Local Parishes

Topeka parish receives second historic designation

Mater Dei Parish in Topeka is comprised of Holy Name Church, left, and Assumption Church, right. Both churches have listings in the National Register of Historic Places. Assumption received its designation in 2008 while Holy Name received its designation this year.

Mater Dei Parish in Topeka is comprised of Holy Name Church, left, and Assumption Church, right. Both churches have listings in the National Register of Historic Places. Assumption received its designation in 2008 while Holy Name received its designation this year.

by Marc and Julie Anderson
mjanderson@theleaven.org

TOPEKA — If you’re thinking of hitting the historic site circuit this summer, you won’t have to travel far to discover a twofer.

That’s right, Mater Dei Parish in Topeka lays claim to a fame that even San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge isn’t entitled to.

The parish is the proud possessor of not one, but two listings in the National Register of Historic Places as of January 2012.

The National Register of Historic Places is the nation’s official list of cultural resources worthy of preservation and is part of a national program to coordinate public and private efforts to identify and preserve historic and archeological resources.

To qualify for inclusion on the register, the property must meet certain criteria. For example, it must be associated with significant events in American history or have an association with the lives of persons who were significant in the nation’s past.

Generally speaking, religious structures and properties used for religious purposes are not eligible for inclusion on the register, although there are exceptions. Mater Dei met an exception.

Mater Dei was formed in 2006 from the merger of the former Assumption and Holy Name parishes. Just two years after the merger, pastor Father Jon Hullinger and parishioners began to research the guidelines and application process for the Church of the Assumption to earn a listing on the register.

At the time, the church’s rose window desperately needed repair and funds were limited. Mark Burenheide, then a member of the parish finance council, advised the parish that a historic designation meant that tax credits could be used to help pay for repairs and other future needs.

Despite being a religious building, parishioners learned Assumption Church might meet at least one of the exceptions — that of being in proximity to a historic district.

Assumption Church is located across the street from the Kansas state Capitol, already designated a historic district. The church, the third built on the site since 1862, was designed in the mission/Spanish revival and Renaissance styles.

Holy Name Church, like Assumption, falls within or on the edges of a historic district. The parish, founded in 1914, is near two historic districts — the late Gothic-style Topeka High School and the impressive homes of Governor’s Row.

Given Holy Name’s proximity to these structures, both Burenheide and Father Hullinger thought it made sense for the parish to apply for another designation.

Holy Name was built in 1925 and is modeled after Chicago’s St. Ignatius Church. Holy Name’s design is in the Renaissance revival style and features a dressed Carthage limestone exterior with Tuscan Doric pilasters at all corners and junctions, and a tile roof.

“One of the interesting things we learned during the application process is that parishioners held a parish bazaar to raise money to build the church [initially], and [the parish bazaar] is one tradition that survives today,” said Burenheide.

Both churches of Mater Dei represent the faith and sacrifices made by earlier generations of Catholics, said Father Hullinger. He feels called to do his part to hand these structures on to future generations.

“It’s pretty obvious that were building on two wonderful and beautiful traditions and that we’ve been given an opportunity to hand on not only the beauty, intellectually and spiritually of our Catholic faith, but [also] architecturally and artistically,” said Father Hullinger.

About the author

Marc & Julie Anderson

Marc & Julie Anderson

Freelancers Marc and Julie Anderson are long-time contributors to the Leaven. Married in 1996, for several years the high school sweethearts edited The Crown, the former newspaper of Christ the King Parish in Topeka which Julie has attended since its founding in 1977. In 2000, the Leaven offered the couple their first assignment. Since then, the Andersons’ work has also been featured in a variety of other Catholic and prolife media outlets. The couple has received numerous journalism awards from the Knights of Columbus, National Right to Life and the Catholic Press Association including three for their work on “Think It’s Not Happening Near You? Think Again,” a piece about human trafficking. A lifelong Catholic, Julie graduated from Most Pure Heart of Mary Grade School and Hayden Catholic High School in Topeka. Marc was received into the Catholic Church in 1993 at St. Paul Parish – Newman Center at Wichita State University. The two hold degrees from Washburn University in Topeka. Their only son, William James, was stillborn in 1997.

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