By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Reporter
KANSAS CITY — St. Teresa’s Academy, under the sponsorship of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, opened Aug. 4, 1866, at 11th and Washington streets. Daughters of some of Kansas City’s earliest leaders enrolled and over the next half century, the academy on Quality Hill became a source of pride to many Kansas Citians. By 1908 however, the surrounding neighborhood had begun to decline. The booming cattle trade was turning the neighborhood into a brawling congestion of saloons, brothels and shops. Wealthy residents moved out and their big family homes became boarding houses. Mother Evelyn O’Neill, a former music teacher who had recently been appointed the superior at St. Teresa’s, decided to move the academy elsewhere.
In early 1909, Mother O’Neill purchased 20 acres at 5600 Main Street in the then-sparsely settled Country Club district, a swampy moor-like tract she named Windmoor for the constant wind. The first classroom building on the new campus, Music and Arts, was dedicated and opened for classes on Sept. 10, 1910.
Now, a little more than a century later, Windmoor Center, a state-of-the-art, multipurpose classroom building and intimate chapel will open for classes Feb. 14. The Mass of Dedication of St. Joseph’s Chapel, in memory of St. Teresa’s Academy and Avila University alumna and benefactor Jeanne Collins Thompson, was celebrated Feb. 2. As guests entered the chapel that evening, the last rays of the sunset lanced through the metal lace that wraps the building’s exterior, creating gleaming shapes on the windows which were reflected on the floor and on the bare altar. The lace, produced by the Zahner Company, a Kansas City firm known for its metal work, pays tribute to the Sisters of St. Joseph, who taught lace making to girls and women in the early 17th century France, to give them a skill and a means of escaping poverty. The Italianate statue of St. Joseph standing midway between the two entrances to the chapel is the statue Laura Coates, the first student to enroll at St. Teresa’s in 1866, persuaded her father, Kersey Coates to purchase for the sisters. It was brought to the Windmoor campus in 1910 when the sisters moved into their new quarters on the third floor of the Music and Arts building.
The chatting, jostling crowd of about 150 quieted as Father Pat Rush, pastor of Visitation Parish, walked up the center aisle, followed by Father Robert Stewart, pastor of St. Margaret of Scotland Parish, Jesuit Fathers Terrence Baum, president of Rockhurst High School, Luke Byrne, athletics chaplain at Rockhurst University and Ian Gibbons, Theology instructor at Rockhurst High School. Six St. Teresa’s Academy students in white albs, carried the cross standard, candles, the lectionary and a book of ceremonial prayers. Two students wearing embroidered vimpas over their albs followed the cross bearer and servers. They would hold the miter and crosier when the bishop was not using them. Kansas City-St. Joseph Bishop Robert W. Finn entered the chapel followed by Deacons Ralph Wehner, director of the diocesan Office of Worship, and Kevin Cummings (St. Thomas More Parish).
The Mass of Dedication of the Chapel was concelebrated by the bishop and the priests. In his homily, Bishop Finn spoke of how happy he was to consecrate the chapel.
“Together, friends, we too rejoice as we call down God’s blessing not only in consecration of this chapel,” he said, “but on the new start it represents, in some way, for the high school community. I urge you to use the occasion of this dedication to renew your own dedication to Jesus Christ; to the one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church, on this memorable day, February 2, 2012.
“In the Church’s liturgical calendar, today is the feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple by Mary and Joseph. It is a day of light and life; when we traditionally bless candles to be used at Mass and in our homes. The light that streams through this chapel in the school day can be a reminder of Jesus the Light of the World, Light of our life. He has called us – you and me – also to be light for one another. We must lift each other from darkness, at times, to hope and peace in Jesus Christ. The Light of truth is clearly the currency of Catholic education. For us, academic knowledge is always joined to divine faith. Faith and Reason is the path for us as daughters and sons of God our Father, and we must travel a path of love in this world in order to finally reach our lasting home in heaven.”
He then outlined the rites of consecration, and the importance of each ceremony.
“The focus of these sacred rites is to consecrate the work of your hands: this glass and steel and wood, which you have worked so hard and have made so many sacrifices to see established on this holy ground. Here we today invite Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God, confident that He hears and accepts our invitation to dwell among us in His Real Presence in the Most Blessed Sacrament, in His Word, in the Body of Christ, the Church.”
Following the homily, the bishop was presented with a marble square, containing the relics of a saint. He deposited the reliquary in its slot beneath the altar’s top, and said,
“At the center of the rite of consecration will be Jesus Christ, the high priest and lamb of sacrifice among us, represented most powerfully and beautifully in the altar. We will anoint the altar with perfumed Chrism which takes its name from Christ, the anointed One.”
Following the homily, the bishop removed his chasuble, covered his under vestments with an apron and slid on protective sleeves. Deacon Wehner handed him a pitcher of the perfumed oil, and he walked to the four corners and centers of the altar, pouring the Chrism in the shape of the cross each time. Then, with his right hand, Bishop Finn began rubbing the oil into the altar top, spreading the oil until it covered the entire surface.
“The altar will then be clothed, dressed in linen and flowers and candles befitting the dignity of the place where mankind meets God.
“We will anoint the walls. This is a holy place, marked out and set aside for celebrating the most extraordinary of realities. The holiness of the church building and its sacred furnishings will be verified through the rituals.”
Accompanied by a server, a member of the St. Teresa’s Board of Directors and Deacon Wehner, he approached the chapel walls, anointing the places where candle holders would be attached.
Assisted by Deacons Wehner and Cummings, the bishop lit a large incense burner on the altar, and allowed the smoke to billow into the chapel, enveloping those present in the perfumed smoke.
Board member Sean Miller and his wife Karen, who are members of the Inspiring Women Capital Campaign which raised the money to build Windmoor Center and to enhance technology on the campus with campus-wide wireless service and laptop computers for each student, wiped the altar dry. Then two-by-two, faculty members, President Nan Bone, several students, board and capital campaign cabinet members brought up the linens, candles, crucifix and flowers to dress the altar.
“The title of the Chapel is St. Joseph, Bishop Finn continued. “Joseph was that faithful husband of Mary: pure and just; manly and deeply holy. God knew and Mary knew that He would be a fit custodian for the Holy Family and a watchful guide for Jesus, the Savior of the world. In this holy place perhaps some of our students will hear a call to consecrated life – so that the heritage of the Religious women that has helped to shape the legacy of the Academy will be continued through a new generation.”
Sister Rosemary Flanagan, Sister Joan Tolle, and longtime auction leaders, Terry Egelhoff and Joan Jordan brought up the gifts.
Following the Mass, a reception was held in the hallway separating the chapel from the classrooms. Along one wall, glass cases display numerous artifacts of St. Teresa of Avila, patroness of the school, the Sisters of St. Joseph, Father Bernard Donnelly, the first resident pastor of Kansas City who had invited the Sisters of St. Joseph to come here and found a school, and the Academy, including the key to Father Roux’s church, the first church in Kansas City, photographs, Father Donnelly’s chalice and paten, prayer books, textbooks and uniform skirts and blazers. The bell from Father Roux’s church (Chouteau’s Church), which Father Donnelly gave to the Sisters, was for years enshrined under the stairwell on the first floor of the Music and Arts Building. It now has pride of place near the display cases.
St. Teresa’s hosted an open house and ribbon cutting to celebrate the opening of Windmoor Center on Jan. 18. The building is the first to be constructed on the campus since the Goppert Center multipurpose gymnasium in 1981. Donnelly Hall, named in honor of Father Donnelly, was completed in the 1940s to house the College of St. Teresa, now Avila University.
In January 1974, St. Teresa’s Academy had been chosen by the Secondary School Committee of the Sisters of St. Joseph as a “futures school.” Resources and talents of the community would be directed toward educational innovations. Windmoor Center, designed by school parent Tony Rohr, lead architect for Gould Evans, and built by J.E. Dunn Construction Company, is comprised of four high-technology classrooms, open seating areas for relaxation and quiet study, and the chapel. The whole campus is wi-fi enabled. The classrooms have movable walls and incorporate the newest innovative technologies for global learning and instruction, including interactive virtual communities and field trips, video-conferencing and a wide variety of multimedia tools.
Science teacher Mary Montag has taught at St. Teresa’s since 1999. “The chapel cross completes the quad,” she said. “The lace on the outside of the building reflects our ties to the past of the Sisters of St. Joseph, the curvature of this building reflects our femininity, after all we are women at St. Teresa’s, and the high tech equipment reflects our moving into the future.”
The potential for learning and exploring with the new technology is exciting, she said. “We have needed a connection to the science community, to be able to connect and communicate with, and share learning with science students and professors at the college and university level. With this technology now available to our students we can teach and learn through satellite classes, webinars and virtual lectures.”
On a more personal note, Montag said she loves “the fact that we now have a dedicated chapel for prayer and meditation.” The first chapel at St. Teresa’s was on the third floor of the Music and Arts building. In 1988, during a renovation of the Music and Arts building, the chapel was moved to the first floor. It was small, seating only about 30 students. The former chapel now will be a drama classroom and staging area for the theater.
St. Teresa’s president Nan Bone, who is also an alumna, said the Dedication Mass was a beautiful, once in a lifetime service and that from now on, Feb. 2, the Feast of the Presentation, would be an important feast day at the academy. She said the teachers are as excited as the students are about the new classrooms and their capabilities — “They are very antsy to get in there,” she said with a laugh.
She added that the leather chairs in the open study area are “fought over,” and the wi-fi network, which enables the students to use their laptops anywhere on campus, is “awesome.”
Students agree with Bone and with Montag. Junior Holly Fielder said, “I love the new Windmoor Center! It’s my favorite place on campus, and I try to go there for all my frees (non-class periods). It has a very peaceful, welcoming feel to it. I think the Chapel of St. Joseph is beautiful, and I can’t wait to have a class Mass there. I also love the display of St. Teresa’s Academy artifacts in the hall. It is so cool to be able to see different objects from STA’s history. I especially love the relics of St. Teresa.”
Senior Allison Fitts is “glad I am still at STA to use it before I graduate! I think the Windmoor Center is the finishing touch for STA’s quad. There is now a building dedicated to our spirituality and our future in academics.”
Lucia Maschler, also a senior, said, “I think the chapel is a beautiful addition to our campus. It will help our school community embrace our Catholic roots and enrich our spiritual lives.” She added, “While all change takes some getting used to, the Windmoor Center is an addition that will ultimately supplement our already thriving Academy.”
The past, present and future of St. Teresa’s Academy’s academics and spirituality are embodied in the Windmoor Center. Mother Evelyn O’Neill is most likely smiling as she looks down at what a short 100 years has wrought.