Local Parishes

St. Paul in Olathe breaks ground on new church

Father Agustin Martinez, associate pastor of St. Paul, Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann and Father Michael Hermes, pastor of St. Paul, stand in front of a rendering of the new St. Paul Church in Olathe. The parish broke ground on the church on May 11. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JAY SOLDNER

by Joe Bollig

OLATHE — There was a reason St. Paul Parish here exchanged its usual Mass venue in its temporary worship space last Sunday for a grassy field adjoining the east side of the school.

The evening Mass for the solemnity of the Ascension on May 11 was also the historic groundbreaking for the construction of the fourth church in the 164-year history of the parish — the first and thus oldest parish in Johnson County.

The outdoor altar was situated approximately where the new church’s altar will be located.

The mood of the more than 2,300 present on that warm, sunny evening was “excited.”

A grassy field adjoining the east side of St. Paul School in Olathe was the setting for the groundbreaking Mass for the fourth church in the 164-year history of St. Paul Parish in Olathe. Father Michael Hermes, pastor of St. Paul, was the homilist for the event. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JAY SOLDNER

That’s what Jose and Maria Ramirez said, with translation assistance from their daughter Juseth Cruz.

The Ramirezes have been parishioners for 27 years and were part of the procession on Dec. 29, 2018, from the former church at 900 S. Honeysuckle Dr., where the parish worshiped since 1962, to the current St. Paul School at 21650 W. 115th Terr.

“We’re pretty excited for the church and very happy,” said Jose.

“Very happy for the new church,” said Maria. “We’ve all been collectively working together for this new church that we’ll all be able to celebrate in in a bigger way.”

As for Cruz, she was excited, too.

“I’m very excited for this new church,” she said, “and getting to see all the new people who will join and experience this beautiful building being built.”

Parishioners pray the Our Father during Mass outside St. Paul Parish in Olathe. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JAY SOLDNER

The groundbreaking was but another step in a master plan set in motion when Father Michael Hermes became pastor on July 1, 2014. Parishioners have long been eager to exchange their temporary space for a real, beautiful church.

“This is a day we’ve been waiting for for a long, long time,” said parishioner Terry Punswick, who was handing out buttons and programs, “and there are many parishioners who’ve been waiting longer than I have. For this day to finally happen just fills us with joy and anticipation. I wish we could start building right away.”

That won’t happen. Instead, parishioners will continue to use the temporary worship space — a multipurpose room inside St. Paul School — for a bit longer.

Plans have been drawn up by JNKA Architects of Chicago and cost estimators have produced their figures. Requests for bids by general contractors will go out in mid-June, said Father Hermes. No exact dates have been set for the start or completion of construction.

Dignitaries for the groundbreaking of St. Paul Church in Olathe prepare their shovels to break ground on the land where the new church will be built. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JAY SOLDNER

The main celebrant of the Mass was Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, and the homilist was Father Hermes. He tied the building of the new church to the duty of all Christians to evangelize.

“This task belongs to all members of the church. It is not only for bishops and priests,” he said in Spanish and English. “Every baptized person must think of himself or herself as permanently sent, as a ‘missionary disciple,’ so that in the midst of family life and in the midst of our work, we may always be carrying the joy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to others by the testimony of our lives.”

In his remarks, Archbishop Naumann praised the work of Father Hermes, associate pastor Father Agustin Martinez, the parish building and planning committees, and parishioners.

“I want to congratulate Father Hermes and the building team for all they’ve done,” he said, “and to congratulate you for responding so generously.

“It’s expensive to build a new church and a new campus. Thank you all for your support. It’s not over yet, I hope, and I look forward to being able to be here when the new church will be dedicated to celebrate that glorious day.”

Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann shares a laugh with parishioners and religious Sisters following Mass outside St. Paul Parish in Olathe. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JAY SOLDNER

The reason for a new church was alluded to by Archbishop Naumann and Olathe mayor John Bacon. Bacon said Olathe has doubled in size in the past 30 years, and now boasts approximately 153,000 residents.

St. Paul is the largest parish in the archdiocese, recently surpassing the Church of the Ascension in Overland Park, said the archbishop. It has at least 3,325 registered families, according to Father Hermes. The growth shows no sign of stopping.

The design of the new church will have both traditional and contemporary elements. It will have a Romanesque cruciform layout with some pews in the front in a fan-shaped configuration.

The outside façade will be Spanish Colonial. The upper level of the building will be the church, and the lower level will be the social hall/church offices with a kitchen. The hall can be divided with accordion-style movable partitions. Each level will be 19,540 square feet.

To manage costs, the master plan calls for construction in stages. At first, only the upper level church and eucharistic adoration chapel will be finished. The lower level will be unfinished for a while. Later stages will include a courtyard and school gymnasium. The estimated cost of the first stage of church construction is $20 million.

The new church will be built northeast of St. Paul School. The entire campus consists of 20 acres donated by the Leonard and Ellen McKinzie Family.

Dignitaries for the groundbreaking included Archbishop Naumann, Father Hermes, Father Martinez, Bacon, Carol Kulhmann representing the McKinzie Family, David Kulhman of JNKA Architects, parish council representative Hoan Kim Pham, finance council representative Scott Anderson and building committee representative Dennis Wilbert.

To view more photos from the Mass and groundbreaking, click here.

About the author

Joe Bollig

Joe has been with The Leaven since 1993. He has a bachelor’s degree in communications and a master’s degree in journalism. Before entering print journalism he worked in commercial radio. He has worked for the St. Joseph (Mo.) News-Press and Sun Publications in Overland Park. During his journalistic career he has covered beats including police, fire, business, features, general assignment and religion. While at The Leaven he has been a writer, photographer and videographer. He has won or shared several Catholic Press Association awards, as well as Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara awards for mission coverage. He graduated with a certification in catechesis from a two-year distance learning program offered by the Maryvale Institute for Catechesis, Theology, Philosophy and Religious Education at Old Oscott, Great Barr, in Birmingham, England.

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