by Joe Bollig
OVERLAND PARK — One of the challenges Marilyn Oothout used to face in getting her family to Mass on time was pushing past the candy counter at “St. Glenwood Parish.”
Officially, “St. Glenwood” never existed, but that was briefly the unofficial name of Holy Cross Parish when it was founded in the late 1960s.
While the church was being built, parishioners gathered for Sunday Mass at the Glenwood Theater at 91st and Metcalf.
“My children loved to go there, but they wanted ice cream, popcorn and candy on the way in,” said Marilyn Oothout. “Every Sunday, we went through that. I said, ‘No, we’re here for church.’ They didn’t understand. It took them a while.”
When Holy Cross was founded, Johnson County was undergoing a population boom. There were mostly farm fields south of 103rd St., and I-435 wasn’t finished past Metcalf Ave.
Men wore suits to church and many women still wore veils. Families were young and there were lots and lots of babies.
Holy Cross Parish — as it was and as it is now — was celebrated during a 50th anniversary Mass on Sept. 8.
Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann was the main celebrant and homilist.
He was joined at the altar by pastor Father Michael Stubbs, associate pastor Father Juan Carlos Franco, former pastor Father Anthony Lickteig, former pastor Father Robert Pflumm, Father Bill Porter, Father Thomas Kearns and Father Anthony Williams.
Father Anthony Saiki was master of ceremonies.
The anniversary Mass was bilingual — in Spanish and English — reflecting how diverse the parish has become.
“In Holy Cross Grade School, 25 percent of the students are Hispanic,” said Father Stubbs. “While we have a significant Hispanic population, we also have families that are Vietnamese in origin, as well as Filipino and from various African countries.”
At one time, Holy Cross was the designated parish for the archdiocese’s Korean Catholic community, which has since relocated to Holy Trinity Parish in Lenexa.
Although about 800 families are registered in the parish, the true number is closer to 1,000.
“A lot of the Hispanic families aren’t registered because they aren’t familiar with that concept,” said Father Stubbs.
Despite the influx of all kinds of new parishioners, some of the founding families are still there. They sat together in three designated pews up front and were recognized during the Mass.
One “old timer” who had a lot of memories to share was Father Ron Livojevich.
“Your first parish is kind of like your first love,” said Father Livojevich, assigned there after his ordination on May 20, 1970. He served there until July 1973.
The first, temporary rectory was in a crackerbox tract house at the corner of 93rd and Hadley. He lived in the perpetually damp basement while Father Robert Burger and his mother lived upstairs.
The people were excited to pioneer a new parish, he said. Young families predominated.
“It was all kids,” said Father Livojevich. “In our CCD program, we had 1,200 kids in kindergarten through eighth grade, and 400 in high school CCD.”
One of his standout memories is when the church basement flooded during the 1972 new church dedication.
“Archbishop Strecker came down and dedicated the church,” said Father Livojevich. “The basement flooded [during] the reception. Evidently the seal broke on the outside flashing and the water came pouring in the religious education office. . . . The rain was almost tropical, like a monsoon. It rained and rained that afternoon — gosh, it rained.”
Fortunately, the weather was great for the day of the anniversary Mass — and for the 28th annual parish festival held after the Mass.
Parishioners crowded the tables and dined on Mexican and Vietnamese fare, as well as the traditional American picnic bratwursts and hot dogs. There were games and inflatable play equipment for the kids. A folkloric Peruvian dance troupe “Contigo Peru” performed the “Valicha.”
“We’re really pleased by the turnout,” said Father Stubbs. “The weather cooperated. It’s perfect, and the people are perfect, too.”