ARRIVAL OF FATHER KUHLS - CATHOLIC FAMILIES - THE TOWN OF WYANDOTTE - SITE FOR A CHURCH - THE SCHOOL - A SILVER JUBILEE - THE NEW CHURCH - ST. THOMAS' CHURCH - ST. ANTHONY'S CHURCH - BLESSED SACRAMENT CHURCH - ST. BENEDICT'S CHURCH - ST. JOHN'S CROATIAN CHURCH - ST. ROSE OF LIMA CHURCH - ST. JOSEPH'S POLISH CHURCH - ST. BRIDGET'S CHURCH - ST. PETER'S CONGREGATION - ST. CYRIL AND METHODIUS CHURCH - ST. JOHN'S CHURCH, ARGENTINE - ST. PATRICK'S PARISH - CATHOLIC CONVENT - SHAWNEETOWN - EUDORA - REMOVAL OF THE BISHOP'S RESIDENCE - REMINISCENCES OF FATHER KUHLS.
St. Bridget's parish was cut off from St. Mary's in 1879, owing to the growth of the city. Father Francis Hayden was the first pastor. About this time the Fowler Packing Company became established here and the congregation increased greatly. Owing to the encroachments of railroads and manufacturing establishments, the parish is somewhat declining at present. The church is located at Second street and Reynolds avenue, has a good parochial residence and a large school. Father B. A. Mohan is pastor of this church and is doing excellent work under somewhat discouraging conditions.
Acting on the advice of the rectors of St. Mary's and St. Benedict's congregations, Bishop Lillis decided to establish a new parish in the neighborhood of his own residence. In the fall of 1907 a block of ground was purchased at Fifteenth street and Orville avenue, half of which was paid for by the new parish. The other half was to be used for the high school that has been erected, in this central location, for both girls and boys.
The new parish, which for the present is called St. Peter's congregation, was organized Sunday, December 8, 1907, in the bishop's chapel, No. 1228 Sandusky avenue, where the first mass was celebrated in honor of the Mother Immaculate. The Rev. Bernard S. Kelly, who scored much success in the upbuilding of the Blessed Sacrament church, was its first pastor.
The great influx of Slavs in Kansas City, Kansas, made it necessary to establish a parish and give them a priest who spoke their own language. The Rev. F. J. Kulisek, former pastor of St. Joseph's church, which made such rapid strides under his pastorate, is now pastor of the new parish. Father Kulisek speaks several languages, which makes him a very important priest in Kansas City, where so many foreign tongues are spoken.
The congregation has erected a two story brick building on the corner of Mill street and Ridge avenue, the first story of which is used for school rooms and the second, for a church. During the past five years improvements and property to the amount of about $18,000 have been added.
St. George's church (Servian), is at No. 37 North First street, and the Holy Family church (Slavic) is at No. 513 Ohio avenue.
St. John's Roman Catholic church in Argentine was dedicated in September, 1907. The new church was built with money from the earnings of the laboring men of the parish, the old edifice having been destroyed by the flood of 1903. The new building is of native stone, quarried from the hills near Argentine, and cost $30,000. The dedicatory services were conducted by the Right Rev. Thomas F. Lillis, bishop of the Leavenworth diocese.
The Rev. Father L. J. Beck, who had charge of the parish, does not believe in building churches unless the money is given by the members of the parish. When the flood waters receded from Argentine the little church in which St. John's congregation had worshiped was a wreck, the roof of the church had fallen and the altar had been destroyed. The homes of more than half of the members of the congregation were also swept away. The congregation has held its services in the school building since the flood.
The Holy Name church in Rosedale, mentioned elsewhere in this volume, is the oldest church in that city. It is a beautiful structure and is the pride of the members of the parish and of all good citizens.
ST. PATRICK'S PARISH.
St. Patrick's parish in Delaware, near Horanif, was cut off from St. Mary's parish in 1885, and Rev. Thomas McCaul was made pastor. The present church and parsonage at that place were built by Father Kuhls without incurring any indebtedness, the pastor sometimes working with his own hands until twelve at night. The frame of the parsonage was blown down by a hurricane during the night but was put up again the next day, all the neighbors giving a hand. This parish was afterwards attended for some time by an assistant, the Rev. Father Locher, and then by the Rev. Francis Hayden and his brother.
Among the Catholic institutions of Wyandotte county are these seven convents:
Benedictine Sisters, north side of Pacific avenue, near Boeke street.
Sisters of Charity, 1901 Parallel avenue, and Ann avenue, southwest corner Fifth.
Sisters of St. Benedict 611 North Seventh street.
Sisters of St. Joseph. 628 Pyle street.
Sisters of the Poor of St. Francis, Vermont street, south west corner Harrison.
In 1869 the parish of Shawneetown (which place up to that date Father Kuhls had attended) built a new church with the help of a few friends, particularly the Nuniks and Wertz. It was then cut off from the St. Mary's parish and a resident pastor appointed in the person of the Rev. John Pichler. The same year the Olathe parish was cut off from Father Kuhls charge, and he was saved a great deal of horseback riding. The place was then also attended by Father Pichler. Shortly after the Rev. Father Casey was appointed pastor at Olathe.
At this period the first Catholic parish at Wichita was organized, and Father Kuhls bought a building newly erected by a Protestant congregation, for five hundred dollars. It was an entirely new building and had cost the Protestant congregation one thousand one hundred dollars, The five hundred dollars paid for the building sas collected from Protestant citizens, except one hundred dollars. There were only about three Catholic families in the town. The moving of the building to the parish lots secured previously by the Rev. Father Paul, S. J., was paid for by a Mrs. Austin donating a cow worth one hundred dollars. The church was dedicated and called St. Aloysius church, by Father Kuhls. While stopping at Wichita he took meals at the county poor house, kept by a kind Irish Catholic family.
The church in Eudora was built by Father Kuhls in 1863. He attended to it from Leavenworth once a month or so. The trip, a distance of forty miles, was made on horseback and took a full day. The principal benefactors there were Messrs. Piper and Herz.
On the 15th day of November, 1891, Bishop Fink left Leavenworth and moved to Kansas City, Kansas, and since then that city has been the seat of government of the diocese. Bishop Fink lived in Kansas City, Kansas, and was admired for his executive ability, his persistent encouragement of Catholic societies and Catholic schools. After the death of the Bishop, March 17, 1904, the Very Rev. Thomas Moore, chancellor of the diocese, was administrator of the diocese until 1904, when the Right Rev. Thomas P. Lillis was appointed bishop. "Father" Lillis, as he was known and loved by many thousand of Catholics and Protestants in Missouri and Kansas, remained at the head of the diocese until February, 1911, when he was made coadjutor to Bishop Hogan in Kansas City, Missouri. The Very Rev. John Ward, rector of St. Mary's church in Kansas City, Kansas, was then made bishop, and is still at the head of the diocese.
In 1904 Father Kuhls published a little volume of reminiscences of his forty years service in this community, which, in reality, proved to be an authentic history of Catholicism and its institutions in this section. The following is taken from the volume mentioned: "The Wyandotte City Company, which in the early days held most of the real estate, was composed of a peculiar set of people. Their faith was strong and they firmly believed that the people from all over the Union would come and buy lots, and make this city a second New York. They asked more for lots in those days than the real estate men ask today. Our property was as valuable as that of New York. Bishop Miege, the pioneer bishop of the west, stopped in Wyandotte on his way from St. Louis, intending to make the city the headquarters of the diocese. He called upon the town company to see how much land they would donate for his building. He was offered the little southwest corner of Huron place, afterwards given to a colored congregation, where now stands the Masonic Temple. The Bishop smiled and departed for Leavenworth, where he was given five acres in the most beautiful part of the city. All the grand ecclesiastical buildings of Leavenworth would be in Wyandotte, and the fate of our town would have been different today, if our land company had taken another view of this matter.
"The frugality of the early pioneers can hardly be better illustrated than by the following example: The first year of my career in this place I had only one room and one small lounge. Two distinguished visitors came one afternoon, none less than Bishop Miege and his old friend, Bishop Lamy, of Santa Fe, New Mexico. For supper we had a cup of coffee, some cold ham and bread. I sent to the Garno house, our only hotel, for a night's lodging for my guests. They talked over their western experiences and smoked a cigar, but made no move to start for the hotel. I remonstrated with them as best I could, pointed to my shanty lounge two feet wide, as inadeqate[sic] for a man of two hundred and eighty pounds - the weight of Bishop Miege. All to no purpose. They declared they were provided for. At 10 o'clock P. M. they went to the chapel to say their prayers. When through, they came back, turned two chairs on the floor for pillows or head rests and both stretched their tired limbs on the hard wooden floor. Bishop Lamy turned a good many times, but the bishop east of the Rocky mountains stood it like a brave soldier, occasionally giving his partner a gentle digging with his elbow, telling him to be quiet for fear of waking the sick father - meaning your humble servant who was suffering with bilious fever. I heard it just the same, for such an heroic act of mortification kept me from sleeping and was the best and most impressive sermon ever preached to me on practical mortification. May God bless them both! Noble souls!
"Bishop Miege not long afterwards called at my place to go to Shawneetown for confirmation. I proposed to send to Kansas City, Missouri, for a carriage, as we had none in our town. 'Oh, Do,' he remarked. 'Mr. John Waller has two mules and a lumber wagon. Put a rocking chair in it and the carriage is ready for the Bishop.' So it had to be. The Shawneetown folks had arranged to receive the Bishop royally. Some thirty farmers came on horseback to meet him. They passed the lumber wagon and the old gentleman with the white duster, not suspecting this to be the Bishop. On they galloped and went as far as the Kansas river without finding the Bishop. When they returned to Shawnee they saw the man in the white duster sitting outdoors smoking a cigar. He was so well pleased with this little adventure that he treated all the riders with a cigar. It was a great treat and all enjoyed it, except the man at the cannon, who was to fire the gun as soon as the Bishop came in sight. He made up for it next day, firing that cannon to his heart's content.
"Theological acumen was a drug on the market. There were many incidents in those early days of border life that find no parallel in theological works. Neither Gurry, nor Lehmkuhl, nor Sebetti, nor any of the Iong list of wise men, had cases fitting our surroundings. Woe to the shepherd who was wanting in common sense! There were cases I could not put on paper. Some of these would stagger a Roman doctor - especially such as I have occasionally met. Like Indian missionary life, these things read and sound poetical enough about three hundred miles away, but are embarassing when you face them.
"Our scientific attainments will be best illustrated by the fact of the first Union Pacific engine arriving here. Everyone was anxious to see it and to test its power. So she was fired up and a number of citizens - all engineers of course - tried to run the little thing. We did run it - into the Missouri river; and it took weeks to get it out again. Mr. John Cruise, our first Union Pacific agent, can tell about this great event. Having no daily paper, this furnished amusement for weeks.
"This ecclesiastical sketch would not be complete without saying a word right here in this place, about the bishops of Kansas.
"The Right Rev. John B. Miege, first bishop of Kansas, was born September 18, 1815, at Chevion, Upper Savoy, in French Switzerland. He was educated by his brother Urban. Several of his family were distinguished in church and state. He joined the Jesuits, October 23, 1836. For many years he was employed as professor of philosophy and theology, having had for his own teachers some of the grandest minds of his day, such as Perrons, Patrizzi, Ballerine, etc. He was ordained a priest, in 1847, at Rome, and came to America during the European revolution in 1848. In 1849 he reached St. Louis, and became the pastor of the church at St. Charles, at which place an old dying Frenchman to show his infidelity, spit in the young priest's face and expired a minute later.
"Again he became professor of theology in Florissant, and at the University in St. Louis. In 1850 he was appointed vicar apostolic of the territory east of the Rocky mountains. He returned the precious documents to Rome, but was compelled, under obedience, to accept the burden. He was consecrated bishop of Messina on March 25, 1851, by Archbishop R. Kenrick of St. Louis, and his territory comprised the present states of Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado and the Indian territory. He had mainly Indian tribes under his jurisdiction. His first headquarters were at St. Mary's mission, Kansas. In 1853 he visited Rome and made his report. At this time there were only about five thousand white Catholics in the whole territory mentioned. In August 1, 1855, Bishop Miege fixed his residence in Leavenworth, where he found seven Catholic families. From that time on Catholicity grew rapidly and in 1871 he obtained his wish in the consecration of a coadjutor, in the person of the Very Rev. Louis M. Fink, prior of the Benedictines of Atchison and vicar general of the diocese. When, in 1874, Bishop Miege was allowed to resign, he left in the state of Kansas 35,000 Catholics, 48 priests and 71 churches, including the magnificent cathedral of Leavenworth. To pay one-half the debt on said cathedral, Bishop Miege made a collecting tour of three years in South America, realizing $42,000. The second day after his return to Leavenworth, he left his beloved cathedral and city without bidding adieu to any one, going with one brother to the depot at 4 A. M., so that no one might see him or make any demonstration. Everything that was his, even his pectoral cross and his gold watch, he left in Leavenworth, a place he never saw again on earth. It was a most heroic act on his part but it plunged the city, and especially the clergy, into such profound sadness that no language of mine can describe it. He became a simple Jesuit, a desire he expressed to the writer of this during his sojourn in Rome in 1868. He died on July 20, 1884, at Woodstock College, Maryland.
"No bishop of America was ever revered and loved like Bishop J. B. Miege - alike by priests and people - by Catholics and Protestants. He was a father to his priests. His house was the priests' home and his hospiality[sic] was endless. He had a word of encouragement for everyone. The writer was invited, as an invalid, to his house, and no mother could have treated me with more kindness. As long as memory will last, his name will be held in benediction. During all his administration there never was an unkind word between him and his priests. He never dipped his pen in acid when he wrote to his clergy,
"Bishop Louis M. Fink took full charge of the diocese in 1874, When he was consecrated in St. Joseph's church, Chicago, Illinois, in 1871, his health was so poor and his constitution so run down from hemorrhages, that Bishop Foly, of Chicago, the consecrator, said in our hearing: 'That is wasting the holy oil.' Bishop Miege expressed the same fear when he saw his coadjutor. However, both were disappointed - both are dead and Bishop Fink was hale and hearty at seventy years, when the writer started this sketch. Such is the wonderful power of the mitre.
"The first great work of Bishop Fink was to gather money enough to pay off the remaining debt of the cathedral ($40,000). The writer and the Rev. John Cunningham, present bishop of Concordia, spent one year in Wisconsin (1873) and two years in New York (1874-5) to collect for our cathedral, leaving our parishes in the hands of strangers. The two years in New York were the most trying ones ever experienced in my life. It was during the panic, and God and the world seemed to be against us. Cardinal McClosky, a very amiable man, positively refused permission to either of us to collect or to say mass in the city. We had gone to New York under the impression that Bishop Fink had obtained for us all necessary permission, but we were sadly disappointed. In our misery we found friends in the Sisters of the Poor of St. Francis, of New Jersey, who gave us board and lodging for six months, and furnished us opportunities to celebrate mass. Owing to this great act of charity I was induced years afterwards to ask them to accept St. Margaret's Hospital, of Kansas City, Kansas as their own. Father Cunningham supported my petition to Bishop Fink, and only for his influence things might have taken a different turn. Thus will God forever repay charity.
"Whilst my companion, the Rev. Father Cunningham, by the kindness of a fellow townsman of his, was collecting in New York City, he was arrested by a policeman as an imposter and marched to the next priest's house to be identified - and this amidst the taunts and cheers of about five hundred school children. When years after I assisted my companion in misery, to dress in his pontifical robes for consecration in the grand cathedral of Leavenworth, this New York scene came involuntarily before my mind and I could not help but cry in my interior 'oquae mutatio rerum!'
"Bishop Fink by his ability as a financier succeeded in paying every dollar of the cathedral debt before bidding adieu to it - his spiritual spouse - the fine cathedral of Leavenworth.
"Bishop Fink lived in Kansas City, Kansas, and was admired for his executive ability, his persistent encouragement of Catholic societies and Catholic schools, especially those directed by the religious, without whose aid and charity hardly any Catholic school would exist in Kansas today. These schools were always dear to him. He was born at Bavaria, Germany, in 1834, and died on the 17th of March, 1904, at 7:30 A. M., at his residence, No. 1228 Sandusky avenue, Kansas City, Kansas, provided with all the help of prayer and the Sacraments, retaining his mind almost to the last minute of his life. The first Requiem for his soul was celebrated in St. Mary's church a few minutes after he expired.
"The Very Rev. J. Cunningham, vicar general of Bishop Fink since 1875, was selected as bishop of Concordia by the special favor of Cardinal Satolli and was consecrated to that office on the 21st of September, 1898, by Archbishop J. J. Kain, of St. Louis, in the presence of eight bishops and one hundred and fifty priests, Bishop Cunningham was always a friend of the priests and a man of an unusual amount of common sense. The writer hopes and prays that he may be made bishop of Leavenworth and call this cathedral his for which he worked hard and faithfully for nearly forty years. No one in the United States is more entitled to this honor than he.
"As to the personality of the writer, I can say I have tried to work for God and poor humanity. If I have failed, it was owing more to my head than to my heart. I have hoarded up no earthly treasures. I was born of poor but honest parents. My father's name was Joseph, and, like his patron saint, a carpenter. I have tried to live poor and I hope to die poor. I was born on September 29, 1839, in a little town, Holthime, of Westphalia, Germany; came to America in 1859, and was ordained priest on March 22, 1863, by Bishop Miege. Since 1864 I have been rector of St. Mary's parish in Kansas City, Kansas. And here I wish to state, compelled by undying gratitude, that whilst the majority of my parish were born in different lands, principally in Ireland, hailing from different climes - they received me cordially and treated me kindly and with uninterrupted confidence. During the early years of poverty and privation they never hesitated to share with me the little they possessed. There are but few congregations in America where the same 'cordial intent' has existed for the last forty years, as in our congregation, The untold hardships during the day and during the night for forty years, were rendered easy and agreeable to me by the kindness, generosity, affection and obedience of my congregation. No wonder that in all my travels, I found no place like Wyandotte, and no wonder that I resolved years ago to live and die in the midst of St. Mary's congregation.
"I was canonically appointed an immovable rector in 1878. This will be sufficient for an epitaph on my tombstone. I want no flowers, no costly coffin, no eulogy. I ask not for a long procession of carriages, but I do ask most earnestly for everyone of my friends and parishoners to have mass said for my soul, and to offer up a Holy Communion. With this request fulfilled, I implore God to bless my parishoners and all my old friends near and far, on earth or in eternity. I ask pardon of all and anyone whom I may have offended during these forty years of toil and labor.
"May God in His infinite mercy, for the love of His Divine Son and His Immaculate Mother, grant me the happiness one day to meet all of them in Heaven.
"Yours sincerely, in Christ,
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