Local Parishes

Roeland Park parish marks 100 years on Sept. 16

St. Agnes Parish in Roeland Park celebrated its centennial Mass outdoors on Sept. 16 despite a downpour. From left are: Father Tony Lickteig, pastor Father Bill Porter, Father Jim Shaughnessy and Msgr. Tom Tank. Fathers Lickteig and Shaughnessy are former pastors while Msgr. Tank is a native son of the parish. LEAVEN PHOTO BY KATHRYN WHITE

by Marc and Julie Anderson

ROELAND PARK — No matter where he goes in town, one of the first questions people often ask Father Bill Porter is, “What parish are you assigned to?”

Father Porter’s response is almost always the same. He says he’s assigned to “the best parish.”

When people ask him which parish that is, he replies with the name of St. Agnes. That’s usually, he said, when the real conversation starts.

Almost always, people share with him a tie they have with the parish. For example, their parents were married at the church, they went to the parish’s grade school or their grandparents belonged to the parish.

Fathers Jim Shaughnessy, Tony Lickteig and Tom Tank pause for a photo before the 100th anniversary Mass outside St. Agnes Parish in Roeland Park. LEAVEN PHOTO BY KATHRYN WHITE

In fact, it never ceases to amaze him how many people have ties to the parish — although it probably shouldn’t. After all, the parish celebrated its centennial on Sept. 16, and a lot has happened in the life of the parish since its founding in 1923.

For example, the parish community has built a church, a school, a convent and a rectory. Out of the school grew what eventually became Bishop Miege High School. More important, though, is the sacramental life of the parishioners.

In his homily, Father Porter, who currently serves as the parish’s pastor, mentioned the names of the sons of the parish, including Msgr. Tom Tank, along with Fathers Ken Kelly, Jim Ludwikoski and Richard McDonald.

Additionally, two priests from Mexico — Fathers Jerry Arano-Ponce and Augustin Martinez — celebrated their first Masses there, adopting the parish as their own. Father Porter also recognized the concelebrants of the centennial Mass: Msgr. Tank, along with former pastors Fathers Jim Shaughnessy and Tony Lickteig.

Heavy rain and an overflow crowd couldn’t spoil the outdoor Mass for St. Agnes Parish in Roeland Park’s centennial. While most gathered under a tent, the overflow moved under the awning of the parish’s Katherine C. Roe Parish Center. LEAVEN PHOTO BY KATHRYN WHITE

Over the years, Father Porter said, the parish has celebrated 8,432 baptisms, more than 7,400 first Communions, and some 3,350 couples have started their new lives together there as husbands and wives.

One such couple is Scott and Carol Porter.

Married in 1976, the Porters have long been a part of the parish. In fact, Carol’s family dates back to the parish’s founding. In 1923, her great-grandfather John Nunnink served as one of the main builders of the church. And for a time, the parish’s first pastor, Father James Ording, lived in the basement of a home owned by Nunnink.

In January 1924, the school opened its doors, and until very recently, it even prominently displayed a picture of her grandmother: Margaret Nunnink Schleicher was one of the first two students to graduate from the parish school.

Later, Schleicher became the first parishioner to get married in the second- floor church, an addition blessed on Oct. 9, 1927. Schleicher’s wedding occurred just three days later on Oct. 12.

A loud thunderclap causes several attendees to cover their ears at St. Agnes’ centennial. LEAVEN PHOTO BY KATHRYN WHITE

For her part, Porter said, she’s mostly lived within the same two-mile radius of the church, the same church in which she was baptized, received the Eucharist for the first time and celebrated her marriage to Scott. She attended the same school that her daughter attended. Today, her brother is sending his children there.

Hearing Father Porter share the parish’s statistics brought back a flood of memories.

“It made me remember all of that — baptisms, weddings and funerals — and how many of my family were a part of those numbers,” she said.

In his homily, Father Porter said he truly appreciated the opportunity to have celebrated the parish’s centennial.

“It’s nice to be able to look back on a parish’s [first 100 years]. Every parish is unique,” he said. “A parish, to me, is one of the most beautiful creations of the Catholic Church because it creates the opportunity to nest and become family.”

Children sing during Mass outside St. Agnes during the parish’s centennial Mass. LEAVEN PHOTO BY KATHRYN WHITE

Visiting with other friends and family was what they appreciated most about the centennial celebration, said parishioners Kent and Judy Decker.

Married in 1971, the Deckers had their three daughters baptized at the church, later sending them to the parish school. Their girls were also married there, and five of the couple’s 14 grandchildren were baptized at St. Agnes. In 2003, after decades of being an unofficial part of the parish, Judy joined the Catholic Church through the parish’s Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults.

“It’s a big family tradition,” she said. “It’s our home family church.

“It was really, really nice to see a lot of people that we don’t see very often . . . but we’ve had a long-term connection with. That was a lot of fun, just visiting with folks.”

About the author

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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