Msgr. Kaiser celebrates a milestone birthday

Msgr. Ralph Kaiser

By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Associate Editor

BUCKNER — Msgr. Ralph L. Kaiser, pastor of The Church of the Santa Fe, celebrated his 90th birthday July 1st and 2nd. A coffee and donuts gathering after Mass July 1 and a breakfast at Bob Evans restaurant in Blue Springs the following morning gave parishioners a chance to greet their pastor, wish him Happy Birthday and enjoy celebrating with him.

Ralph Leroy Kaiser was born in Hohokus, N.J. in 1928 and raised by his mother and grandparents after his father died. He was enrolled at St. Luke’s grade and high school taught by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace/Newark, who encouraged vocations in their students, Msgr. Kaiser later said.

As he grew, he dreamed of serving in the U.S. Navy, or, after getting a job with the Erie Railroad in high school, working for a railroad company. He also fell in love with music, learning to play the piano and trumpet as part of his education.

While attending college at Seton Hall, he became friends with a priest there who also was a friend of Bishop Edwin V. O’Hara of the Diocese of Kansas City. The priest spoke often of O’Hara and of Kansas City. Ralph began thinking more and more about the priesthood and about Kansas City, and the more he thought, the more it appealed to him.

After graduation, he enrolled at Christ the King Seminary, then on the campus of St. Bonaventure University in Olean, N.Y. Four years later, and still nurturing the dream of the U.S. Navy, he was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Kansas City on May 29, 1954, at the Cathedral in Patterson, N.J.

His first assignment was at Assumption Parish, now St. Anthony’s, in the Old Northeast part of town. Although warned by several people about Kansas City as “a wild, wide-open town,” he said later he never regretted it.

In 1957, Fr. Kaiser was assigned to Christ the King, on the city’s southwest side. Three years later he was assigned to Holy Trinity Parish in Kansas City, now consolidated into Our Lady of Peace.

While at Holy Trinity his long-held dream of Navy service came true. He was to serve as a Navy chaplain for 14 years, both on board ship and in ports. In July 1977, he was released from active duty as a naval chaplain and returned to Kansas City. After a decade of active reserve status, he was officially retired from the Navy.

After a short stint at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in 1978, Fr. Kaiser was assigned by Bishop John V. Sullivan to serve as pastor of Church of the Santa Fe in Buckner, which was founded by Msgr. Martin Froeschl, pastor of St. Mary’s-Independence in 1965. Msgr. Froeschl suggested the name due to the proximity of the small house purchased to serve as the church to the beginnings of the Santa Fe Trail. Church of the Santa Fe was then a mission of St. Mary’s. Fr. Kaiser was only the second pastor and first resident pastor of the parish.

He has served as pastor of Church of the Santa Fe for 40 years, through Bishops Sullivan, Boland, Finn and continues to serve as pastor under Bishop James V. Johnston, Jr. He is the second longest-serving active priest in the diocese.

Over the years he literally became a one-man band at running the parish: cutting the grass, caring for the rose bushes and other flowers, working up the annual fiscal report, answering the phones, celebrating Masses, baptisms, First Communions, weddings and funerals. For years, he was directly involved in the parish religious education of the youth. He also directed a group of young musicians and accompanied them to various state music fairs.

In 2006, Pope Benedict XVI elevated Fr. Kaiser to the rank of Monsignor, Chaplain to this Holiness, one of 11 Kansas City-St. Joseph diocesan priests elevated to Monsignor at that time.

He still cuts the grass, using either a push mower or a riding mower, said parishioner Mark Robertson. “He’s amazing!” Many of his parishioners agree with that.

Msgr. Kaiser still tends the roses, answers the phones, celebrates Mass and sees to the upkeep of the church and parish hall.
He also still likes to travel. Robertson said Msgr. Kaiser, who has served as a priest for 64 years, plans a trip to Europe this summer with Father Ken Criqui, pastor of St. Mary’s Parish, Carrollton.

Happy birthday Msgr. Kaiser, and many more!


  1. July 16, 2018 at 8:05 am #

    And he usually goes on the March for Life bus trip with the diocese each year. Yes, he did get stranded in the snowstorm a few years back. No big deal he said. I believe he was able to say Mass in a truck stop eventually.

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November 25, 2020
The Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph