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St. Nicholas celebrates church building centennial

Bishop John Brungardt applauded the efforts of the eight Catholic families who organized Kinsley’s St. Nicholas Parish 129 years ago during a Mass celebrating the centennial of the church building’s dedication Oct. 14.
“We have a 129-year-old parish and a 100-year old building,” the bishop said, commending the early settlers who brought their staunch faith to the Kansas prairie.

“That is faith,” he said, strolling down the main aisle of the church.  “Why does our faith mean so much to us?  Part of it is our children.  How are we going to pass our faith on to our children and our children’s children?”
Commenting on the Mass’ Gospel story of the rich young man who could not bring himself to give up his wealth to follow Jesus, the bishop noted that still “Jesus loved him.”
“He loves all six billion of us here on earth now,” he added.  “Pope Benedict called for a Year of Faith starting last Thursday [Oct. 11], and he wants us to grow more in our faith.”
The bishop drew chuckles – especially from men in the congregation – when he said there is too much materialism in the country and “too much emphasis on 22 guys chasing around an oblong ball.”
“What did St. Nicholas and its first families pass on to us?” he asked the parishioners.
“Our Catholic faith,” he answered himself.  “As the gospel says, nothing is impossible with God.  He loves us so much, more than we can ask or imagine.”

A look back

Between 1874 and 1877, the Catholic congregation at Kinsley was served from Emporia, Great Bend and Newton, all in the person of Father Felix Swembergh.
In the beginning, the congregation numbered eight Catholic families living in dugouts and small frame houses. Some of these families moved to the area from the East with the New England Homestead and Colonization Bureau; others arrived from Wisconsin. Masses were celebrated in homes or at the Carlin Hotel.
In 1882, construction began on a frame church under the direction of Father Robert Loehrer, pastor at Windthorst.
By 1910, after a large influx of settlers into the county, the parish began planning for a new church building. The new church project took on great momentum in 1911, when Father August Heiman was assigned to the parish as its first resident pastor.
The newly constructed church -- the same one that stands today -- was dedicated by Bishop John J. Hennessy on Oct. 12, 1912.
Only part of the main body of the church was built at this time. It wasn’t until the pastorate of Father John Cody, 36 years later, that the addition shown in the original blueprints was constructed. This addition provided for a spacious nave that nearly doubled the seating capacity. Bishop Mark K. Carroll rededicated the church on April 21, 1949.
-- Tim Wenzl, “Legacy of Faith”

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