Old St. Patrick’s Oratory celebrates anniversary

Old St. Patrick Oratory was packed for the 10th anniversary celebratory High Mass, held October 27. (Megan Marley/Key photo)

By Megan Marley

Old St. Patrick’s has seen many anniversaries come and go. But the ten-year anniversary of its rededication celebrated October 27 was something else!

A special High Mass in the Extraordinary Form was celebrated by Canon Matthew Talarico, provincial superior of the Institute of Christ the King, Sovereign Priest. Oratory rector Canon Francis Altiere served as deacon, and several priests from within and outside the diocese were in attendance, as were a variety of religious sisters, including Labor Mariae and the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles. Bishop James V. Johnston attended in choir garb and gave the sermon.

“It is a joy to be with you today, to celebrate this dedication feast of thanksgiving for the 10th anniversary of the consecration of this beautiful house, dedicated to the honor and glory of God—Old St. Patrick Oratory,” Bishop Johnston said in his homily. “As I think all of you know, this church building is the oldest Catholic church building in Kansas City, dating from 1875 and has seen many days.”

“But it began a new chapter 10 years ago, with the arrival of the Institute of Christ the King, Sovereign Priest. With their leadership, and the loving devotion and hard work of many of you, this venerable church was renewed in beauty and life as a place of divine worship and the celebration of the sacraments.”

He explained that he found the readings for the day quite apt for the anniversary celebration of this ‘House of God’.
“We might think of our readings in terms of presenting us two cities, and two houses. The first city we’re presented with is Jericho.”

“In the bible, the early Church Fathers tell us, Jericho represents the pagan world, and the first house that scriptures present us today is that of Zacchaeus. Our Lord insists on abiding at the house of Zacchaeus, and after time there with him and the others who were there, Our Lord declares this day has salvation has come to this house.”

“This episode is a small capsule depicting the way to evangelize and carry out the divine appointed mission of the church to teach all nations, and to bring them into the household of God through Baptism and the sacraments.”

“Notice that Our Lord did not begin His encounter with Zacchaeus first with a discussion of his many sins. Instead He befriended Zacchaeus and loved him first, and it was from this encounter with the saving love of Our Lord that Zacchaeus was moved to repentance and conversion.”

“This is the scriptural pattern we see, here and many other places throughout the Gospel—it’s the pattern given to us by Our Lord Himself to follow,” he continued, “We begin by spending time with others, giving them our time, our selves, our attention. We model and proclaim the saving love of Our Lord to them in our own flesh and blood.”

“Before we leave this first house that the Gospel puts before us today, let us consider whether each of our house, the places we live, our homes is like his.”

“Is it a place where our families find the Lord, speak with Him and of Him, experience His mercy and unconditional love in our relationships with one another? Are our houses a place where conversion is taking place, ongoing conversion? Are our houses places where people are welcomed, including sinners and those on the margins? Are our houses places where we find forgiveness, and not only forgiveness but reparation?”

The second city presented in the readings from Apocalypse was the New Jerusalem, ‘adorned as a bride for her husband’.

“In the scriptures and in the church Fathers, Jerusalem is the City of God, the City of David, and represents the home of God’s chosen people. The New Jerusalem is also an image of the Church, the dwelling place of God. The church is the bride adorned for her husband, the Lord. The reading also mentions that God’s voice is heard saying, behold the tabernacle of God with men, and He will dwell with them. We also saw reference to this in the introit: ‘terrible is this place; it is the House of God, the Gate of Heaven’.

“Catholic church buildings are intended to be symbolic of this house, this mystical reality that the scriptures refer to. Our buildings are places where heaven and earth meet, where God dwells with us, especially in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and in the Real Presence of Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist. Our churches should evoke this reality that our churches are participating in the worship of the New Jerusalem, which brings us to our celebration of this anniversary feast today.

“May all of you experience the presence of the risen Lord in both the houses you dwell in this side of Heaven, in your own homes—the so-called domestic church—as well as here where we come together as the household of God, where you celebrate the sacred mysteries of the household of God, the Catholic Church.”

“May God bless you with many years ahead—praised be Jesus Christ!”

A solemn Te Deum followed Mass, along with exposition and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. Afterwards came a fancy, heavy hors d’oeuvres luncheon held outside; photos of St. Patrick’s over the years and renovations were out to peruse, and Bishop Johnston was presented with an elaborately embroidered burse with corporal as a token of thanks from the Oratory community.

Back in 1868, St. Patrick’s was the third Catholic parish established in a rapidly-growing Kansas City—the first parish established in 1845 by Fr. Bernard Donnelly (which became the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception), and the second being Sts. Peter and Paul parish (later becoming Our Lady of Sorrows parish), where the St. Patrick’s community met.

Ground for the current church building broke May 1875 and followed the blueprints of Kansas City architect Asa Beebe Cross. Due to an economic slump at the time, most parishioners contributed their trade and construction talents, using wood, salvaged stone from an old building site and bricks from Fr. Donnelly’s brickyard. The total cost of the church approximated $45,000.

The first Mass celebrated in the new building was on Christmas 1875, and the church was solemnly consecrated March 14, 1876. Details such as a furnace, woodwork and plaster on the inside of the building were not finished until 1881. Around this time, the parish had 400 families with about 2,000 individuals, and continued to grow throughout the 1880s. But so did Kansas City’s downtown area, which pushed the parish’s residential base of parishioners further and further away over the next several decades.

By 1959, ‘Old St. Patrick’s’ had so declined in numbers it was canonically suppressed as a parish, but remained a public oratory. The parking lot was sold to the Redevelopment Authority of Kansas City, which had considered purchasing the entire property for redevelopment. In hopes a city-sponsored urban renewal project would bring parishioners back to the area, the church was repaired and repainted, and the old rectory and shuttered school torn down. In September 1962 a fire did serious damage to the oratory, undoing those repair efforts. The church was again cleaned up, redecorated in a modernistic style and blessed in 1976, on the 100-year anniversary of its original consecration.

For 30 years, the oratory was maintained by a small, dedicated Catholic community with what limited resources they had. Over the same period of time, other Catholics continuously petitioned the local bishop for a permanent home for the Latin Mass community in Kansas City.

In 2005, Bishop Robert Finn announced St. Patrick’s as an Oratory for the Latin Mass community, under the care of priests from the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest. The community had previously been based out of nearby Our Lady of Sorrows parish, just as the original St. Patrick’s parish community had been back in 1868. Similarly, the Latin Mass community contributed much physical labor and talent in cleaning, repairing and rebuilding the church, significantly decreasing costs for the $1.6 million project.

October 25, 2008 saw the Solemn Consecration of Old Saint Patrick Oratory by Bishop Finn, and Canon William Avis was the first rector from the Institute.

On Sunday, June 25, 2017 a new permanent shrine to Blessed Karl of Austria, the last Emperor of Austria was dedicated. Canon Glenn Gardner, then-rector of Old St. Patrick Oratory led a procession throughout church, prayer for Bl. Karl’s canonization and offered veneration of the relic.

Today, average attendance between the Sunday 8 am and 10:15 am Masses is 250-300. Mass is held daily, with confessions heard every day 30 minutes before Mass. There is a weekly children’s catechism class, Adult Theology class every other Thursday, a variety of devotions and retreats held throughout the year, a chapter of the Confraternity of Christian Mothers and a Young Adults Group ‘Sursum Corda’.

For more on Mass times and happenings at the Oratory, visit institute-christ-king.org/kansascity-home.


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October 26, 2020
The Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph