Washburn Catholic Campus Center recalls unusual beginnings at 40th anniversary Mass
by Marc and Julie Anderson
TOPEKA — The knock on the door of Dorothy Palmquist’s home on a Sunday afternoon in July 1970 was a surprise.
The bigger surprise was who knocked.
The three men weren’t salesmen, but two Catholic priests and an archbishop. They weren’t selling.
They were buying.
This unorthodox beginning to the Washburn Catholic Campus Center was related by Msgr. Vince Krische in his homily at a Mass at the center Oct. 24 celebrating its 40th anniversary.
Archbishop Ignatius J. Strecker was the visionary who saw the need for a Catholic student center at Washburn University and he personally got it going. One July afternoon in 1970, Archbishop Strecker invited then-Father Vince Krische and Father Jack Quinlan, pastor of Most Pure Heart of Mary Parish in Topeka,on a little road trip.
“He was such a great real estate man,” said
Msgr. Krische. “He knew location, location, location.”
The archbishop took them to a house at 17th and Jewell, directly opposite the Wash- burn campus. They got out and knocked on the door, and a puzzled Palmquist answered.
The archbishop asked Palmquist if she would be interested in selling her house to the archdiocese to provide a place for Washburn University’s Catholic students.
She agreed, provided the archbishop could find her another home.
“She moved out, and we moved in,” said Msgr. Krische. “It was the start of this great ministry.”
The Washburn University center actually began its 40th anniversary celebrations with an open house on Oct. 22.
The following day, current and for- mer students rode on a float in the university’s homecoming parade held Oct. 23. Additionally, students and alumni participated in a tailgate party prior to the homecoming game.
Approximately 150 people attended the Mass celebrated by Msgr. Vince Krische, the center’s director for the first seven years of its existence.
Concelebrants included Fathers Andrew Strobl, currently associate pastor of Prince of Peace Parish in Olathe, and Father Matthew Schiffelbein, currently associate pastor of Church of the Ascension in Overland Park. Both priests are Washburn alumni and former members of the Catholic Campus Center.
Retired now from active ministry, Father George Seuferling often celebrates Mass at the center and also concelebrated the anniversary Mass.
Since the center’s official establishment on Aug. 18, 1970, and its opening in October that same year, Msgr. Krische recalled that many students have been formed in the Catholic faith and have formed friendships that helped shape them into the men and women they are today. Such individuals include Jack and Benje Foster. They met at the center, later married and are leading lives of active service to the church.
“It (the center) gave us a religion we could relate to,” Jack said, adding that he remembers setting up chairs for Mass as well as just being available for whatever the center needed him to do.
Benje agreed, and said their hands- on involvement helped to solidify their Catholic faith. Without these experiences and friendships, the Fosters said they might not have been as inclined to take on a variety of leadership roles later in life within their own parish, such as teaching baptism classes and assisting and/or leading religious education classes.
These experiences, Msgr. Krische said, would not be lost on recently beatified Cardinal John Henry Newman.
“I find it another gift to celebrate this occasion at the same time that our patron, John Henry Newman, has been declared blessed,” he said. “Archbishop Strecker believed that Newman provided a formula to help us bring the church to the university. With the studies the center offers to the students today and the spiritual opportunities, his vision continues to build.”