KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Christ the King Independent Catholic Church has been in the Kansas City religious community since March 2020. They began meeting in open-air spaces during the early months of the pandemic, and now have a new, physical home on the west side of the city.
"I get at least an email a week from people saying, you know, where have you been? We've been waiting for you for years," Father Taylor Tracy, who is in his first year as a priest leading his own congregation at at Christ the King Independent Catholic Church, said.
"An extreme need, I noticed, for people that come from a more diverse background," he said of a flock eager to deepen their Catholic faith in an inclusive space.
"I think a lot of people have felt ostracized in one way or another, and so this is a great opportunity for them to come and be a part of a community where they don't have to worry about their sexual orientation or their marital status," Tracy said.
The independent Catholic movement spans the United States and its newest church just moved to the corner of West Pennway and Jefferson. Parishioners have been trickling in, like Tim Mouton.
"When I moved here to Kansas City six years ago, I attended several parishes, never really found a home. And when this popped up on Facebook, and I started attending and coming on a regular basis, I found my home," Mouton said.
More parishioners joined, including Jesse Ibarra III.
"Faith has played an incredible role in my journey, and for me, it's an integral part of my sobriety journey," Ibarra said.
It's a journey that has not been smooth - multiple DUI’s, a prison term. That was more than a decade ago, and Ibarra says he’s sober, and centered, by his faith.
"I’m doing well. Every day is is an experience, and you are given an opportunity at change," he said. "The Catholic Church and the foundation that it provides allows for that growth. It allows for an individual to find themselves and gives them an opportunity to know that you know, there's light at the end of tunnels."
Christ the King is not affiliated with the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph. The parish’s independence is by design, but isn’t insular.
"We look to collaborate anywhere and everywhere possible. You know, this is not anything where we're looking to compete. We're simply feeding people and we're going to the peripheries in many ways," Father Tracy said.
His Superior General recently visited with Cardinal Francis Arinze in Rome, who learned of Christ the King’s work.
"He issued us a letter, just offering his blessing of me and my priesthood, but then also of our of our parish, our ministry here. It was incredibly meaningful," Father Tracy said.
This parish’s attendance has doubled since moving into their permanent home, offering something new to those who enter.
"Establishing a connection with people and really, really having that shared humanity which we all really need to foster," Father Tracy said.
He hopes to foster a new way forward, grounded in Catholic tradition.
"People crave community and they also want to be a part of something bigger than themselves," he said.
The independent Catholic movement is made up of many regions and parishes, with which advocated for LGBTQ+ inclusion decades ago. Today’s congregations are centered on specific issues, with some focusing on social justice and others on welcoming more female clergy.
Christ the King told KSHB 41 they are committed to bringing the church outside of its four walls, working in the community with various organizations, including Harvesters, Habitat for Humanity and the Westside Community Action Network.