Scranton parish celebrates 150 years of St. Patrick’s blessings and 100-year-old church

St. Patrick Church, at Scranton, Kan., has served its parish for 100 years.

By Paul Schmidt

St. Patrick Catholic Church, at Scranton, Kan., is celebrating its 100th anniversary as a church building and 150 years as a parish in 2017.

Catholicism in early Kansas goes back to the mid 1500s with the explorations of the Spanish Franciscan friar, Fr. Juan de Padilla, who accompanied the Spanish conquistador, Francisco Vasquez de Coronado.

Statue of the church’s Patron Saint: St. Patrick.

Catholics had settled around the Scranton area as early as 1855. The first mass was celebrated near Scranton in 1855 in a private residence. Scranton was a distant served mission until 1876 when a more permanent, regular Catholic presence was established.

On Aug. 15, 1877, a lot was acquired in Scranton at the corner of Boyle and Mercer streets for the purpose of establishing a Catholic church building. A frame church was built on this location, serving about 120 people.

During Scranton’s boom, there was also a parochial school serving Catholic youth from 1885 to 1889.

The church’s bell was originally in the frame church building that existed until May 21, 1916, when the last mass was held in it. That bell is currently housed in the present church building.

Cornerstone of St. Patrick Church, Scranton: Celtic shamrock motif indicates s strong Irish presence in the parish’s history.

On June 7, 1916, the first spade was turned for the new St. Patrick Church in Scranton, to be located on the same site as the 1877 wooden structure. The cornerstone was laid in ceremony Oct. 2, 1917, officiated by then Archbishop John C. Ward of the Archdiocese of Leavenworth.

The strong Irish presence in the church is exemplified by the Celtic cross design graphic in the cornerstone as well as the shamrocks within the cross on the end corner stone. St. Patrick church has had strong Irish, German and Hispanic presence over its history.

Another prominent feature of the church’s chapel are the stained glass windows donated in 1941 by the Michael Towle family. The windows are on either side of the chapel, with one showing the chiro on the throne with the crown; the one on the north side is dedicated to and features symbolism of the Blessed Virgin Mary. See related story here.

One Towle window shows the Greek Chiro (symbol for Christ) in red placed on a throne and crowned as savior.

The church that stands at the corner of Boyle and Mercer streets today was completed in 1918 and is almost purely Gothic in architectural design. It is 100 feet by 36 feet and stands 125 feet from the ground to the top of its steeple cross. It was reported to have cost approximately $20,000 at the time of construction.

St. Patrick Church in Scranton has always been a mission church, being served by other parishes in nearby communities with the main ones being Topeka, Ottawa and Osage City.

One major event that nearly destroyed this church was a powerful gas explosion that occurred early one Sunday (luckily before mass) in 1964. It was a possibility that the building was so compromised it might have to be razed, but it was repaired and brought back into service. During a short interim, the Scranton Methodist Church kindly offered its building for mass during the repair phase. It has undergone remodels, updates, refurbishments, and structural reinforcements over its 100-year history.

The next chapter in St. Patrick’s history might well be in yet another building at another location, as parish fundraising activities and building plans are currently underway to build a new church to serve the area’s Catholics well into the next century.

Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, Celebrant, Fr. Larry Bowers, Pastor, Celebrant, will hold a Celebratory Mass at 9:30 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 22, 2017, in recognition of the 100th anniversary of the Scranton St. Patrick Church and 150th Anniversary of the first mass celebrated in the Scranton community. St. Patrick Church is at 302 S. Boyle St., Scranton, Kan.

A largely an unseen feature of the St. Patrick’s Church in Scranton is the bell hidden behind the belfry louvers. The bell reads, “Meneely & Kimberly, Founders, Troy, NY, 1878.” The rope wheel is left. The manual hammer, lower right, is for funerals. The sound it makes is much more muted and somber. In the day, someone would either by rope or by climbing up next to it  toll it by hand before the requiem mass, striking out the number of years the deceased person had lived.

Interior of St. Patrick Church, Scranton, as it appears today; view from balcony.

Altar as viewed looking over the devotional prayer candles, showing crucifix and tabernacle below it. Statue of St. Joseph the worker, right, depicts him in carpenter’s apron, planing a piece of wood.

Photos and information by Paul Schmidt.


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