by Joe Bollig
EUDORA — Local Catholics waited half a century for their “temporary” situation to end. Fittingly, their wait ended during Advent.
On Dec. 6, Eudora Catholics celebrated the completion of the new Holy Family Church with a dedication Mass, followed by a dinner in the parish hall — which until the Sunday before was their church.
“I’m so excited,” said Andi Bock. “There aren’t really words.”
Bock grew up in Holy Family Parish. She attended the old three-room schoolhouse and the former school (now parish center) built in 1963. She worshiped in the 1864 stone church, the 1963 “temporary” church in the school basement and now the new church.
“The  church was supposed to be open for three years,” said Bock. “It was a long three years.”
Although parishioners followed the progress of the new church with growing excitement, the experience of walking through the completed church for that first Mass was an awesome experience for many.
“I think it’s lovely — beautiful beyond even what I imagined it would be,” said Betty Tennis, a longtime parishioner. “I think it’s just the beginning of a wonderful work of the Holy Spirit here in Eudora and at Holy Family.”
The contemporary Romanesque church, in a traditional cruciform layout, is located east of the school and adjoins the parish cemetery. The north-facing entrance is covered in rose-colored brick with limestone-like cast stone accents. The majority of the building is covered with medium-tan stucco.
“This is exactly what we prayed for,” said Bock. “We unanimously wanted a church that looked like a church, not some modern-day thing that would become outdated. We wanted something timeless, and we got it.”
Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann was the main celebrant and homilist of the dedication Mass. The concelebrants were pastor Father Patric Riley, former administrator Father Tom Hesse, former pastor Msgr. Raymond Burger, archdiocesan chancellor Father John Riley, and Father Al Rockers. Msgr. Gary Applegate was master of ceremonies.
Seminarian and parishioner Anthony Mersmann, who is studying for the priesthood for the archdiocese at Cardinal Glennon College in St. Louis, represented both the “old” and “new” of the parish. He is both a member of a family with deep roots in the parish and a current parishioner discerning a vocation. In the opening procession, he carried a relic of St. Rose Philippine Duchesne, which was placed in the altar by Archbishop Naumann during the Mass.
In his homily, Archbishop Naumann praised Holy Family parishioners for their many sacrifices and strong support in funding the project, and he congratulated Father Riley for his leadership.
“[A new church] has been a dream of this community for many years, and we congratulate you on making this dream a reality,” said the archbishop.
“And we thank in a very particular way Father Pat Riley for his great leadership,” the archbishop continued. “This only happens when you have a pastor who is willing to really dedicate himself to a project like this. Thank you, Father Pat, for being such a good shepherd for this community.”
Father Riley, in turn, praised the support of his parishioners. Although a small parish, members shouldered $1.2 million of the $3.6 million total cost of the project through pledges and fundraising.
“I feel very privileged to be pastor with so many great and generous people,” he said. “They have been greatly supportive of this whole process and are so excited to begin to worship in our new church.”
The new altar and credence table were built by parishioner Randy Eaton, who also restained the ambo to match. The top of the altar is made of limestone.
The stained-glass windows — 13 in all — are being made and donated by Jack and Loretta Kirchhofer, who got to know Father Riley when he was pastor of St. Matthew Parish in Topeka. So far, two of the windows are installed, and the remainder will be done in two years.
The church also boasts new murals and paintings by Jeannie Pflumm. Facing the altar, a mural of Jesus being baptized by St. John the Baptist is on the left, and a mural of Jesus rising from the tomb is located on the right.
The interior ceiling features large laminated wood beams and exposed wood ceiling, giving the appearance of an overturned ship. The cylindrical lights hang above the dark wood pews in clusters of three.
The narthex is separated from the sanctuary by a striking wood and glass partition.
Of particular note is an icon-like painting by Pflumm in the narthex depicting a number of saints significant to the history of the parish: Sts. Boniface, Benedict, Scholastica, John the Baptist, Joseph, Thérèse, Philomena, Francis of Assisi and Patrick.
Other parishioners contributed to the purchase of new Stations of the Cross, holy water fonts, votive light stands, pews, the tabernacle, sanctuary crucifix, baptismal font, presider and server chairs, and processional cross.
On the Monday before the dedication, Father Riley discovered that the tumblers on the tabernacle doors were jammed and it wouldn’t open. So, a representative of the I. Donnelly Company in Kansas City, Missouri, drove the tabernacle to Chicago, had it repaired and drove it back to Eudora — all within two days.
Father Riley gave three main reasons for building a new church.
“The parish considered the possibility of a new church 15 years ago but, with so many pastors coming and going, it never got off the ground,” said Father Riley. “Four years ago, we had a parish meeting to identify the future needs of the parish. By far, the three most important needs were a larger church, more classrooms and a larger and handicap-accessible parish hall.”
Growth was the main driver. The former church had 220 seats, but the new church has about 500, with the ability to add an additional 80 temporary seats. The parish has 350 families, several being young with children. In fact, the parish added 47 new families in the past 14 months.
The future classroom space in the basement of the church is unfinished, but could accommodate six classrooms and a parish office. The upper church and the basement together comprise 16,460 square feet. Parking spaces have been almost doubled.
The people who helped were too numerous to thank, said Father Riley, but he did single out parishioner Doug Pickert for his key role.
“The one person who we couldn’t have done without was Doug Pickert,” he said. “He has been the building committee chairperson of all the committees since we started. His stable leadership, and work with the architects and general contractors certainly helped both me and our parishioners to come to this point of having a beautiful, new church.”
Thanks was also extended during the dedication Mass to members of Piper-Wind Architects in Kansas City, Missouri: Ken Low, Michael Blackledge and John Wind; architect Allan Hermanson, Integration Design Group, PC in Denver; John Hess of Excel Constructors Inc. of Overland Park; and Carla Mills, CFO of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.