Kansas, Catholic Church in
KANSAS, CATHOLIC CHURCH IN
Part of the Louisiana Purchase, the area that is now Kansas was annexed to the United States in 1803. Having been part of the Missouri Territory until 1821, it remained unorganized until formation of the Indian Territory in 1832. The Kansas-Nebraska Act (1854) established the territories of Kansas and Nebraska, and on January 29, 1861, Kansas became the 34th state to enter the Union. Its 81,815 square miles are at the geographic center of the continental United States, with Nebraska to the North, Missouri to the East, Oklahoma to the South, and Colorado to the West.
At the time of the Louisiana Purchase, Shawnee, Osage, Potawatomi, Quivira, Kaw (Kansa), Ottawa, Cherokee, and many other Native American tribes occupied the territory. During the nineteenth century, thousands of Native Americans were relocated to Kansas, and then to Oklahoma. When Kansas attained statehood, it held a population of about 110,000—mostly settlers from the South and New England and immigrants from Germany, Russia, Sweden, and England. By that time, nearly all Native Americans had been pushed into Oklahoma. In the year 2000, Kansas had a total population of 2,688,418, of whom 86.1% were white, 7.0% Hispanic, 5.7% black, 1.7% Asian, and only 0.9% Native American.
Early History. On June 29, 1541, Franciscan Friar Juan de Padilla (c. 1490–1542) crossed the Arkansas River near present-day Dodge City with Spanish conquistador Francisco Vásquez de Coronado (c. 1510–1554). After celebrating the first Mass in what is now the United States, he separated from Coronado and began evangelizing the Quivira. A monument stands near Saint Rose's Church, Council Grove, at the site believed to be the place where he became the protomartyr of the United States at the hands of a rival tribe.
Father Charles de la croix (1792–1869) made the next attempt to evangelize Kansas when he traveled to the Neosho River and converted many of the Osage (1822), but it was the Jesuits who established a lasting presence. Beginning in 1827, Father Charles van quickenborne,S.J. (1788–1837) journeyed repeatedly from St. Louis to evangelize the Native Americans of northeast Kansas— primarily Osage, Peorias, Weas, and Pienkishaws. He established Saint Francis Xavier mission for the Kickapoo near Leavenworth in 1836 but abandoned it in 1847. Father Christian Hoecken, S.J. (1851) established a mission for the Pottawatomie at Sugar Creek (1839), where Saint Rose Philippine duchesne (1769–1852) and the Religious of the Sacred Heart founded a school for girls (1841). In 1847, when the Pottawatomies moved to their new reservation west of present-day Topeka, the missionaries followed and established Saint Mary's Jesuit Mission with Saint Mary's College, which they operated until 1967, and in 1978 sold to the schismatic Society of Saint Pius X. In 1846, the Jesuits established a mission for soldiers at Fort Scott, and then in 1847, Fathers John Schoenmakers, S.J. (1807–1883) and John Bax, S.J. (1817–1852), along with three lay brothers, established Osage Mission at St. Paul, both in southeast Kansas. Osage Mission included Saint Ann's Academy for girls, run by the Sisters of Loretto from Kentucky.
Pius IX established the "Vicariate Apostolic East of the Rocky Mountains to Missouri" in 1851. He gave care of this territory to Bishop Jean-Baptiste Miège (1851–1874), who resided at Saint Mary's Mission. With over one million square miles of land, the territory stretched from the Rocky Mountains to the Missouri River, and from Texas to Canada. A year after the Kansas-Nebraska Act allowed white immigration, Miège established Leavenworth as his episcopal city. There were 700 Catholics, six complete churches, three under construction, 11 stations, and eight priests. Pius IX divided the vicariate in 1857, leaving Miège with just the Kansas Territory. Even in this smaller territory, covering the vast land remained a considerable challenge. To this end, Father Philip Colleton (1821–1876) organized a circulating library of 250 volumes, and Miège brought various religious orders to Kansas, including Benedictine monks (Atchison 1858), Sisters of Charity (Leavenworth 1858), Benedictine Sisters (Atchison 1863), and Carmelite priests (Leavenworth 1864). These religious men and women established schools and took of the care of parishes and missions. Bishop Miège consecrated the Leavenworth Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception (1868) and attended the Vatican Council (1869–70) before he resigned in 1874.
Bishop Louis Mary Fink (1877–1904) succeeded Miège and promoted Catholic immigration to Kansas, bringing German, Polish, Croatian, Slovak, Slovenian, Lithuanian, and Irish immigrants who established ethnic parishes. The Homestead Act (1862)—granting 160 acres of land to each settler—and the building of railroads led to a tripling of the Kansas population from 107,206 in 1860 to 364,399 in 1870. In the aftermath of the Civil War, the Black population also rose and Holy Epiphany parish was established in Leavenworth as the first African-American parish west of St. Louis (1874). At Fink's request, the Holy See established Leavenworth as a diocese on May 22, 1877, a suffragan of St. Louis. At the time, it included 45,000 Catholics, 60 priests, 80 churches and chapels, one abbey, seven colleges, 20 parochial schools, an orphanage, and a hospital.
It was Fink's vision to establish a system of "Christian forts" throughout Kansas following the military
model. These would be places of refuge for Catholics and especially the clergy who often traveled long distances in their ministerial activities. He brought Franciscan friars to Emporia (1878) and Ursuline sisters to Scipio (1896). The most notable example of these was, however, Saint Fidelis Friary at Victoria, established in 1878 by Capuchin Friar Anastasius Joseph Mueller (d. 1878), who died two months after founding the friary. The Capuchins expanded the friary to include the Capuchin school of philosophy (1903), Hays Catholic College (1908), Saint Anthony's Hospital in Hays (1909), and the nationally known "Cathedral of the Plains" (1912). The friary with the "cathedral" still stands as a landmark for travelers on Interstate 70. The Capuchin friars of Missouri, Kansas, and Colorado formed the Mid-American Province of Saint Conrad (1977), with a novitiate in Victoria.
At Fink's request, the Holy See divided the diocese in 1887, establishing the Dioceses of Concordia in northwest Kansas under Bishop Richard Scannell (1887–1890) and Wichita, which occupied the southern half of the state, under James O'Reilly (d. 1887), who died before his installation, and who was replaced by Bishop John Joseph Hennessy (1888–1897). The Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Help was made the cathedral in Concordia, and in Wichita, Saint Aloysius church was designated the pro-cathedral until the dedication of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception (1912). The last Indian raid in Kansas occurred that year and the railroads flourished. Quarantine laws had stopped the cattle trail drives from Texas in 1885, and harsh winters in 1886 and 1887 had disastrous effects on cattle. Land values had risen 400% from 1881–1887, so a crash in 1887 drove many settlers from the land making room for immigrants. These immigrants came largely from around the Great Lakes, especially Illinois and Ohio, and from Germany. Unlike in most other states, women in Kansas were able to vote in municipal, school, and bond elections, and Susanna Medora Salter (1860–1961) served as America's first Woman Mayor in Argonia, Kansas.
Twentieth Century. When Scannell was transferred to Omaha, Bishop Henessey of Wichita was named administrator of Concordia until the 1897 appointment of Thadeus Butler (1833–1897), who died in Rome before his installation. John Francis Cunningham (1898–1919) was then named the second bishop of Concordia. Immigration continued through the turn of the century, bringing more challenges for the Church. As communities grew and moved due to flooding, railroads, or changes in county seats, churches were needed that could hold larger congregations and withstand the Kansas weather. Many of the earlier wooden buildings had since been destroyed by fire, flood, or wind, so new churches were built of stone, many of which remain in use, especially in rural communities.
Father Francis Clement Kelly, pastor of Immaculate Conception parish, Lapeer, Michigan and later Bishop of Oklahoma City and Tulsa (1924–1948), gave a lecture to Catholics at Argonia in southwestern Kansas. The following day, moved by their inability to build a church, he addressed Bishop Hennessy who suggested that he form an extension society to collect money for needy parishes. Therefore, in 1904, Father Kelly established the Catholic Church Extension Society of the United States of America (CCES). One of the society's earliest projects was Saint Anthony's chapel car, a 72-foot railroad car with a chapel that seated 50, sleeping quarters for the missionaries and a porter, a kitchen with refrigerator, and a library. On June 22, 1907, it left Wichita on its first missionary journey stopping first in Wellington, Kansas the following day; Father Tom McKernan (1881–1959) celebrated a Mass at which Bishop Hennessy preached. Those two, along with organist George Hennessey (no relation to the bishop), a representative of the CCES, and a porter traveled throughout the Diocese of Wichita administering the sacraments, praying vespers, and leading various devotions. They made a tour through the South before leaving the chapel car in New Orleans with the CCES. The overwhelming success prompted the Extension Society to construct a second, larger car, but it did not serve in Kansas due to new anti-pass laws which prevented the pass courtesy that the chapel car had previously enjoyed from the railroads.
Due in part to the great demand for wheat in Europe, the 1910s and 1920s were a time of economic prosperity for Kansas. Bishops Thomas F. Lillis (1904–1910) and John Ward (1911–1929) of Leavenworth; Hennessy, and August J. Schwertner (1921–1939) of Wichita; and Cunningham and Francis J. Tief (1921–1938) of Concordia placed great emphasis on education. In addition to the high schools these bishops established throughout the state, Tief founded Marymount College at Salina in 1922, which, four years later, was the first school in the state to offer degrees to women, and Ward founded Saint Mary's College at Leavenworth in 1923.
However prosperous times may have been in the first two decades of the century, the following decade brought disaster. In 1929, the Great Depression reduced the demand for crops while production remained high. The following year brought dust storms in which violent winds at times carried the fertile Kansas soil over 100 miles before dropping it, covering roads, railroad tracks, and farm machinery. Hot summers, cold winters, floods, and grasshopper swarms devastated Kansas' agriculture throughout the 1930s. During the depression, the emphasis on education continued with Bishop Cunningham establishing Saint Joseph's College and Military Academy at Hays in 1931. Bishop Schwertner established 16 religious vacation schools in 1929, with 737 students, and 19 more in 1930, with a total of 1,469 students. He also established religious correspondence schools for children who lived far from a church, and in 1929, the Sisters College, a branch of the University of Wichita, was opened at the cathedral to train teachers, with 129 sisters enrolled. The following year, radio station KFH aired the Catholic Radio Hour to further these educational efforts, and in the 1930s, the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine was begun in all three dioceses.
Expansion and Change. Because of its location on the Missouri River and the presence of railroad lines, Kansas City grew rapidly. As a result, Bishop George Donnelly (1947–1950) moved his see from Leavenworth to Kansas City, Kansas in 1947, shortly after his installation. He made Saint Peter's church his cathedral.
Clyde Cessna (1879–1954), during the winter of 1916–17, and Walter Beech (1891–1951), in 1932, began constructing planes on assembly lines in Wichita, setting the stage for a great turning point in state history. With the entry of the United States into World War II (1939), the demand for military aircraft brought thousands of workers to Wichita from surrounding rural areas and other states; in the 1940s, the population of Wichita grew from 114,966 to 168,279. Further growth came for Wichita with the activation of McConnell Air Force Base in 1951. While at the beginning of World War II there were only eight parishes in the city, by 1960, there were 17. In that same time, only seven parishes were established elsewhere within the 1960 diocesan boundaries, three of which were near the Air Force base. Expansion of Fort Riley infantry camp and Air Force bases in Salina and Walker brought rapid growth to those towns. The Kansas population, and by consequence, the Church, was becoming more and more urban.
As populations grew and shifted, Bishop Frank A. Thill (1938–1957) moved his see from Concordia to the
larger Salina where better access to railroads facilitated travel for himself and his priests; he named Sacred Heart church his new cathedral. Bishop Frederick W. Freking (1957–1965) dedicated the current Sacred Heart Cathedral, built in a grain elevator motif, in 1962. Also due to this rapid growth, Bishop Mark K. Carroll of Wichita (1947–1963) petitioned that the Diocese of Wichita be split. The Holy See granted his request and in 1951 established the Diocese of Dodge City with Bishop John B. Franz (1951–1960) its first ordinary. In 1961, Dodge City became the first diocese in the United States and the second in the western hemisphere to honor Mary as its patroness under the title of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and the Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe was dedicated in 2001. A year after the establishment of the Diocese of Dodge City, Kansas was made an ecclesiastical province with Kansas City as its metropolitan see.
In 1954, Bishop Carroll announced the project he considered to be his "greatest ambition," the establishment of Chaplain Kapaun Memorial High School in Wichita, which he opened two years later. A priest of the Diocese of Wichita from Pilsen, Kansas, Chaplain Emil Kapaun (1916–1951) had served as an army chaplain in both World War II and the Korean Conflict. He died in a prisoner of war camp hospital in Pyoktong, Korea. In 1971, the high school merged with Mount Carmel Academy to form Kapaun Mount Carmel High School. In 1965, Archbishop Hunkeler (1951–1969) opened Savior of the World Minor Seminary with 66 freshmen and 31 sophomores from various dioceses. However, decreasing enrollment and the shortage of priests to serve on its faculty forced Archbishop Ignatius Strecker (1969–1992) to close the seminary in 1987. The facility was then converted into the Savior Pastoral Center. With the rapid cultural changes that came about in the 1950s and 1960s, the dioceses of Kansas felt the need to reevaluate their ministries. Dodge City held its first synod in 1957. Wichita held a synod the following year, its first since 1898, and Salina held its first in 1962. Diocesan Councils of Catholic Women were established in Wichita and Salina in 1958 and in Dodge City in 1962. As the number of priests in all four dioceses decreased in the years following Vatican Council II, new efforts were made to meet the spiritual needs of the faithful. In Salina, in 1975, Bishop Cyril J. Vogel (1965–1979) began "Team Ministry," a group of three priests who together staffed six parishes (though each retained canonical responsibility for two of them). The model was continued, though individual priests were transferred into and out of the team, and eventually, women religious were included, thus initiating their role as "pastoral associates" in the diocese. In Dodge City, Bishop Eugene Gerber (1976–1982) began a permanent diaconate program in 1978 that produced seven deacons, ordained in the winter of 1983–84. Bishop Gilmore (1998–) reestablished the program in 1999, and in December 2000 ordained six Hispanic men. He hoped that they could help the diocese meet the growing demand for Hispanic ministry that arose as Mexican laborers immigrated to the area to work in meat packing plants. In addition, priests have been recruited for ministry in the state from Burma, Vietnam, and the Philippines.
Wichita received international attention in 1991 when the pro-life organization Operation Rescue organized the "Summer of Mercy," a six-week series of demonstrations, rallies, and protests. Operation Rescue leaders arrived in Wichita on July 15 and immediately began protesting in front of Wichita's three abortion clinics by praying, singing, and physically blocking entrances. Those six weeks saw over 2,000 arrests and cost local and county governments over $500,000. The Summer of Mercy culminated on August 24 with a rally at which Bishop Gerber encouraged the 40,000 people present to continue their peaceful efforts against abortion. At the same time, the National Organization for Women held a counter-rally drawing only 5,000 pro-choice advocates. As the counter-rally disbanded, a group calling themselves "Rural America For Life" jammed Wichita traffic for three hours as their tractorcade moved through the city with 300 farm vehicles sporting pro-life signs. The Summer of Mercy breathed new life into the pro-life movement in Wichita, throughout the state, and other parts of the country. The diocese has seen lasting effects as the abortion issue has remained a source of unity, drawing adults and especially youth to greater participation in the life of the Church.
Catholic health care in Kansas has been led by the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother of the Third Order of Saint Francis, who started Saint Francis Hospital in Wichita in 1889. By 1969, with 860 beds, it had become the second largest Catholic hospital in the nation. In 1995, the hospital merged with Saint Joseph's Hospital, for which the Sister's of Saint Joseph had assumed responsibility in 1925, forming the Via Christi Regional Medical Center with over 1,500 beds at the two campuses.
Since the Second Vatican Council, all four dioceses have put a new emphasis on the universal call to holiness. Bishop Gerber, while in Dodge City, introduced RENEW (1981) to promote family and small group prayer and scripture study. Later, in that same diocese, Bishop Stanley G. Schlarmann (1983–1998) promoted Teens Encounter Christ and the Cursillo movement. Catholics in the diocese participated in Cursillo weekends in Texas beginning in 1962 until 1988 when the first weekend was held in the diocese at Lakin. Though normally conducted in Spanish, the diocese has also held weekends in English. Bishop George K. Fitzsimons (1984–) established a RENEW Office (1985) and an Office of Lay Ministry (1986) for the Diocese of Salina, and Archbishop Strecker directed every parish in the Archdiocese of Kansas City to establish a parish council and finance committee in order to promote lay involvement. The archdiocese also became home to a large number of active Serra Clubs, an international organization that supports vocations.
After being transferred to the Diocese of Wichita in 1982, Bishop Gerber promoted various programs to deepen spirituality among the laity, including Teens Encounter Christ and the Totus Tuus Summer Catechetical Program, which has served all four dioceses of Kansas as well as parishes in Colorado, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Missouri, Georgia, and Wisconsin since its beginning in 1987. Bishop Gerber also made a strong effort to promote Eucharistic devotion, which was enthusiastically received in parishes throughout the diocese. Archbishop Keleher (1992–) did similarly in Kansas City.
Bibliography: The Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas, The Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas: 150 Years of Faith 1850–2000 (Strasbourg, France 2000). m. p. fitzgerald s.c.l, Beacon on the Plains (Leavenworth, KS 1939). m. f. lahey, Harvest of Faith: History of the Diocese of Salina, 1887–1987 (Dallas, TX). j. m. moeder, History of the Diocese of Wichita (1963). i. j. strecker, The Church in Kansas 1850–1905: "A Family Story". a. tonne, The Story of Chaplain Kapaun: Patriot Priest of the Korean Conflict (Emporia, KS 1954). t. wenzl, A Legacy of Faith, A History of the Diocese of Dodge City (Newton, KS 2001).