Wednesday, January 18, 2006

St. John's Seminary, KCMO

St. John's Seminary was opened in 1904, and closed in before the fall term in 1983. I don't know when the facilities were built, as I saw no cornerstones on the chapel or the other buildings when I was there with the little Curmudgeons this weekend. Admittedly, I didn't look that hard. Much of the grounds were behind a fence, and although the gates were open, they were all posted with more than one "no trespassing" sign by the new occupant, so the Academy of Kansas City, seemed fairly adamant that I not enter (and of course, trespassing on posted grounds is a Class B misdemeanor. I don't want the little Curmudgeons to have a record just yet).

The facilities are nice. Very nice. Do note the decorative brickwork in the detail from the chapel below.. If I had bags of money and wanted to open a traditional school, I'd use my evil traditionalist powers to try to wrest the property from the seculars who are using it now.

I'm sure there's much more to know about St. John's, but I don't know it. Heck, until a reader clued me in via email, I didn't know that there ever was a diocesan seminary here (I thought that the Conception Seminary had always served the diocese as the college seminary).
Therefore I invite whomever might be inclined to give me their information on the place, either in my comment boxes or via email.

23 comments:

Mike G. said...

I didn't know we had a seminary in K.C. either, until a few years ago, I got a chance to set foot in St. John's Seminary.
Our Catholic school's 8th grade class held their class retreat there one year. At that time, the diocese apparently still had control of the school. Evidently it was a seminary high school those last few years, judging by the class photos of many previous years hanging on the walls. I wish I knew where those photos were now. As I recall, the last class was in about 1978 or so. There were many of our older diocesan priests pictured in them.
Incidentally, when the charter school bought St. John's from the diocese, our pastor had the foresight to claim (purchase?) the stained glass from the school Chapel. There are now 17 panes of beautiful old stained glass in our new (July, 2003) St. Sabina church in Belton, Mo. We owe this to Fr. Joseph Matt (now at St. Joseph the Worker, Independence, Mo.). I believe he went to St. John's. Hope this info helped enlighten someone! God bless.

kcpriest said...

St. John's was a high school seminary - in those days called a minor seminary. In those days, just about every diocese had a minor seminary (even the smallest ones). Of course, Conception had its own high school program until sometime in the 1950s when it spun off to Elkhorn (Omaha), NE. Back in those days the demand was greater: it was almost a given that every Catholic family (with more than four kids) sent at least one boy to the (minor) seminary.

From what I know, St. John's didn't close until 1983 or 1984.
KCK had its own minor seminary (Saviour of the World). They retained the building as their "pastoral center" - it is considerably newer than St. Johns (having been constructed sometime between 1955-1965) and therefore lacks the elements of architectural character you discovered at St. Johns.

No doubt you are aware of other Catholic landmarks in KCMO - The old Benedictine convent on Meyer Blvd. closed in the 1980s (I think) and became a(n evangelical) home for unwed mothers - Lighthouse - then later it was a charter school and from what I have heard, there is now a small women's religious community served by the society of St. Pius X.

Anonymous said...

I am an alumni from there. The last class was 1983. Great place, great and lasting friendships, it was a boarding school so we did live there. If you truly want more info, please post more, there is a WEALTH of info.

St John's Knights

Anonymous said...

That was quite a school. I went there for a couple of years in the early 60's. As a matter of fact, I was shooting hoops in the gym during lunch hour one day when the word came in that John Kennedy was shot.

It was a boarding school and the dorms were in a building to the south and east of the main building. I was a "day tripper" because I lived in the diocese.

All brink, very impressive, although I was too young to appreciate the architechture.

I believe the Vincentian order administered the school. Pretty good chow, good sports program but man did we ever do some serious pew time....

TW in the Rockies.

KC in KC said...

I graduated from St. John's in the late 70s. It was a high school seminary run by the Vincentian Fathers, many of whom still reside in the Independence, Mo -- giving missions and retreats in and around the Kansas City area. It was a great place to go to high school. I have many fond memories of the people I met there, some of whom I still keep up with. St. John's was was strictly a boarding school when I attended. I don't think the diocese charged our parents even half of what it cost to educate, house and feed us. Considering the small number of graduates who went on to become priests, the minor seminary wasn't a good investment. By the early 1980s St. John's, Precious Blood Seminary in Liberty, Mo and Saviour of the World in KC,KS all had closed their doors. Many good memories remain, however.

Anonymous said...

I was there in the early 60s, and remember being in class with Mr. Schmidt when Kennedy was shot. I've wondered what has happened to that school. Somewhere I have my yearbooks for my freshman and sophomore years, 1962-1964.

Jim Scofield

Anonymous said...

where's the older comments. alot of past info in them, as well as history. I posted one before. pitty the older ones are gone.

Curmudgeon said...

Oh how I wish I knew! I lost a lot of comments over a year ago when I was messing with my comment hosting software (I used a 3rd party one for a while, then reverted to blogspot.) They all went "poof"! (much as most of the seminaries have in the past few decades, if you catch my drift).

I had some really venonous exchanges on other topics that I wish I had preserved before I started tinkering and lost them.

John Rizo said...

Class of '77 here. St. John's was a great place. Very sad that it did not continue. Many Vincentian priests taught there. A group of nuns took care of the meals for us seminarians and the faculty. They were wonderful ladies. Students lived there Sun nite through Friday afternoon, and went home on the weekends. Some of us did go on to the priesthood. Sadly, too few. During the 70s we had some very good basketball teams. A couple of teams went to the State tournament. Several did very well in district. We also had great musicals. For such a small school, the students (with the support of the faculty, staff, and parents)accomplished an awful lot.

Frank said...

I went to St. John's 1962-1965. I remember 2 names in earlier posts: Jim Schofield and Joseph Matt. Also, Mr. Schmidt was always referred to as coach Schmidit; first name was Norm, I believe. I, too, was down by the gym when word came of Kennedy's assasination. Lot of great memories. If I am ever in Belton, I will stop in to see the old stain glass windows from the chapel. I was a boarder do to the travel distance from my home. I have always wondered what happened to all the guys I went to school with. I still have my yearbooks.
Frank E. Rueckert

Anonymous said...

I remember Frank and Joe. In fact, maybe Frank has the same birthday as me, Feb. 5. I started a Facebook group page for St. John's, so if you are interested, you might go there.

Jim Scofield

Daniel said...

I attended Precious Blood out in Liberty from 76-80. We used to play John's in basketball back then. Usually lost. Singing "We Shall Flush The Johns!" on the bus ride in didn't seem to affect the outcome most games.

I remember keeping the scorebook one night back in 1980 when Fr. Gielow (rector) stopped the ball game and announced that the US Hockey Team had beaten the USSR in the Olympics. That was really cool.

Anonymous said...

The Sisters of St. Francis in Independence (formerly of Nevada, MO)did the kitchen service for the seminary.

Anonymous said...

I was there from '64 - '68. I was the guy who stuttered so much that I could hardly talk straight. Well that all passed once I got away an on my own. I remember Sr. Edwina. Cawley, Crowley, Ryan, and Tom Calabreze. Some good memories - some bad. But I survived. Now working international and soon to retire. Plan to live in S. Africa along the Indian Ocean with my wife.

Anonymous said...

Sorry - forgot to mention "The Penguin". Does anyone remember?

KTON said...

In 1993, when I was about 11, my family had a house fire. I don't know how but we ended up staying at the seminary for months in a building made up of a living room, large dining room, a kitchen and pantry, two floors of bedrooms and bathrooms and a basement with a laundry facility. As kids (seven of us) it was wonderful, especially the handball court! I'm so grateful for the stay and I know my parents are too considering they were 7 months pregnant with my youngest brother.

KTON said...

I also remember having an 8th grade retreat there, as well.

KTON said...

I know of these dorms! My family and I stayed there for several months while our home was being rehabbed following a house fire.

Anonymous said...

Class of 70 here. There were a dozen in our graduating class and sad to say I have lost contact with all of them. Lot of mixed memories with a great experience and education that prepared us for life. I pursued a career in forestry, got married and raised a family....am retired now and am a caregiver for my wife who has advanced parkinson's.

Bob Bennett said...

I graduated from St. John's in 1969. I held a 40th class reunion in 2009. 22 of 26 classmates were able to make it. I am now planning the 45th reunion. I am hoping to once again see as many of my old friends as can make it.
I set up a Facebook page that has video and pics.
https://www.facebook.com/pages/St-Johns-Seminary/281508838672921

Anonymous said...

Class of '68, boarded the last 3 semesters after day-hopping. Lived over the garage in the 3-bedroom apartment with two other guys as an experiment our senior year to see if we could live in a community of peers. But, I guess we blew it for the following classes after my mates hung a Nazi flag out a window on Victory in Europe day 1968... & Norbert Schmidt walked by and excoriated them. (He flew the hump in Burma in WWII.) We had the first dabbling with the liturgy in English at St. John's (it was mixed English/Latin) and we graduated in the new gym. The Pastoral Formation Center was based at St. John's which allowed the 'major' (college) seminarians to live at Gethsemane Retreat House after traveling the 100 miles down from Conception Seminary. They worked at hospitals / jails / ecumenical centers / churches / schools during the day and night as 2nd through 4th-year (deacon) Theology students... More later. --"Evets H. Tims" my pen name from 1964, developed at 'sinjin'

Anonymous said...

==> Evets H. Tims... see March 18, 2014.
St. John's Diocesan Seminary had a name change in 1968: It was changed to St. John's High School Seminary by a mandated "Constitutional Committee" in the by-laws of the school's constitution [dating back to 1934, WHEN THE MAIN BUILDING WAS COMPLETED.] I know, I was chair and I suggested the using the following rationale: the students didn't attend from or just for the KC-St. Joseph Diocese, always had been open to other dioceses. (Who would have thought it would be closed in less than 15 years???) Bishop Helmsing actually didn't mind, never contacted Rev. Frank Crowley. CM, *rector & principal* ...as far as I know. Class of 68 had 21 graduates, we had one guy expelled in late '67 (Matt Ready.) Our freshman year [64/65] we had 65 students.
The Chapel had early 19th Century style of Egyptian / Rococo blended designs throughout; but it was all painted over in white in 1967-68 and the 25' long walnut sacristy wall behind the altar / tabernacle was removed. The tabernacle was moved to the center, back along the copse. The sacristy was moved to a storage room in the SE corner of the chapel. The altar, of course, was placed in the middle of the communion-rail-removed sanctuary, which was common then, facing the community. The ornate communion rail was made of local limestone in 6 pieces, each side. I know Rev. Roger Miller obtained the stations of the cross for the new parish of Holy Spirit in Lees Summit after sinjin closed. I think Rev. Mike Tierney put them in the brand new Holy Spirit church (the "cathedral of the South") where Rev. Mike Clary ('68) is now the pastor.
Many of the others in the class of '68 have died or have scattered: Joe Harris ('68) is Director of the Associated Catholic Cemeteries. Greg Eufinger is still working hard as a lawyer. Bob Kelly is a retired public servant employee from the City of KC and Jackson County. Rev. Peter (neè William) Ullrich, OSB, is a monk at Conception Abbey... for the last 42 years! Rev. John Schuele recently retired early from the Diocese OF KC-St. Joe. In 1999, Larry Gordon was involved in energy-efficient building materials in Olathe, KS. Bob Suckiel is a retired railroader / singer / guitarist taking care of his wife, Diane. I know that 4 have died: Jim Thompson (Nam), Dan Devero, Kevin Mongoven and Mike McNamara. Joe Recob, the last I heard, was a nurse at St. Joseph's -- 20 years ago. Gary Giudicessi & Phil Pisciotta? Again, 30 years ago--Gary was a railroader and Phil was getting out of the Air Force in Oklahoma somewhere... Mike Maloney--haven't seen him since an Allen's Drive-In get together in July, 1968. Mike Butner--'heard' he was a doctor in north central MO--back in the '70's. Charlie Crocker: last saw him in 1975. Jim Morgan: Last saw him in 1981, he was moving to New Jersey and I later (1985?) heard he and Jodi were moving to Milwaukee. John Murphy: was working for the City, bumped into him last on the Metro bus in about 1991, was working for the City. Kevin Kast (prep): lived in St. Louis area with wife Jan, I think I last saw him at Conception Alumni when he was Alum of year (1998?), he was in the health facility food industry. More, later. Oh, yeah: Sinjin is the name John Schuele always referred to St. John's.

Anonymous said...

The actual structure was built in 1930 by the famed church architect, Maurice Carroll.