Jewel of a church in Weston celebrates 100 years

Replicating a photo taken exactly 100 years earlier to the day with then-St. Joseph Bishop Maurice Burke, the people of Holy Trinity Parish in Weston pose on Oct. 27 with Kansas City-St. Joseph Bishop Robert W. Finn along the south wall of their hand-cut limestone church on the 100th anniversary of its dedication. (Kevin Kelly/Key photo)

By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor

WESTON — Certainly the communion of saints produced by a small-town Catholic parish with a 170-year history was beaming with pride.

But one in particular could say, “I built that,” as Holy Trinity Parish celebrated the 100th anniversary of the dedication of its church unlike no other, and one that adds depth to the words, “Work of human hands.”

Howard C. Breen, himself well into his senior years, could think only of his grandfather, Charles Patrick Breen, as Bishop Robert W. Finn joined pastor Father Charles Rowe and former pastor Father John McCormack in a Mass of celebration on Oct. 27, exactly 100 years to the day when St. Joseph Bishop Maurice Burke dedicated the hand-carved limestone Gothic church that today, through the loving maintenance of a century of generations that followed, is as remarkable and new as the day it was finished.

“He built it,” said Howard Breen. Not by himself, of course. His grandfather no doubt had the help of students from Park College, where he served as superintendent of buildings and student labor at the turn of the last century.

No doubt he had help from the Catholics of Weston, who gave the sweat of their brows — the descendants of those who a few generations earlier, actually dug the clay and fired the bricks for the first Catholic church in Weston.

C.P. Breen, as he was known, also no doubt enlisted the aid of professional stone masons, whom he worked with on many of the buildings still standing today at Park University.

But this will always be the church that C.P. Breen built, said his grandson.

“My grandfather built this church,” Howard Breen said.

“He was born and raised in Weston. He was baptized in this parish and he and my grandmother were married in this parish in 1887,” he said. “Then he moved to Parkville as superintendent of student labor at (then) Park College. He built most of the original buildings at Park College.”

In fact, the stone used at Holy Trinity came from the same Parkville quarry that provided the stone for the college’s buildings.

“He shipped the rock up here from Parkville on railroad flat cars, then unloaded it here,” Howard Breen said. “It was easier than opening up a quarry here and digging it out.”

Pointing to the perfectly fitted and mortared stone, Howard Breen told how each had to be cut to fit by hand.

The cornerstone for the church, which seats about 150, was set in May. The church was ready for dedication the following October.

Of all the limestone buildings that his grandfather supervised, Holy Trinity Church had a special place in his heart.

“This was his pride and joy,” Howard Breen said. “He’d come to Weston quite a bit and he would always look the place over. He was proud of it.”

So is the parish, from that day to this, as they filled the church for the celebratory Mass. And so should they be, their bishop told them on their special day.

Few Catholic churches of the late 19th and early 20th centuries were built in the Gothic style, with pointed arched windows and buttressed walls. Romanesque, with rounded windows and doorways was the dominant architectural style.

And even fewer Catholic churches of a century in age have gone to the effort to preserve its links and its appointments to the past, including a set of a dozen stained glass windows containing subtle symbols of Mary and Jesus, and designed to bathe the interior in golden light.

The carved wooden high altar pre-dates the limestone church by 20 years. The matching wooden side altars, dedicated to Mary and Joseph, were dedicated in 1908.

But the most strikingly unique feature of the church sits in a niche atop the high altar, looking at the congregation below — the Holy Trinity.

The uncommon work of art depicts God the Father in his universal glory, God the Son as triumphant on the cross, and God the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove.

Bishop Finn called the depiction, “most inspiring.”

“Jesus crucified is offering himself to the Father,” Bishop Finn told the congregation in his homily.

“The Father takes him with love. With majestic peace, God embraces the sacrifice of Calvary under the shadow and power of the Holy Spirit,” the bishop said.

“God the Holy Spirit is the gift of the Father and the Son,” he said. “The love between the Father and the Son is so real, it is another person.”

In a special way, the people of Holy Trinity Parish can contemplate the mystery of the Triune God that the universal church also contemplates, Bishop Finn said.

“On occasions like these, I can never help but begin to think what has happened over the course of 100 years in this holy church,” he said.

“How many people have knelt here and had their hearts renewed when they were in sadness or fear,” Bishop Finn said.

“Your babies have been baptized in this font. They have come down this aisle to receive First Communion and Confirmation,” he said.

“Here, you saw your sons and daughters married,” the bishop said. “In the confessional, Jesus forgave your sins through the ministry of the priest. Here, you brought your beloved dead to be commended to the Lord of Mercy.”

And that is where the true beauty of a church exists, Bishop Finn said.

“Set apart for one purpose, it is so much more than a room, a space, a building,” he said.

“Especially in the Most Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle, also in other sacraments, in the Word of God, in you the Body of Christ gathered here — God is here. He is surely with us.”

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Monday
August 21, 2017
Newspaper of the Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph