Brick by Brick: a new church for a TLM community in Kansas

Jesus did not found your parish.

Our Lord personally founded the Catholic Church and promised that she would prevail against the forces of Hell.  He did not promise that the Enemy would not prevail where you live.  He made no promises about the local Church of this or that nation.  He said nothing about your parish.

Think of the once vital Church of North Africa in the time of St. Augustine.  With his dying breaths, he witnesses the invasion of the Vandals.

A while back I was talking with a friend who was moved to another parish, because the diocese closed his church and merged the parish.  Demographics shifted.  Finances collapsed.  There are fewer priests.  Et cetera.  When I raised the point that it could be ill-advised for dioceses to sell off churches and land, he countered – rightly – that if people want a church, they will build one and maintain it.  That goes for nourishing vocations to the priesthood and not just paying mortgage, heat and light.

He is right.  If people want a church badly enough, they will make it happen.  Yes, the clergy can play a leadership role in this, but it is fundamentally the will of the people that make these things happen.

I was therefore pleased to read a story – with great photos – about the upgrade a Kansas community has accomplished.

In the Johnson County’s News Magazine we find, and these are but some highlights:

Latin Mass finds a new home in Johnson County

Story Brian Burnes

The Kansas City Star
At first, they couldn’t explain the voices.


For 18 months members of St. Rose Philippine Duchesne have been working to turn the 1940s-era Protestant church into a new home for what sometimes is called the “old” Catholic Latin Mass.


And members of St. Rose Philippine Duchesne, who had been meeting in leased space for about 10 years in a separate Kansas City, Kan., Catholic church, long had imagined a permanent home.

So they bought the old Lutheran church. Among their many improvements: an updated sound system.

While testing it, technicians kept getting a hum. They turned up the volume.

That’s when they heard the voices. But it proved to be nothing other-worldly.

They were picking up CNN. The Cable News Network.


“The most paramount aspect for me personally is the reverence,” said John Lewis, 58, of Lenexa.

“The Latin Mass is respectful, it’s beautiful, it’s holy. It allows me to worship without distraction. The focus is on the priest’s actions instead of the activity of the laity.


“I even ask myself, ‘What is it that is so wonderful?’ But it is just so darn serious. This is not frivolous; this is about one’s immortal soul and, if you believe in the hereafter, is there anything else more serious?”

The “old” Latin Mass has a new home in Johnson County.

Members of St. Rose Philippine Duchesne filled the renovated Spanish Mission structure Saturday to witness the building’s formal blessing by Archbishop Joseph Naumann of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.

The outfitting of the older building with new technology had continued to be challenging. “We just finished putting in the sound 10 minutes ago,” Dan Himmelberg, project architect, said about 20 minutes before the 9 a.m. ceremony.

“The pulpit arrived at 12:30 last night.”


[Archbishop] Naumann, in his homily, praised the renovated church and added that its fine furnishings “represent our striving to give God our very best.”


Some, such as church secretary Watkins, cited possible divine intervention, given that a church member saw the “For Sale” sign posted outside the church while driving by on Easter Sunday.

The community paid $600,000 for the building and invested $177,000 in exterior renovations.


At the time church officials anticipated needing $390,000 to renovate the interior of the church and another $150,000 to furnish it.

Watkins last week estimated that the final investment, including the church’s acquisition, was just more than $2 million.

While much of the renovated church today retains its Spanish Mission style, given its red-tile roof and new interior floor of Spanish-style pavers, it also emphasizes a Romanesque design, especially in its tall center altar.

“It’s a mixture of styles not unknown in the Catholic Church, as many churches were built over periods of centuries,” Fongemie said.

Parish officials, striving to renovate a church that might have been built in 1940, also have relied upon 21st-century technology to outfit it.

A sanctuary lamp, for instance, was found on eBay.

A long list of contractors contributed to the church’s renovation, among them representatives of Sacred Heart Church Art of Beatrice, Neb., which specializes in the restoration of altars and statuary.

The main altar, located in a Pennsylvania church, was taken apart, shipped to Johnson County and then reassembled after various sections had been stripped, primed, painted and then highlighted with gold leaf.

That was in October. The next month representatives of Quimby Pipe Organs in Warrensburg, Mo., assisted in moving the organ (which the previous owners had left) from the sanctuary area to the newly expanded choir loft.


The one hiccup in Saturday’s blessing ceremony involved — again — modern technology.

The amount of sacramental incense burned on Saturday morning produced enough smoke to trigger the church’s smoke alarms.

The solemn high Mass continued regardless.

“It was my first three-alarm Mass,” said Watkins.

Attendants and altar boys who had been responsible for the incense had, Watkins said, loaded up with enough charcoal to see them through the brisk and breezy outdoor portion of the ceremony.

“So we still had plenty of smoke when we got inside,” added Watkins, who promises adjustment of the church’s smoke-alarm system.

“If you noticed,” Watkins added, “that smoke alarm went off in Latin.”

A wonderful event for the Year of Faith.

Congratulations to the members of St. Rose Philippine Duchesne.

They wanted a new church enough to make it happen.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, Benedict XVI, Brick by Brick, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, New Evangelization, Our Catholic Identity, Priests and Priesthood, The future and our choices, Year of Faith and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. APX says:

    Isn’t permission from the bishop required in order to get your own parish? If he doesn’t want an additional parish, then there isn’t much the laity can do.

  2. Athelstan says:

    I’m very happy for the St. Philippine Duchesne parish for this long-worked for triumph. I was once a regular there when I lived in Kansas City – back in the days of Fr. de Mentque and Fr. Wolfe. It was already one of the FSSP’s oldest parishes, living on sufferance (like so many TLM communities) in a beautiful but aging church in a very dubious urban area of Kansas City, KS. It was just as well, alas, that it was loaned for Sunday masses – you wouldn’t want to go there at night. This represents a big step forward for them in many ways. They sacrificed and work hard for many years to make it happen.

    If you like traditional liturgy, Kansas City is not at all a bad place to be now. In addition to the FSSP on the Kansas side, the Institute has the beautiful, newly remodeled Old St. Patrick’s downtown over in Missouri (which Fr. knows well enough) – and, yes, there is SSPX headquarters at St. Vincent de Paul, though it’s clear that regulars there aren’t there for just the liturgy, given the options available now. (How many cities can say that they have both a full-time Institute and Fraternity presence?) And there is also a growing number of traditionally bent communities as well, from, the largely Latin N.O. at Our Lady of Good Counsel to the Anglican Use parish at St. Therese Little Flower…and a small number of parishes on both sides of the state line moving in the right direction.

    Fortunately, dioceses on both sides of the state line now have tradition-friendly bishops. The ICK and FSSP parishioners gave tremendously of their time and resources, but without the bishops, it couldn’t have happened easily.

  3. Athelstan says:

    One other point – about Fr. Z’s main point:

    He is right. If people want a church badly enough, they will make it happen. Yes, the clergy can play a leadership role in this, but it is fundamentally the will of the people that make these things happen.

    Entirely true, of course. Someone has to pay the bills.

    And yet, of late, I have thought more and more about our model of property ownership and stewardship. We all know too well that Catholics *don’t* tithe at anything like the rate that Protestants do; and even traditionalists find it easier to complain than to contribute at times. Yet when your parish is almost entirely at the mercy of the ordinary, who can close or merge parishes almost at will (to say nothing of moving your pastor out after six years), it’s harder for Catholics to feel a sense of ownership in their parish, it seems. Of course, most of the time, parishes are closed for a good reason – they just aren’t financially viable, and the diocese can’t subsidize them. But sometimes motives are mixed, especially with a shrinking number of priests. Think of the closings in Cleveland, where a number of parishes were still viable to some degree…only strident appeals to the Vatican reopened several of the parishes.

    I don’t know the answer to this problem. It’s been our model here in the U.S. for a long time. If there were a way to adjust the model to give parishioners are greater sense of security and ownership, however, it might help.

  4. Matt R says:

    The church looks beautiful, and it’s wonderful to see a full congregation! It’s also nice to see that they are buying items where they can from older churches that have closed.
    I just can’t believe that the building was a Lutheran church originally.

  5. disco says:

    That looks like a beautiful little country church. I couldn’t be more happy for that community. I just hope there is room there for them to grow.

  6. *blushes*

    It was me…, seriously. I was thurifer at the Mass and we used seven coals, aside form our usual three; I lit three before the blessing itself and they were gone by the time Mass started.

    I checked the sacristy, and there was a smoke alarm right underneath where I placed the thurible after the Consecration. You’ve gotta admit, after the first shock it was kind of funny. That church isn’t burning down anytime soon.

    Anyhow….that’s my father and sister right there in that first picture. On Fr. Z to boot! ;)

  7. AngelGuarded says:

    A beautiful picture there. Love seeing other ladies wearing their mantillas. I wear one to my (sigh) N.O. Mass. We also had a fire alarm go off during last week’s Mass. Unfortunately, it seemed to irritate Father. He had to walk out to take care of it and just about everyone (not me and my hubby, of course) started chatting rather loudly and in great spirits. When we started again, Father said rather sternly, “no incense today!” I was disappointed because I love the scent of that stuff. Methinks Heaven must smell like that. Or puppy breath, not sure.

  8. Jack007 says:

    Matt, you might like to know that the church is chock full of “recycled” items.
    The three altars came from a closed parish in Pennsylvania, as well as the carved altar rail; another shuttered parish back East. All around a hundred years old. Same with the choir railing, hand carved sacristy vesting cabinet, the beautiful marble and bronze baptismal font, and most all the statues. Our FSSP priests were hard at work scouring the country, rescuing and negotiating the purchase of these abandoned treasures. Talk about “renewable resources”! LOL
    I do love the idea that whilst we are worshiping in a formerly Protestant space, the surroundings have been Catholic for over a century! One can only imagine the stories if they could talk?
    But I suppose the best, and most promising thing of all…there are quite a few NEW faces! Yes, people curious about that “old fashioned Latin Mass” deciding to “come check it out”.
    Now if we can just keep the servers from burning the place down! :-)
    Jack in KC

  9. Athelstan says:

    Hello Jack,

    Similar to what the Institute of Christ the King did over on the other side of the state line at Old St. Patrick’s – they found a beautiful old altar in a shuttered Boston church, and brought it in.

    Amazing what you can find out there. And it is wonderful to keep these artifacts of the Church in active use, “recycled.”

  10. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Heh! Fortiter Pugnem, I guess your pastor could say, “The smoke of God has entered the sanctuary!” :)

  11. Jack007 says:

    Heh! Fortiter Pugnem, I guess your pastor could say, “The smoke of God has entered the sanctuary!” :)

    You know you’re on a conservative blog when there’s so much humor. Just spend a little time on the comboxes of lib blogs and you’ll know what I mean. Amazing how unhappy and angry they seem all the time. No sense of humor at all.
    Jack in KC

  12. Jerry says:

    The Extraordinary Form of the liturgy is also offered at 11:30 each Sunday at Christ the King parish in KCMO (Waldo). Please keep this parish in your prayers, as the pastor has been dealing with a significant amount of opposition from parishioners who bristled at the mere mention of the traditional Mass (never mind that there are still 4 OF Masses each weekend…), having theology preached during Mass, and the changes to the OF liturgy and music to bring them in line with Sacrosanctum Concilium. As a result, the parish is suffering financially and may have to close their school as a result.

    All of this is especially ironic as this was the parish that stood up to Bp. Sullivan and the post-Vatican II liturgical lunacy and where armed police officers were used to prevent parishioners from blocking the wreckovation of the sanctuary in 1981, an incident related by Michael Davies in The Barbarians Have Taken Over. [Warning: this is rather disturbing reading.]

  13. sbvarenne says:

    It was a real joy to read about the work of this Kansas community to provide themselves with such a beautiful church. It is ironic, however, that the parish is called St. Rose Philippine Duchesne. She was an ardent missionary for the Society of the Sacred Heart, founded by St. Madeleine Sophie Barat back in 1800 in France. Philippine was called “the woman who prays always” by the Indians who saw her spend long hours in front of the altar. Today the Society is nearly defunct having given up many of its schools along with the original constitutions that passed on Mother Barat’s charism to succeeding generations. This has happened to so many religious orders who decided to “modernize.” I think it is a mark of providence that this congregation carries the name of “the woman who prays always.” A great model to have.

  14. The Masked Chicken says:

    “You know you’re on a conservative blog when there’s so much humor. Just spend a little time on the comboxes of lib blogs and you’ll know what I mean. Amazing how unhappy and angry they seem all the time. No sense of humor at all.”

    Humor depends on having rules.

    The Chicken

    P. S. That might have been an uncharitable thing to say, but it is an interesting point to ponder.

  15. JonPatrick says:

    Re humor – I know what you mean. Today got stuck behind a car on the way to work with a bumper sticker that read “apes evolved from creationists”. I guess that’s as close to humor as Liberals get.

    As for the earlier post by Athelstan, I agree about financial support being critical. Having experienced the rise and fall of a diocesan EF Mass which failed as a result of not being able to gain enough financial support to even regularly pay a modest stipend for the priest who drove over an hour each way to celebrate the Mass. I realize that many traditional families have modest means especially if they have large families and are sending kids to Catholic or private schools or mothers are staying home home-schooling.

  16. Athelstan says:

    Hello Jerry,

    The Extraordinary Form of the liturgy is also offered at 11:30 each Sunday at Christ the King parish in KCMO (Waldo). Please keep this parish in your prayers, as the pastor has been dealing with a significant amount of opposition from parishioners who bristled at the mere mention of the traditional Mass…

    I had not heard about this – this is a remarkable development. And a deeply, deeply ironic one, given the tragic past, post-conciliar history of this parish (as you note). In this respect, it’s a deeply satisfying one. The surviving revolutionaries of 1981 must be particularly chuffed to see all this unfold.

    It’s particularly impressive that Fr. Lockwood seems to have made the TLM the “prime slot” at 11:30am. This is a courageous man indeed. Had he even scheduled a regular low mass at 7:30am on Sunday, THAT would have been impressive enough.

    Fr. Z has long made the point that while the traditional societies have an important role, we will only see true rejuvenation when tradition comes back into a significant number of diocesan parishes. And he’s right: I’m very happy to see the FSSP and ICR in Kansas City, but I also worried that they would continue to be isolated ghettos in a sea of the usual liturgical and catechetical banality of Kansas City. It seems that’s finally changing, and I am gratified. It helps having a bishop who has your back – and a growing cohort of clergy open to tradition.

    I will keep him in my prayers.

  17. chantgirl says:

    Jerry- So that explains the “drive-thru” tabernacle! Whenever I am in KC, I try to assist at Mass at Christ the King parish (and the Institute downtown). The pastor at Christ the king has moved the organ from behind the altar back up to the choir loft, hired a good, young organist who can chant, introduced the school children to some latin in the NO Mass, and has plans to move the Tabernacle back to its’ proper place if he can secure the donations. I was curios as to why he would introduce the EF Mass before attempting smaller reforms like getting rid of female altar servers and cutting down on EMHCs in the NO, but he seems to think that by starting with the shock-and-awe of the EF Mass, that the smaller pieces will eventually fall into place. The associate priest, Fr. Murphy, is a brand new priest and loves to say the EF Mass. I pray that hearts will be softened and the parish can heal.

  18. Angie Mcs says:

    How wonderful that the community got together and made this work, renovating this church as well as offering the TLM. It is so satisfying when an old church can be found and redone, giving its parishioners a special feeling of connection. No matter that some statues and other items have been recycled. These are often the most beautiful. Old things were well made and can come to life after being treated with loving care, as is obvious in these photographs. I hope the new faces, “curious” about the mass, as Jack 007 points out, grow to love it.

    AngelGuarded, like you, I loved seeing so many beautiful chapel veils in these photographs.

  19. Jerry says:

    chantgirl – if not for those who respond to the EF as if it were a highly contagious disease, introducing the EF first actually makes sense: initially the changes are isolated to the one Mass; over time people have a chance to see the beauty and spiritual benefits of the old practices and it will be easier to introduce them into the NO Masses.

    As I was typing the above it occurred to me that perhaps those who balk at even the idea of having an EF Mass in the parish realize that others WILL latch on to tradition once exposed.

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