Something worth celebrating

St. Joseph Parish in Leavenworth celebrates 150 years of fath


Joe Bollig
joe.bollig@theleaven.org

LEAVENWORTH — St. Joseph Parish here closed its yearlong 150th anniversary activities on Sept. 5 with a Mass that celebrated its pioneer roots, Carmelite ties, and the anniversary of a sacramental milestone.

St. Joseph Church, established on Sept. 5, 1858, was the first parish founded by the Order of Carmelites in the United States.

Reminders of those early ties were on display for all to see in the form of two murals, flanking the sanctuary, that were painted by Bonner Springs artist Ernst Ulmer for the church’s 2007 renovation.

One mural depicts the foundation of the Carmelite Order in the Holy Land, at Mount Carmel, by St. Albert of Jerusalem. The other chronicles the first two Carmelite priests in America — Father Cyril Knoll and Father Xavier Huber — being welcomed to the Kansas Territory by the pioneering Bishop John Baptist Miege, SJ.

In remarks at the beginning of the Mass, pastor Father David McEvoy welcomed Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, visiting Carmelites, and others guests. He also recognized parishioners age 90 and older.

Father David then pointed out an antique ledger lying open on a stand next to the baptismal font. It was open to the entry for the first baptism at the parish 150 years ago to the date — Elizabeth Dager, on Sept. 5, 1858.

In his homily, Archbishop Naumann noted that Elizabeth Dager’s new life through baptism coincided with the life of the parish.

“Tonight our hearts should be brimming with gratitude when we think about all the ways in which the Lord has blessed this community of St. Joseph for these 150 years,” he said.

He also praised the relationship between the Carmelites and parishioners of St. Joseph.

“It’s been a good marriage, I think, for most of these 150 years between the Carmelite community and this community of St. Joseph,” said the archbishop. “So, we give thanks to all those Carmelites who served with such distinction and love here, and we think of those who served in difficult times, [such as during] the tornado of 1945.”

A reception was held in the church basement following the Mass.

The Carmelites who concelebrated were Father David Simpson, the Midwest Carmelite provincial; FatherGregory Houck; and Father Jerry Williams. Archdiocesan priests who concelebrated included: Father George Bertels, Father Ed Hays, Father John Maier, Msgr. Michael Mullen, Father Al Rockers, and Father Phil Winkelbauer. Also assisting were Deacon Tim McEvoy and Msgr.Gary Applegate, acting as master of ceremonies.

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