as well as many others, for all they had done, and he said he had been "so blessed to have been able to stay here for 28 years."
At the end of the service, he received a sustained, standing ovation. Many of the worshippers had tears in their eyes and showed deep disappointment in the church's decision to move Krische out of a highly successful operation, one that is used as a national model for Catholic campus ministries and the Catholic Church.
At a luncheon following the church service, there were obvious mixed sentiments. There was great appreciation for what Krische had accomplished, his positive influence at the university and throughout the area and what he has done for the church. At the same time, some were almost angry, or at least extremely disappointed and puzzled, about why church leaders had engineered this move.
However, as Krische told those at the service, Strecker had told him the KU position was the most important institution in his diocese and that, as Jesus had said, "I am going away, but I will not leave you."
Krische leaves a big hole at St. Lawrence, at the university and in Lawrence, as well as lingering unhappiness and sadness about his departure. He has been a positive member of the Lawrence community and his influence was far wider than just the Catholic Church.
¢ During the past two presidential campaigns, as well as in various House and Senate elections during those years, a number of vicious, negative, vitriolic, mean-spirited and partisan men and women attacked the Bush candidacy or re-election using the state of the nation's economy as the main reason to defeat Bush.
James Carville, in his snarling manner, constantly tried to rally fellow Democrats and others to reject the Bush candidacy by saying, "It's still the economy, stupid," claiming Bush's plans were terrible, full of holes and wrecking the economy.
Today, these loud, know-it-all critics are not saying too much. In spite of their dire predictions, recent reports show record numbers of Americans holding jobs, an unemployment figure of just under 5 percent, a 4 percent growth rate, a much faster reduction in the national debt than had been forecast by Bush detractors, and sizable increased revenues.
Even so, Democratic critics will find something else to criticize. In their eyes, anything and everything Bush does or proposes is wrong and bad for the country. In their opinion he can do no good.
The manner in which the Iraq war is being fought, the war on terrorism and Bush's approach to Supreme Court nominations, provide ample material for Bush detractors.
Unfortunately, the period between now and the next presidential election is likely to be filled with bitterness, extreme partisanship and efforts by some to divide the country's citizens.
It is not a healthy environment.