On a frosty day in late December, nearly 1,000 parishioners from St. Paul’s Church made a 4 1/2 mile procession by foot from their former location in west Olathe to their new church at 115th Street and Lone Elm Road.
Though the parishioners left a church and school they’ve called home for decades, they carried with them the history of a community built more than 150 years ago.
The church congregation has been increasing in membership each year for the past decade, and their space, which they had occupied since 1962, was no longer adequate.
“There’s a time for everything under the sun,” said Father Michael Hermes, St. Paul’s pastor since 2014. “There’s a time to tear down and a time to build. And, there’s a time to move.
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“But, you have to have a good reason to make a commitment to do something like this and our reason was our growth.”
St. Paul’s Church was founded in 1860 by European Jesuits and they held the first mass in February of that year.
The oldest Catholic parish in Johnson County, St. Paul’s Church and School has more than 2,500 members and students today. Since its founding, church leaders have made serving their diverse surrounding community a priority. One of very few trilingual churches in the United States, St. Paul’s offers masses in English, Spanish and American Sign Language for the deaf.
The relationship the church has with the Kansas State School for the Deaf was formed in the late 19th century, and the Spanish masses were initiated there in the early 1990s.
“I love the diversity of our international community,” Hermes said. “We are also socioeconomically diverse, and we work to serve the needs of this very diverse community.”
During the past several years, as church leaders and members recognized they were outgrowing their space, a commitment was made to build the new church. Saturday’s move was the fulfillment of that decision made in 2014.
In 2015, a capital campaign was launched to raise funds for Phase 1 of the two-phase building project initially envisioned for the new church. After a successful capital campaign, construction on the first phase began in 2017 and was completed last December.
Phase 1 includes a worship center that can accommodate 800 parishioners for Mass, a parish hall, meeting space, cafeteria and adoration chapel. Plans for Phase 2 include a church and gym at the same location, which will be supported by a future capital campaign.
“The new building happened with the collaboration of hundreds of volunteers and donors,” Hermes said. “We had parish and finance councils, along with building, moving and capital campaign committees. It took all of us working together to accomplish this goal. Above all, this building reflects the spirit of our community — and the diversity of our community.”
The Lozada family is one of the St. Paul families whose contribution was integral to the church’s successful capital campaign outcome.
In search of better economic opportunities, the Lozadas left Mexico nearly 20 years ago and settled in Olathe. They have been St. Paul’s members for the past six years and contribute regularly to several of the church’s ministries, including the recent capital campaign.
“The parish of St. Paul made us feel welcome,” Marcos Lozada said. “What we value as parishioners is that Father Michael has done a good job integrating three communities. He makes us feel like a big family, no matter race, ethnicity or language.”
In the upcoming year, the St. Paul’s community will focus on settling in their new location, along with initiating plans to bring Phase 2 into fruition.
“A building is much more than a building, especially a spiritual building,” Hermes said.
“A church is a place for an encounter with God and community. People meet the love of their life here or find their vocations. Churches are also a place where people make sacred promises.”