Sunday, February 05, 2006

Blessed Sacrament

Blessed Sacrament at 2203 Parallel Parkway in Kansas City, Kansas (at an intersection I once described as "Grafitti Street & Malt Liquor Boulevard"), is a regular parish church, and it for the last few years, it's also been home to the Latin Mass Community of St. Rose Philipine Duschene, the FSSP community in the Archdiocese of Kansas City (actually, one of two communities--the FSSP have another apostolate in Maple Hill, just west of Topeka, and they also say Mass at the soon-to-be-suppressed St. Joseph's parish in Topeka itself). Although the Latin Massers are just tenants, attendance at the Tridentine Masses appears to exceed attendance at the one novus ordo Mass.

The parish was founded in 1899, and the first church was built in 1900. Plans for the present church commenced in 1920, and the basement was completed (and used for Mass) beginnin in 1921. The cornersone was laid in 1924, and the church was completed in time for midnight Mass at Christmas 1926.

Although 1000 people were reportedly at the opening mass, it appears that the church can comfortably seat only about 400 or 500. The east spire, the tallest, is about 140 tall. Because Blessed Sacrament sits near the top of the hill, the spire is visible for quite some distance.

The windows at Blessed Sacrament weren't installed until 1949 or so (I don't know if they had stained glass from 1924 to 1949), and they are not typical. Numerous churches on both sides of the state line have stained glass that obviously all came from the same shop and same craftsman. However, Blessed Sacrament's are one of a kind. They have sacred scenes in which many of the people are dressed in modern workmen's clothes, and they're all very contemporary, or they were fifty years ago. The style (in contrast to the gothic feel in the rest of the church) is certainly one that is influenced by the post-New-Deal Era--a rather industrial feel that gives a little foreshadowing of what will happen to ecclesiastical art in the decades that will come.

When I went by the church to take pictures, it was open, but Saturday evening Mass was going on. Therefore, I didn't get interior shots. However, you can go to this out-of-date website for the Latin Mass community and see what it's like inside (CLICK HERE and CLICK HERE). The chaplain shown in the pictures and named in the website, Fr. DeMentque, has moved on to another apostolate (France, I think) and his last assistant is now the chaplain. I'd download the pictures and repost them (and a couple of additional exterior shots as well) if I weren't having trouble with Blogger's photo tool right now. (UPDATE FEBRUARY 6: I got one posted).

The altar rail was ripped out in the 1970s, sadly (especially since the Latin Massers would really use it now; instead, they balance themselves on a cushioned step, and those who need support have recourse to a prie dieux). The high altar is intact, although it has been slightly modified in one respect. The central statue in the reredos is one of our Lord facing the congregation and offering Holy Communion, but originally, He stood there in profile, giving communion to a kneeling communicant (we can't have that, can we? I wonder where the statue of the kneeling man is now?). To Christ's right is St. Ann instructing the Blessed Mother as a child, and to His left is St. Joseph.

The side altars are intact as well, with our Lady being flanked at her altar by St. Rita and St. Therese of Liseaux. The Sacred Heart altar features (besides an statute of the Sacred Heart, of course) St. Patrick and St. Anthony of Padua. Below the Sacred Heart altar is a seculphre image that is opened on Holy Week. There's also a statue of St. Martin de Pores somewhere. Of course, in addition to ripping out the altar rail, the parish found it necessary to install a newfangled altar and plain lectern in place of the more imposing traditional ambo. The FSSP chaplain works around this well enough, I suppose, but it's not ideal.

The basement, where there are usually coffee and doughnuts, is in rather poor shape, and the pipe organ in the choir loft needs work (apparently only used by the Latin Massers, as the novus ordo musicians have an electronic organ and folding chairs in the south (actually, east) transcept). The blower makes the whole back of the church vibrate. Probably the single biggest complaint anyone ever has about Blessed Sacrament is the sound system--someone got the idea to install a series of car stereo speakers (or so they appear to be) on the pew backs themselves, instead of mounting professional-quality PA speakers on the walls. The sound is terrible, and anyone who is hard of hearing is likely to miss large portions of the chaplain's fantastic sermons. That's something that needs to be fixed, but it's unlikely that the parish has the money to do it, and it's probable that the Latin Mass Community, which is only a temporary tenant, is won't do it either.

All and all, though, it's a fitting place to celebrate the old Mass, and while we're all prone to imagine a better situation--one in which the church is used exclusively for the old Mass, and one doesn't have to work around the modern furnishings, and one doesn't have to strain to hear, and one with a clean and orderly hall--the folks who attend the old Mass there are happy to have to be there.


PS., Now, this turned out to be a rather detailed post with a lot of information. Before readers leave comments criticizing me for not having this level of detail on the other churches, and not having interior shots of the other churches, I want to remind them that this is a unique case--I actually attend Mass here and I was able to pick up a brochure on the Church with some detail in it. If you want to see your Kansas City, Kansas church featured so thoroughly, by all means I will--just send me a printed history and take some interior photographs next time you're there.


CS said...

The kneeling communicant is probably kneeling in a basement corner somewhere.

At least they didn't stick a new one up there with a standing communicant sticking their hands out while blowing a bubble.

Jovan-Marya Weismiller, T.O.Carm. said...


You missed the fairly decent interior shot on the home page! Check it out at


Anonymous said...

I love the pictures. I went to school from 1st to 8th grade at Blessed Sacrament School. I was baptized in this church and so were both of my kids. I no longer live in Kansas City but went back a couple of years ago and went to mass there. It is still just as beautiful as I remember it.

Anonymous said...

I also went to Blessed Sacrament School from 1rst to the 8th grade. I remember First Communion, Boy Scout meetings in the basement, almost getting smacked down by Sister Rosalie after confirmation...LOL.
It was a great place to go to school and worship.
I haven't lived in the KC area in years but I also try to drive by it whenever I am in town.

Patrick Zybko said...

Thank goodness it looks like they repainted the statues with detailed painting. I remember when they slapped a coat of silver paint all over them in the 60's or 70's - don't know if it was due to budget considerations or what, but I would have rather seen peeling paint than that. Like the others who have posted, I went there grades 1-8 and have fond memories. It's in a far rougher neighborhood these days. You should have included in the church history how the construction of the new Parallel parkway in the 70's gutted a lot of the congregation....lotta houses torn down for that project. Thanks for providing this blog, it was a nice trip down memory lane!

Sandy Harrison said...

What a wonderful church/school Blessed Sacrament was back in the 70's. I went to B.S. 7 years and HAD to transfer to St. Peter's for 8th grade! I did enjoy my years and have wonderful memories of those days.

Anonymous said...

My neighbors across the street belonged to Blessed Sacrament and their children (my friends) went there and then to Ward HS.

This was in the 1950's when Catholics were sort of worrisome. There were weird rumors that they kept guns in the basement of the churches. The minorities (African-Americans & Latinos) stayed in their own neighborhoods and the Jews lived in KCMO or Johnson County.

It was always a bit of a scandal when a Protestant married a Catholic.

I'm glad to see it's still open. The two Protestant churches near the two houses where I grew up are now unused & up for sale.

Jan said...

I also went to Blessed Sacrament 1 - 8. It was painted in the spring of 1964 in pastel blues & lavenders and all the statues were painted silver. This was done by the Mulich Brothers Painting contractors (my dad worked for them). My 1964 graduating class had to walk down the aisle amidst scaffolding. I remember that very clearly because I did not like the "new modern look" of the church. I have not been there since my Dad's funeral in 1987. I live in Washington State and don't get back as often as I would like.

Barbara Ann Kay-Pagacz said...

I attended Blessed Sacrament Church and School in the 50's. We were a very active and vibrant community. At the time of my wedding they were changing the beautiful colored statues and interior. I had not seen the finished work until the wedding. Much to my surprise my bridemaids gowns were Torquoise velvet the exact color of the carpeting on the Altar. It was a beautiful site.

Anonymous said...

I am back. I am making a family tree and it is turning out to be a Church tree since I post pictures of Churches for the Baptism, Marriages and Funerals.

I attended the first grade in the old school with a pot bellied heater in the back of the classroom. In the second grade, we had school in the basement of the church while they were building the new school.

In 1956 I was in an eighth grade class of 56 students. There were two third grade classes since it had 103 students.

My brother has been away from KC for many years but whenever he visits we tour all the old places we frequented while growing up and Blessed Sacrament is first on the list.

I am glad that the Church is still open even if it is tenants and am going to go to Mass there in the near future. I loved the old Latin Masses and we would always be pulled out of school to sing a Latin Requiem Mass for the funerals.

Tim K said...

I went to Blessed Sacrament Grade School from 1 to 7 1/2. We moved the middle of my grade eight when they expanded Parallel. Why has there not been a reunion for Blessed Sacrament grade schoolers?