Stewardship Lay Witness: Leiker Family

Leiker Family

This is a partial transcript of Aaron and Monica Leiker’s stewardship talk given at a Mass during Stewardship Renewal weekend in November 2020.

Aaron: My wife and I relocated our family from my hometown in Colorado in the summer of 2019. It has been the biggest blessing of our lives to join this parish family, and we have the Holy Spirit to thank for it. Monica is from Halstead and Bennett was going into kindergarten. We wanted Catholic education for our children, but to stay where we were would have meant an 80-mile one-way trip each day.

Monica: We really didn’t know where we were going to end up, but we knew that West Wichita was closer to my parents. I called my cousin, Fr. Andrew Bergkamp, and asked who may still have openings less than a month before school began. To our benefit only one school answered the phone that day; Paula Mayhill was on the other end of the line at St. Francis, and then we started the search for a home close to our new school.

Aaron: Truth be told, I was wanting Denver because it would be closer to my family, but consider this. We toured a Catholic school there - where the stewardship model is not used - and it was going to cost us almost $11,000 a year to send our children to school. That is on top of our call to tithe to the church. There was no possible way that was going to work financially for us. Fortunately, the Holy Spirit opened my heart and mind to Wichita and we were led here - to St. Francis.

Monica: I was raised in the Wichita Diocese. I know the blessings that come from being here. I hope that we never take for granted all that we have here at St. Francis. To give you some perspective, we relocated from a parish that only had one Sunday Mass and occasionally a Tuesday night Mass. Our parish priest was based 30 miles away and was responsible for three other churches and travelled almost 200 miles on Sundays to celebrate his Masses. Here, we have three incredible priests and an amazing staff who want to make every effort to strengthen each of our connections with our Faith.

Aaron: As a family, we attended daily Mass and morning and afternoon liturgy of the hours at St. Francis. Those daily connections to Christ strengthened us as a family, and I do not exaggerate when I say we were made whole through those experiences. I left this special place after Mass or prayer feeling fulfilled and spiritually alive. I have never felt more alive than I have since our arrival in this parish. The number of opportunities we have as a family to spend time with our Faith – here at St. Francis – is the biggest blessing we could have. It is a true gift.

Monica: Having been very involved in our parish and community activities in our previous location, we sought opportunities to become involved. For me it started with an invitation. Many of you may know Nikki Wankum. At daily Mass last fall, she approached me about joining Mary’s Moms. Until then, I had never walked into a group of strangers and felt an instant connection. Bonding as women, mothers, and – most importantly – as faith-filled Catholics, was an experience I needed at that point in my life. I am a better mom, wife and Catholic having spent some precious time with the incredible women in that group. 

Aaron: For me, it was a life-changing weekend at the Men’s ACTS retreat in February that has had the single biggest impact on my life. I was hesitant about attending a weekend retreat with a group of men I had never met. Fortunately, the Holy Spirit brought me to sign up. You talk about a faith-filled opportunity – this is it. A group of 50 men opened their hearts and souls to each other, and we are all stronger for it. I have no shame in admitting that the personal revelations I made that weekend brought me to tears. It impacted every single aspect of my life and opened my eyes to how great life can and should be.

Through this awesome weekend, I met many great men who were members of Knights of Columbus. Like an invitation came for my wife, Long Pham invited me and others to become Knights. It is a “new day” as the local Knights are now based here on the parish campus. I am still a rookie, but to see men in their 30s to men in their 70s making connections rooted in faith is inspiring, and I cannot wait for the experiences that will come in the future.

All of my experiences led me to a brand new opportunity. This fall, I emerged from our basement where I was working remotely for our radio stations and returned to the classroom. I am honored to teach seventh grade English at SFA School. It is truly a blessing because, to paraphrase our school librarian, Ashley Wescott, I get to be my whole self every day even in my job.

Monica: Pope Francis has said that the most beautiful thing God made was the family. Having joined this faith community, the four of us are happier, stronger and more at peace than ever before. The most important thing to us is that our children are much more connected to the faith being here. Last spring, we were at Saturday night Mass. After the prayer of St. Francis, Rob Tierney began to play a contemporary song called “Set a Fire.” Our children began to sing at the top of their lungs for all to hear. We heard Elizabeth almost yelling “I want more of you God.” At first, Aaron was a little embarrassed, but then the moment hit us. It brought us and others to tears. For us, it was a moment that made us realize that this special place is where we are called to be. We thank you for being part of what has made this parish special to us.

Aaron: Fr. Jarrod was right in his pastoral address when he said you give to what you value. For our family, we value the incredible blessing that this parish and our school is to our family. We do all we can in time, talent and treasure to help support this amazing place where we gather in faith. As you heard from our involvement that most of our activities began with an invitation. I would like to personally invite you to search out and discover the opportunities that will bring you the same fulfillment that we have found as members of the St. Francis Parish community.

Monica: Everyone’s story is different and unique. Please take the time to reflect on the gifts God has blessed you with and consider how you can share with others. Our parish family has well over 100 ministries and we cannot wait to hear you say “yes” to share a little bit of your time to help take care and maintain this big parish campus of ours. Thank you for your time and God bless!