Kansas City, Archdiocese of
KANSAS CITY, ARCHDIOCESE OF
Metropolitan see embracing 21 counties in the northeastern part of Kansas, an area of 12,524 square miles, with the Dioceses of Dodge City, Salina, and Wichita, all in Kansas, as suffragan sees. The Archdiocese of Kansas City (Kansanopolitana ) was established as the Diocese of Leavenworth on May 22, 1877, was changed to Kansas City on May 10, 1947, and it became an archdiocese on Aug. 9, 1952. At the beginning of the 21st century, Catholics comprised about 20 percent of the total population.
Early History. Catholicism in Kansas dates from 1541, when the Coronado expedition arrived, accompanied by the Franciscan Juan de padilla, who lost his life while preaching to Native American tribes. In 1820, Sans Nerf, head chief of the Osage, appealed to Bp. Louis William DuBourg of St. Louis to visit or send them missionaries. Rev. Charles de la Croix was sent in 1822. That same year DuBourg went to Washington to ask the U.S. government to subsidize four missionaries whom he proposed to send to the Osages. His proposal was approved by Secretary of War John C. Calhoun, then in charge of Native American affairs, who promised an annual subsidy of $800.
Although the Kickapoo mission, founded in 1835 by Charles Van Quickenborne, SJ, lasted only four years, it became the center from which the two focal missions were later established among the Osages and Pottawatomies. From Osage Mission School, founded by John Schoenmakers, SJ, in 1847, and from St. Mary's Pottawatomie mission, founded by Christian Hoecken, SJ, in 1848, the Jesuits first ministered to surrounding Indian tribes and later sought out scattered white frontiersmen. Their itinerant circuits covered most of Kansas as it is now constituted. As secular priests arrived to assume responsibility for established parishes, the Jesuits gradually withdrew from the mission field. However, the zeal of Fathers John Bax, Paul Ponziglione, Philip Colleton, and Louis Dumortier had opened the frontier to the Catholic Church, making it known and respected not only by Catholics but by non-Catholics also.
The religious of the Sacred Heart, including Mother Phillipine duchesne, opened a school for Native American girls among the Pottawatomies in 1841. The Sisters of Loretto arrived at Osage mission in 1847, to establish the first permanent boarding school on Kansas soil.
At the request of the Seventh Provincial Council of Baltimore, Pius IX, on July 19, 1850, erected the vicariate apostolic of Native American Territory, which included the present states of Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, parts of North and South Dakota west of the Missouri River, Wyoming, Montana, and Colorado. John B. miÈge, SJ, professor of moral theology at St. Louis University, was consecrated bishop of Messine and first vicar apostolic of the new jurisdiction. He made St. Mary's mission in Kansas his residence, and the log cabin church there served as his cathedral until August 1855, when he moved to Leavenworth, a promising city in the newly organized Kansas Territory. On horseback or by wagon, Miège visited the Native American villages, military forts, trading posts, and growing towns of his vast mission, which was reduced in size in 1857 when Nebraska was organized into a separate vicariate.
Miège invited the Benedictine and Carmelite fathers, the Benedictine sisters, and the Sisters of Charity, to the mission fields in his vicariate. The Sisters of Charity opened the first orphanage in Kansas (1863) and the first hospital in Leavenworth (1869). Among the first secular priests to enter the apostolate in Kansas were Theodore Heimann, a German priest who later joined the Carmelites, J. H. Defourri from France, and Ambrose T. Butler from Ireland. Daniel Hurley, the first Native American ordained in Kansas (1877), exerted an important influence on the growth of the Church there.
Ecclesiastical Administration. In 1871, Louis M. fink, OSB, was consecrated bishop of Eucarpia and auxiliary to Bishop Miège, whom he succeeded upon Miège's resignation in 1874. When Leavenworth was elevated to the status of diocese in 1877, Fink administered the entire state of Kansas, which then included 65 priests, 88 churches, three "colleges," four academies, one hospital, one orphanage, and 13 parochial schools with 1,700 pupils. During the next ten years, the building of roads and railroads, generous government land policies, and the settlement of the Native American issue on the frontier attracted immigrants; and Irish, Germans, Belgians, and French established colonies throughout the diocese. The German-Russians who settled in Ellis and Rush counties in the late 1890s left an enviable cultural heritage to the Church in Kansas. Those who worked among them included the Capuchin Fathers, Sisters of St. Agnes, and Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia.
At Fink's suggestion, the Diocese of Leavenworth was divided and the western section constituted the Dioceses of Concordia and Wichita, Aug. 2, 1887. The areas of the three dioceses were redistributed in 1897 when boundaries were adjusted. Fink continued to administer Leavenworth until his death in 1904, when he was succeeded by Thomas F. Lillis, who was consecrated on Dec. 27, 1904, and governed the see until his transfer to the Diocese of Kansas City, Mo., in 1910. John Ward, consecrated third bishop of Leavenworth on Feb. 22, 1911, ruled until his death in 1929, when his coadjutor, Francis Johannes, succeeded to the see, which he headed until his death in 1937. Paul C. Schulte's administration, begun in 1937, was terminated by his transfer to the Archdiocese of Indianapolis in 1946, when George J. Donnelly succeeded him in Leavenworth. A year later the see was changed to Kansas City where, following Donnelly's death in 1950, Edward J. Hunkeler became successively bishop (1951) and archbishop (1952). When Hunkeler retired in 1969, he was succeeded by Bishop Ignatius J. Strecker, Bishop of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, who was Archbishop of Kansas City from 1969 until his retirement in 1993. In 1993, Bishop James P. Keleher, Bishop of Belleville was installed as Strecker's successor.
Institutional Development. In the expansion of its parochial and secondary school systems, the archdiocese pioneered in the central Catholic high school movement in the U.S. in the early 20th century. Catholic institutions of higher learning in the archdiocese included Donnelly College (Kansas City), St. Mary College (Leavenworth) and Benedictine College (Atchison), established, July 1, 1971, as a merger between St. Benedict's College, directed by the Benedictine monks; and Mt. St. Scholastica College, directed by the Benedictine Sisters.
Bibliography: p. beckman, The Catholic Church on the Kansas Frontier, 1850–1877 (Washington 1943). r. j. bollig, History of Catholic Education in Kansas, 1836–1932 (Washington 1933). Garraghan JMUS. w. w. graves, Life and Letters of Fathers Ponziglione, Schoenmakers and Other Early Jesuits at Osage Mission (St. Paul, Kan. 1916). t. h. kinsella, A Centenary of Catholicity in Kansas 1822–1922 (Kansas City 1921). m. e. thomas, Footprints on the Frontier (Westminster, Md. 1948). the archdiocese of kansas city in kansas, The Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas: 150 Years of Faith 1850–2000 (Strasbourg, France 2000).
[m. e. thomas/eds.]