You can bet theres a backstory when neighborhood leaders are more apt to believe City Hall than the Catholic diocese.
By MARY SANCHEZ
The Kansas City Star
The plan to demolish the shuttered St. Francis Xavier School and replace it with a five-story complex for Catholic college students has been an emotional ride for residents of the 49/63 Neighborhood Coalition.
So until the city officially says the rezoning meeting for Nov. 6 is canceled, many opposed to the project arent taking the date off their calendars.
Wisely, the diocese is apologetic for how its oversight on the proposal could have been more astute. Theyve been preoccupied. What with a priest convicted of child pornography. And the bishop also implicated, charged and convicted of the misdemeanor of failing to report suspected child abuse.
Attention to other concerns slipped, said Jude Huntz, chancellor of the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese, which owns the school near 53rd Street and Troost Avenue.
Finn met recently with four community leaders about the project. Most said they felt that he heard their concerns.
So its back to the drawing board; the rezoning hearing is off, Huntz said. There is a renewed push for an assessment study to gauge the needs of the community, Catholic students at Rockhurst University and the University of Missouri-Kansas City and parishioners. The parish needs space for meetings and activities. A charter school is one possibility.
Complicating matters was friction between the liberal Jesuit community and Bishop Robert Finn, who is Opus Dei, a more conservative sect of the Catholic faith.
Unfortunately, that divide allowed conspiracy thoughts to fester. Poor communication from the diocese sealed it. Some believed the plan was a move by Finn to undermine the St. Francis Xavier parish.
More likely, it was the diocese trying to find a new use for the school, which closed in 2003.
So the diocese bit on a plan germinated from Domus Communities, a three-man partnership with ties to the Kansas City and Lawrence Catholic communities. Domus had a rather unfeasible feasibility study produced. Rent of $1,153 for a one bedroom?
Parking and other concerns werent satisfied even after the project was scaled down. Rockhurst and UMKC officials have been mum on the plan, declining to support or oppose. Both institutions likely realized that there is no hue and cry for a Catholics-only dormitory.
Huntz did say rumors that the students would have to take a celibacy pledge are false.
But the plan never should have progressed this far.
Now everyone is searching for the proverbial win-win, God willing.
To reach Mary Sanchez, call 816-234-4752 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.