Monday, November 07, 2005

Blessed Sacrament, Kansas City, Missouri


Here's an impressive and balanced Italian Renaissance specimen, (with Romanesque features all around) the Greater Grace Temple Apostolic Pentecostal Church, once Blessed Sacrament Church, at 39th and Bellafontaine (not to be confused with Blessed Sacrament at 20th and Parallel Pkwy in Kansas City, Kansas, still a parish, current home to the FSSP Latin Mass Community, St. Rose Philipine Duschene).

When was it closed? I don't know. Why was it closed? I don't know. I will say that the adjacent school must have really been popular in its day. You can tell it was added onto more than once, and a second building, also a school or a convent of apparently 1950's-ish design, is just south of the church. What a pity. It's obvious from the outside that all the stained glass has been removed, and while one can still see some Corinthian capitals on the columns inside, one imagines that a congregation like "Greater Grace Temple" is iconoclastic. There probably isn't much of the original beauty left inside.

Do share anything you know about this church with me, and if you have any other suggestions--churches on the Missouri side in Kansas City, do make a comment. And remember, east-coasters and Europeans, don't make fun of us because our ruins aren't as old as yours are.

UPDATE DECEMBER 5, 2005

I had a chance to review This Far by Faith, vol. 2, (1992, Rev. Charles Michael Coleman, ed.) at the central public library this weekend. Unfortunately, the book doesn't circulate, and I only allowed myself an hour before the library closed. However, in that hour I found some interesting information that I'll post on some of the closed churches I've visited, and some leads on other churches I'll try to find in the next few weeks.We'll start today by looking back at Blessed Sacrament. . . . . It was designed by Archer & Goyd, and was one of two buildings that received recognition for outstanding design in 1927 (the other being a Jewish synagogue). The cornerstone was laid in 1927, and it was dedicated in October 1928. It was built of Bedford stone in the Italian style at a cost of approximately $150,000. It was the first cut-stone church in Kansas City. It seated 800, and was extensively stenciled inside by Dante Cosentino. The parish paid off the debt from the original building in 1941. The school thrived for many years, but then, startin in the 1960s (concurrently with the Spirit-of-You-Know-What) went through a period of decline and it was consolidated with the school of St. Louis parish in 1974. The last Mass was said in the parish on February 3, 1991 by the last pastor, Rev. Robert H. Stewart. There are many other details in the book, for those of you who might be interested.

UPDATE FEBRUARY 12, 2006

Wow. A more careful perusal of This Far by Faith, including volume 1, led to the discovery of some magnificent pictures by Joe A. Stornello in the color plates there (Let's all give Mr. Stornello a "huzzah" for some great photography). The interior of Blessed Sacrament was as well-balanced and aesthetically uplifting as the exterior. Note that there's no newfangled altar obscuring the view of the high altar in these photographs. There's no altar rail around the sanctuary, though. We can see some of Cosentino's stencilling, and his angels on either side of the apse (a descendant of Dante Cosentino told me that about the only place one can still see his work is Our Lady of Sorrows on Gillham Road.

I cannot begin to wonder what Bishop Helmsing (1962-1977) and Bishop Sullivan (1977-1993) were thinking as seminaries, rectories and pews emptied around town and they closed down and wrote off such beautiful edifices, all the while pushing such un-Catholic ventures as St. Mark's Ecumenical Parish and signing off on parish building projects like St. Robert Bellarmine and St. Thomas More and St. Charles Borromeo and some really horrible church out near Belton whose name I forgot. Were Helmsing and Sullivan filled with hope? Did they REALLY think it was a New Springtime?

It brings tears to my eyes to think that this place was abandoned, as far as Catholic worship goes, and while the new churches built south and west are so hideous . . . such as . . . I dare not start the list.

17 comments:

Former Blessed Sacrament Parishioner said...

I live in North Carolina, but was raised in KC. I was feeling nostalgic about my Midwestern upbringing and decided to look up some of the placing that meant so much to me as a child. My old camp - Camp Shawnee in Waldron and Blessed Sacrament Church on 39th and Bellefonte. I lived on 40th and Bellefonte. We attended Blessed Sacrament from 1979-1984. It was a magnificent church, but it was in decline. Its member dying off or moving faster than new ones came. The school associated with it was from my understanding k-12 at one point and scaled back to k-8 and finally closed a few years before we moved to KC. We attended St. Martin de Porres - which combined the students of Blessed Sacrament with St. Louis Parrish that was on Swope Pkwy I believe. There were only 33 students in my class and St. Martin also closed shortly after my younger sister graduated in 1988. I am unsure if St. Louis is still open. I attended St. Teresa's Academy along with 3 of my sister, but 2 other sister went to Hogan. Missing from your list is Lilleth (sp?) High - which closed shortly before we moved to KC. By all accounts it was the black catholic HS - I understood that everyone at my school had older sibling that went there and they had planned to attend there as well. With it closed, they would now attend Hogan. Unfortunately, many black and Hispanic catholic churches have closed in KC and across our nation. I am unsure if it is because of lack of resources, low membership, or the combination. I do know that have yet to find a place where I felt so complete as Blessed Sacrament - where we sung in the choir, had youth group, dances, bake sales, etc. my brother and his friend were 2 of only maybe 4 altar boys and served at the majority of masses, where our young choir directly - left everything and went to South America to teach and build schools and was killed a year later for his efforts - the nuns of our parish were lawyers and social workers and ran a shelter for battered women. All this happened without fanfare - and in a different world in KC. Most of the girls I went to high school with had never even heard of our church and school.

Anonymous said...

I was baptized at Blessed Sacrament Church as was my sister in 1950 and 1951 by Father McCaffrey. My grandparents and their children attended church there. My father and his siblings all went to school there. My grandfather was buried out of that church in 1961. From my childhood memories, I remember it as one of the most beautiful churches I have ever been in. My grandmother was very active in the church from the 1920s through the 1950s. What I wouldn't give to see that beautiful sanctuary one more time. I remember there were angels painted all over the ceiling. It was magnificant. The beautiful stain glass window that was in the front of the church (round one) is now above the entry way to St Joseph Hospital in Kansas City. The sure don't build them like that anymore.

Anonymous said...

I went to Blessed Sacrament from 1954 to 1961. My family and I went to church there and my brother and sister and I went to elementary school there. It was a good school and a beautiful church. I remember Msgr. Dunne. He as a mean old man and drank quite a bit. I was an altar boy also. Sister Agnes was the principal of the school and taught 8th grade the year I was in 8th grade. She was stern but fair nun and an excellent teacher. Our school was about half black and white. I guess we were way ahead of our time.

kanarysos said...

Hello,
my parents were married in that church and my grandmother, Velva Frazier attended there until it closed, probably 30-40 years. She has passed, but she loved and supported (and was supported by) that chuch with great joy.

Arlisa said...

I was born in Kansas City and my family and I attended Blessed Sacrament Church and School until the school closed. We then attended St Martin De Porres until our family relocated to Louisiana in 1976.

I have many fond memories of the church and school fund raisers, basketball games, dances and more. Those times are gone where a strong sense of community existed. I try hard to recreate those types of experiences for my two young daughters but it's just not the same. Thanks for posting this information about Blessed Sacrament on the web. What a loss !!....Arlisa Labrie Richardson

Celtfire.Video said...

I lived in Kansas City, MO from 1947 to 1951 at 4100 Bellfontaine Avenue with the Methodist Church behind us on E. 41st St. At 5 yrs old I attended Blessed Sacrament Parish Kindergarten for a short time. For some reason I didn't enjoy the experience and my parents allowed me to leave. The only priest I remember from that time was Fr. Basket. My memories of the neighborhood were good ones. Even at 5 years I knew everyone on our block. In those days everyone there was white, but when I visited the place 13 years later the neighborhood was largely black and well cared for.

Mary Purcell said...

I was born in 1954 and was baptized and made my First Holy Communion at Blessed Sacrement. I attended Blessed Sacrement School in first grade. My mother and her two brothers attended and graduated from the school. I can still remember Sr. Frances Desales my first grade teacher. The playground was the parkinglot and lunch was in the church basement. It is sad to think that the church is no longer Catholic but it is comforting that it is being used as a house of worship.

Anonymous said...

Your essay on Blessed Sacrament Church brought back a long-forgotten childhood memory. I'm not Catholic but some of my cousins are. They attended this church and its school back during the 1960s. I always thought it was such a pretty church.

Why did diocese closed the church and school? I don't know but I wouldn't be surprised if white flight contributed to the diocese's decision. Most African-Americans in Kansas City are Protestants of one stripe or another; including yours truly. The neighborhood near Blessed Sacrament was majority black by the time my cousins moved out state in 1971.

Denver Sublette said...

I went to Blessed Sacrament 1951 to 1955. My name is Denver Sublette and would like any info about our football team and coach Mr. Hill. dsublette@kc.rr.com

payroll denver said...

I really like the church my lots of memories are attached with this church.Thanks for sharing it here.I obviously visit again.Thanks for remind my old days.

Anonymous said...

I attended Blessed Sacrament School/Church from 1955-1959. We lived at 42nd & Benton, having moved from our Grandparents' home at 6th & Benton. Precious memories of a kindler/gentler time.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting information about Blessed Sacrament. My husband and I were driving east on 39th yesterday and I spotted the belfry from the bottom of the hill. Upon reaching Bellefonte, I got only a glimpse of the front as we drove through the intersection and was stunned. Once we got home, I logged on to the Internet and began to search for info. It took about 20 minutes to find your blog. As a church architecture and KC history junky in the making, I was thrilled to read your blog and the resulting comments.

Anonymous said...

Blessed Sacrament was closed in part due to the early days of the priest shortage. Bishop Sullivan allowed representatives from each of the 8 deanery parishes to meet for awhile, and to determine which parishes would close, merge, share a priest, etc. At the time, I belonged to another of those 8 parishes. Blessed Sacrament was one of the parishes that closed. One other parish closed, and a third parish merged with one of the remaining parishes. The parish I belonged to chose to have a non-priest as our pastor - and shared a priest with another church as a "sacramental minister". The Bishops (both Bishop Sullivan and later Bishop Boland) were very proactive - allowing the parishes themselves to determine their future, rather than just randomly closing parishes. My parish got many new members from Blessed Sacrament who were WONDERFUL folks. I just went to the funeral of one of those folks today, which is how I found this site, I was trying to figure out when Blessed Sacrament closed. Thanks for the info in your posts.

Teri Glass said...

I have read you responds to this article/ blog and it sounds like there is a real attachment to this place and building. I am interested in opening a independent living home for youths in the building next door. But I was wondering does any one know exactly what the building was used for?

Kathleen Roberts said...

My family were members of Blessed Sacrament Parish and I went to School there in the 60's ('63 -'69)!! Many fond memories!! Sister Agnes (Principal & 8th grade) yes, she was strict but, had to be!!

Kathleen Roberts said...

Teri , I believe the building you are referring to was the Sisters Convent if I Remember correctly!! Good luck in your quest to open a facility for Youth.:)

Chuck Fisher said...

Blessed Sacrament Roman Catholic Church was a beautiful Church! I attended many funerals there--Mellody-McGilley-Eylar Undertakers handled most funerals there as the owners were devout Catholics! Blessed Sacrament was a faithful parish and the school was one of the best in Kansas City. This Church was the Church home to many wonderful people and when it closed, many families were quite sad. Blessed Sacrament Church lives on in our hearts!