Pastor and coach are the first inductees into the Immaculata Hall of Fame
by Joe Bollig
LEAVENWORTH — Immaculata High School pride was running high during a Mass and Hall of Fame banquet held at the University of Saint Mary here on Jan. 26.
Both were part of a celebration marking 150 years of Catholic education in Leavenworth County.
Those honored at the banquet were Joe Brown, who taught and led Immaculata’s Raiders to an undefeated season and state basketball championship in 1962, and Father David McEvoy, O.Carm, a 1970 Immaculata graduate and current pastor of Immaculate Conception and St. Joseph parishes in Leavenworth.
Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann was the main celebrant and homilist at the Mass, held in Annunciation Chapel at the university. Father David concelebrated and his brother, Deacon Tim McEvoy, also assigned to Immaculate Conception and St. Joseph Parish, assisted at the altar.
“One of the criteria to evaluate if our Catholic schools are being effective in their primary mission of making disciples of Jesus is the number of vocations to the priesthood and religious life that come from them,” said the archbishop. “So, it’s wonderful that one of our night’s honorees is not only a priest, but one who is serving so effectively in our community.”
During the banquet in the St. Joseph Dining Hall, alumnus Bob McGlinn — who was taught by Brown and was a senior on the 1962 team — recalled how Brown came to the school in 1957 as a 23-year-old recent Emporia State College graduate and brought with him a winning mindset.
“There was a saying he instilled in us,” said McGlinn, “that we’ve carried through all our adult lives: ‘No one rises to low expectations.’
“The coach had high expectations of his players as individuals and [of] each of his teams.”
Although he coached at Immaculata for only six years, in that short time Brown established Immaculata as an athletic power. McGlinn noted that in addition to the 26-0 state championship, Brown was an assistant coach on the 1958 undefeated football team. During the course of his coaching career at Immaculata, he had a 77 percent winning percentage.
Brown, who was a school counselor at North Kansas City High School until his retirement in 1993, was praised for his character as well as his winning record. Mike Connelly, a 1966 Immaculata graduate, remembered Brown as being a model for him and other young students.
“I was in the eighth grade when Immaculata won the ’62 state championship game,” said Connelly. “I couldn’t be there. But when I saw Coach Brown at church [the next Sunday], I watched every move he made. . . . He set a wonderful example for us of what a Catholic student and young man should be.”
In his remarks, Brown recalled how he came to Immaculata as a 22-year-old rookie teacher.
“Sister had me selling books in the hall a day or two before school started,” said Brown. “A mother came up to me and said, ‘Oh, you’re nice and tall. Are you going to play basketball?’ After I told her I was the coach, I don’t know who got redder — she or I.”
Brown, a member of St. Charles Parish in Kansas City, Mo., remembered that he, with another coach, were the only lay people — and men — on the faculty. And he noted the positive influence of athletics.
“I’ve always felt that sports can influence a school, and hopefully what we tried to do was a good influence,” said Brown. “Judging from what [McGlinn] said, we were partially successful.”
After Brown had been honored, it was Father David’s turn to be inducted into the Immaculata Hall of Fame.
“What he has done for our school cannot be measured,” said Connelly. “He’s a huge supporter of everything we do at Immaculata High School. It’s wonderful. . . . Father David represents Immaculata every single day. Going to his Masses feels like going home, he makes me feel so comfortable. We are so blessed to have Father David in our community.”
In his remarks, Father David’s older brother Tom McEvoy shared how both the larger McEvoy family and growing up in Leavenworth shaped Father David and his ministry.
“He understands the history of the people of Leavenworth and our traditions and our customs,” said Tom McEvoy. “And he’s put that to work. He’s helped unify our parishes of Immaculate Conception and St. Joseph to the point that this last July we became one parish — and very comfortable and happy being one parish.”
Next, a congratulatory message to Father David from the Midwestern provincial of the Carmelites, Father David Simpson, was read by Keith Schwinn, president of the Leavenworth Catholic school board.
In accepting the honor of his induction, Father David was quick to credit the great tradition of Catholic education that they were celebrating that night.
“I think I really need to say that I am the recipient,” he said, “not so much of this wonderful honor of being in the Hall of Fame, but I’m really the recipient of a tradition that we all share in — of our families and our faith, and how that is intertwined in our parishes and our Catholic schools.
“I look out sometimes from my parish office window and realize that it was 50 years ago this year I started kindergarten, and I’m right back where I started,” he said. “Certainly my religious foundation started with the Sisters of Charity at St. Joseph Grade School.”
The faith he was taught challenged him to “make a difference in the world.”
The Leavenworth Catholic schools marked the celebration of the 150th with an all-school Mass celebrated by Archbishop Naumann on Jan. 29. The anniversary will be continue to be observed at upcoming school events for the remainder of the school year.
The public is invited to continue the 150th anniversary celebration at the annual Greenway Auction on April 5 at the McGilley Field House at the University of Saint Mary. For more information, contact Immaculata’s development office at (913) 682-7801.