by Joe Bollig
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Parishioners of St. Peter Cathedral Parish here have enjoyed their yearlong 100th anniversary celebration so much that they’re extending the party — to 2057.
True, the calendar has run out of scheduled centennial events, but one last act remains to be done: the opening of a time capsule, planted in the centennial garden, during the parish’s 150th anniversary.
Through this capsule, loaded with artifacts, present-day parishioners hope to pass on a legacy — and a sort of personal touch — to scores of parishioners yet unborn.
The closing Mass for the centennial year was celebrated on Oct. 7, with Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann as main celebrant and homilist. Concelebrants included Archbishop Emeritus James P. Keleher, cathedral rector Msgr. Robert Bergman, Msgr. Michael Mullen, Msgr. Thomas Tank, and Father Michael Hawken.
During the Mass, a chalice was presented in memory of parishioner Dan Gerkovich, who died of cancer last year.
Following the Mass, there was a procession to the site of the centennial garden, located on the northeast side of the cathedral rectory. There, parishioners buried the stainless steel time capsule.
The capsule — into which a preserving gas has been injected — contains an unedited draft of the parish history, old St. Peter School uniforms, a newspaper, advertisements, a parish roster, St. Peter medals, a statue of St. Joseph, an Irish rosary from Archbishop Keleher, a crucifix from Msgr. Bergman, DVDs of religious movies, and a letter from Michael Rebout, chairman of the centennial committee, to the future 150th anniversary committee.
A statue of St. Joseph, the central fixture of the centennial garden, was also blessed.
“The centennial committee wanted to give something to the parishioners of St. Peter’s to mark 100 years of faith,” said Rebout. “When we walked around the grounds and looked at all the gardens, we saw the Blessed Mother — Our Lady of Grace and Our Lady of Fatima — and we felt that St. Joseph was missing. We felt [adding a St. Joseph statue] was a completion of the Holy Family.”
Following the garden blessing, a dinner was held in the parish center. A “tulip” quilt was raffled, and a history quilt displayed. The history quilt, with the names of pastors and former bishops and archbishops, will be on permanent display in the chapel.
A commemorative DVD with historic parish photographs was played during the dinner. The copies will be available for $15 by early November.
Like every parish in the archdiocese, St. Peter Parish had humble beginnings. Not only was development in Kansas City, Kan., moving west, but people who had been displaced by the Armourdale flood of 1903 joined the parish when they went north in search of higher ground.
The parish was officially created on Oct. 7, 1907. Bishop Thomas Lillis, bishop of Leavenworth, appointed Father Bernard S. Kelly as its first pastor. The first Mass was celebrated in the bishop’s home on Sandusky Street on Dec. 8, the feast of the Immaculate Conception.
For almost a year after Father Kelly’s appointment, the parish rented a public hall in the still-standing Boyn’s Hall, at 18th St. and Central Ave. Finally, the parish had a permanent home in a “multipurpose” church and school building (located just south of the present cathedral), which was completed in time for the first Mass on Aug. 15, 1908.
The parish soon outgrew the structure, and the pastor wanted to build a larger, grander church. Bishop John Ward approved, saying, “Get out of this attic, and build a tabernacle to God worthy of this parish.”
The soaring, gray, stone Gothic church succeeded the humble brick building. The first Mass was celebrated in the new church on Aug. 1, 1927.
It was fitting that such a grand church was built, and later redecorated during the 1940s, because the see was transferred from Leavenworth to Kansas City, Kan., in 1947.
“No one dreamed at the time the church was being restored to its pristine beauty that the stage was being set for a rare honor that soon would be conferred upon the parish,” according to the 1957 golden jubilee history of the parish.