Sunday, November 20, 2005

Holy Trinity, Kansas City, Missouri

In the Lykins Neighborhood east of downtown (at East 9th Terrace and Norton) sits The Rock of Kansas City: Reclaiming Christ's Kingdom, formerly known as Holy Trinity Church. I found and photographed this church at the suggestion of the anonymous woman I spoke to down the street from St. Francis Seraph. This is one of three churches she told me about, but the only one I could find.

I was able to peek inside this one (there was a wedding rehearsal going on), but I wished I hadn't. As you may be able to tell from the picture above, the windows are covered in steel grating. The inside is a cheaply sheetrocked and carpeted box, with no fixed seating, no sanctuary, no natural light (from the peek in from the front door that I made) and no indication that this is a church of any kind, much less a pre-conciliar Catholic church. Behind the church is the old parish school, which, judging from the architecture, was thrown up for bottom dollar in the late 1950s or 1960s.

Other than the fact that this parish was merged into Queen of Peace (a fact that is unconfirmed) I know nothing of this church. So I ask again, When did it close? Any special reason why (or just the combination of shifting demographics and failed leadership in maintaining vocations and evangelizing the newcomers)? It seems to me that the neighborhood is mostly Hispanic. What does that say than a Catholic church can't be kept open in an Hispanic neighborhood? So much for a big-budget "Hispanic ministry." Any special history here?

This is yet another church I've posted that was built in the 1920s. What do people know about that era in Kansas City? Why were so many churches built in that time? Why are they all closed now? Please chime in!


Armed with This Far by Faith, I wade back into the subject of Holy Trinity. Enclosed is a fine photograph, taken by Dorothy Marra, of one of the better bits of the interior as it was shortly before it closed. You can see the fine stencilling by Dante Cosentino, the stained glass, and stations of the Cross in this shot (I make no comment on the pews, which are not original). Mrs. Marra spent a lot of time photographing this church, and there are details of windows and other features in the color plates of volume 1.

Holy Trinity parish was founded in 1889, and the original church at 7th and Cyrpress burned down twice. In August 1925 ground was broken for the present church, and in August 1926, the church was completed, at a cost of over $90,000.

The balance and harmony of the interior was, in the words of Bishop Lillis, "heaven." Two Carrara marble statues stood in the facade alcoves (now obscured by "The Rock's" sign), and the high altar was "frescoed in ivory and gold with numerous spires, was set in a canctuary apse which was painted and decorated in purple, green and gold. The rest of the description sounds, well, like something that couldn't afford to be built by the wealthier congregations these days, much less a parish with no more than 175 families at the time of construction, none of which were wealthy. Those 175 families managed to pay off the construction debt within seven years of completion. A great tribute should be paid to pastor Monsignor James Joseph Keegan, pastor from 1918 through 1958 for seeing a humble parish in an unremarkable part of town grow and prosper. Msgr. Keegan died in 1964. God is merciful for calling him home before he could see what was about to happen . . . . . . .

......What was about to happen? I can't paraphrase what happened without doing an injustice to the official historian; I shall have to quote the book directly, on page 170 of Volume II:

In the 1960s, after the liturgical reforms of Vatican Council II had taken effect, the high altar was removed from the church. A simple altar, in the shape of a table and made of Missouri marble, was placed to the front of the sanctuary. The communion rail and the oak pulpit were removed. Where the former altar had stood, two steps led up to a small marble altar, on which the tabernacle was placed.

Before the renovation the walls of the nave had sections of ornately patterned wallpaper which extended from floor to ceiling. There were two side planels which framed the doorways leading to the sacristy and the room where church furnishings were kept. There was one large papered panel in the middle, mostly behind the altar. The two side panels were replaced with a goldish-brown flocked wallpaper and the middle panel was replaced with a large curtain. A wooden crucifix was hung from the top of the curtain and brass candleholders were placed on the small table on each side of the tabernacle.

The two side altars of the Blessed Virgin and Sacred Heart were also changed. The altars were removed and the ornate wallpaper was replaced with the same wallpaper as was used in the nave. The statues were placed on simple platforms which extended out from the wall. The statue of St. Anthony was moved from the nave to the fall wall in the area of the Sacred Heart. The statue of St. Therese was moved to the rear of the church near the baptismal font.

Due to serious deterioration the walls of the nave had to be changed. Cosentino's stenciling which had framed the windows, along with an eye-level trim around the body of the church were painted over with harmonious hues of pink and mauve. These were the only things removed from the church which had been painted by the artist. The old darkened pews were replaced by light colored ones and a carpet was laid.

I guess Bishop Lillis's idea of "heaven" was substantially different that Bishop Helmsing's, for it was during his watch that the above took place.

And the point of renovations, let's guess how the parish history went, shall we?
  • In 1970, the school closed and the kiddos were shipped off to Northeast Catholic Consolidated School. The school was sold off to the KCMO parks department in 1973.
  • Beginning in 1972, Bishop Helmsing subject the parish to "an experimental approach to parish ministry" which included sharing priests with three parishes and putting an RSM sister in charge of Religious Education (shudder).
  • In 1976, the first Parish Council was elected and an evangelization effort was begun in 1979. In 1982, a "strong religious education program was developed." These initiatives apparently worked. People must have stopped sinning, taken heed of Humanae Vitae, and started breeding because "in the 1980s, the confessional on the south side of the church was removed and a new space was created for the new baptismal font..."
  • Unfortunately, there was a sudden, unexplained downturn, and despite a two-decade-long New Springtime at Holy Trinity, and despite the great successes of the new RSM-led religious education program and the priestly and religious vocations the Mercy Sisters undoubtedly fostered, the parish was suppressed in February 1991. The crowds were shipped off to the new Queen of Peace parish at the old St. Stephen's plant, and the church eventually found its way into the hands of the folks now bringing you The Rock of Kansas City.
And so ends the story of Holy Trinity in Kansas City. Pray that our diocese and its remaining parishes will be blessed by many more Monsignor Keegans and far fewer "experimental ministry teams" in the decades to come.


Curmudgeon said...

I do want to make (or reiterate) one more point, one I omitted from last night's update: Whereas some parishes like St. Francis Seraph or St. Joseph's or Ss. Peter & Paul were depopulated, by floods, industrialization of the neighborhoods, or otherwise, this was not the case at Holy Trinity. The neighborhood surrounding Holy Trinity is intact and perhaps economically similar to what it was historically--small houses and working-class-to-poor families. No major urban clearances or changes have taken place, except perhaps that the population has become MORE ethnically Catholic than it once might have been--i.e., there's a strong Hispanic presence.

This leads us to hypothesize that the primary reason Holy Trinity is now defunct is the Spirit of Vatican II--poor leadership from people who "knew better" intent on inflicting change on a population that perhaps valued stability and continuity.

Anonymous said...

This was my parish. We had to go to Our Lady of Peace (old St Stephens 10th & Bennington). I still live just a few doors away.

First the church was empty for a while. Gang member sprayed the doors with garbage. The poor still wandered over looking for the St Vincent De Paul Society.

The neighborhood at the time was, white, Itailian, Polish and Hispanic. We had just had a huge outreach for members canvassing the neighborhood. "We are the Friendly Church". That was something visitors always said. We even had a couple of billboards. Our numbers were growing.

Then the diocese came up with their great plan with the "clusters". Then we closed. The roof was fixed, full huch kitchen with steam tables, connection to the former school, money in the bank.

My husband and I went in and took pictures of every station, every window, views from all over. He grew up in that church. We were married there and all my kids were baptized there.

After it sat empty for a while, the diocese rented it to the Mormans - LDS. They installed central air, lowered the ceiling, put in all new pews, choir area up front etc. They were there while the new Stake was being built.

Then it say empty again. Then the Rock finally bought it. They first bought the convent at 11th & Norton (built by Msgr Keegan). They had services in the massive basement and fed people after the service. The "Rock" people have left. I am not sure what they are calling themselves now. They have bought the school. The city closed the Lykins Community Center, because it had "mold problems". Well the reason changed every week. I am not sure what they are going to use the old school for. I have heard to educate drug abusers and prostitutes.

If you would have sent upstairs to the choir loft - you could still see the cherub angels painted by Dante Cosentino. His painting is also at Holy Name (if still there) and Our Lady of Sorrows. I know he painted a number of churches in the 20's.

We had all kinds of community outreach, events, classes, altar society - many things an active church does still going on when we were closed.

I have my husband's first communion picture with the old Altar behind it. The altars were similar to St John the Bapists in KCK.

There were rumors that the altars went into an attic of Mary Cierse. She is long dead. No idea where it is now.

The other churches in our cluster were St Stanislaus, St Stephen, St Michael (24th & Brighton?).

Annunication which became Church of the Risen Christ (31st & Benton) was one gorgeous church. It is now empty again and looks


Anonymous said...

My family grew up in the vacinity of 10th and Bales when it was a very upscale neighborhood in the 1920's, 30's and 40's...I was baptized in this church..Holy Trinity...and went to Kindergarten there before moving out to the Ward Parkway area in 1953. My parents were married in this church in 1941.

Unknown said...

My mother was baptized in this church, she moved to Califnrnia in 1948 and always compared churches here to Holy Trinity and, it seems, there was no comparison. She told me that her family was not catholic from out near Eldon & Brumley, MO- mission country. They lived across the street from the church and the sisters came to ask her mother to send her and her younger sister to the school. We are still in awe of those sisters and those times. I work for a diocese in southern California and we had a new parish start up and they asked for suggestions and said we have too many saints names for parishes, so I suggested Holy Trinity. There is now a Holy Trinity church here, not sure if that's why but I wish I had seen this church when we went to visit relatives in KC, MO. Dad was not ever converted to organized religion. Miss my mom enough to google her church in KC -- thanks so much for having the picture before -- God Bless!!

BillVK said...

To Martha, Thank you for your post.
I am currently an occupant of the Holy Trinity Rectory. I am an elder of King's Family Church who owns the church, rectory and school now. I am also a member of NE KC Historical Society and I am trying to rebuild the history of Holy Trinity Catholic Church. I am VERY much interested to hear that you have many photos of the interior of the church. I would love to include them in my research. I know this is a long time after your post but I hope that you will somehow be able to see this and contact me at
In 2008 we rehabbed the church and removed the drop ceiling and restored all we could. We could not rescue the frescoes due to years of unconditioned air. I would love to give you a tour if you are interested. We rehabbed the house in 2012 and recovered 9' ceilings with Oak Box Beams that were hidden by a 8' plaster ceiling.
If anyone reading this has any information please feel free to connect with me.
Best regards,

Don Stewart Baldwin said...

Monsignor James Joseph Keegan was a vicious perverted monster! He molested over 90 young girls between the age of 5 and 12. This sick and very evil man molested my mother over a period of 5 years. The church knew about it! They did nothing to stop it! This ruined her life and that of her children. I bet this post will be removed by some other evil person. Covering a crime is the same as committing it. This is not a rare person in the church. If the church kicked out all the perverts, there would be no priest or nuns left. Yes I was tortured by the nuns at St. John's to the point of leaving the church in fourth grade! Clean up your church and stop brainwashing children!!

Helen Monteil said...

My name is Helen Monteil, I went to Holy Trinity until 1956. I was hoping someone might have a pictre of the old school. Also if anyone has any photos of some of the Nuns, like Sister Mary Loren, Sister Mary Murrel. My e-mail is I have searching for years, I hope someone can help. Or if there are any of my 6th. grade classmates around. I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you

Anonymous said...

My husband and I were married at Holy Trinity in 1956. Msgr. Thomas O'Brien officiated. We then left the northeast area and moved to the suburbs only returning to Holy Trinity back in the '80's when the diocese decided to close a number of churches in the diocese and auction their contents. We hoped to bid on something memorable from the church where we were married. The churches were stripped of everything. Even the chandeliers were auctioned off.

The diocese closed St. Michael's on the east side , and St. John's on Independence Ave. at the same time. I believe there were others closing then, as well. The neighborhoods at that time could not sustain those parishes, and their schools were closed years before that. . Many of the schools were consolidated in previous years into what was then called Northeast Consolidated...located at old St. Stephen's.

Anonymous said...

Clarification...Msgr. Thomas O'Brien was an associate pastor back in 1956. Father O'Brien.

Anonymous said...

Loved this church. My aunt was a long time member as long as I can remember. Cousins were married there, my daughter was baptized there. Went there with my aunt and uncle many times. It was absolutely beautiful!

Julie Lamasney Ingham said...

I was baptized there in 1949 by Mgr Keegan. My parents were married there in 1942 again, I am sure by Msgr. I am quite sure that my grandparents, Mollie and Joe Halvey and John and Margaret Lamasney were all buried from there. We moved out of the parish I 1954.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

There was a time in the late 1980s and early 1990s that the Holy Trinity Convent (mentioned in the history on this page) was leased to groups of Jesuit Volunteers Corps.

I was among the last cohort of "JVs" who lived in the Holy Trinity Convent. Our young, idealistic group of 6 lived and worked in the community to support social justice. We "sampled" many Catholic churches during our service year in KCMO, but considered Holy Trinity our faith home. I have a great group shot of the JVs posed in front of the billboard mentioned above, beckoning visitors to "A Friendly Catholic Church".

When the church closed and merged in the cluster described in this history, the convent was likewise closed -- mid 1991. We packed out and found new housing in the city. End of an era.

Peace, Karen

Sandra Mitchell said...

I have my grade card from my kindergarten year at Holy Trinity. It doesn't have a date on it anywhere but I was born Dec. 1942 so I think I would have been in kindergarten in 1947. I remember I walked to school by myself from 6th & Spruce. The only thing I remember about school is we had coffee cans (the flat kind) full of clay that I loved to play with. The grade card shows Msgr.J.J. Keegan, pastor, Sister Cecilia Marie, R.S.M., principal and Sister Mary Lillian, R.S.M., teacher. I would post a picture of it but I don't see an option for that.

mostly.martha said...
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mostly.martha said...
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mostly.martha said...

I'm so sorry this happened to your mother. Was he ever reported? His name doesn't appear in the Database of Publicly Accused Priests in the United States at

Anonymous said...

I went to Holy Trinity also and had Sister Cecilia Marie and my brother had Sister Davidica. I was born in 1954 and my brother in 1948. I love reading about Holy Trinity school and church. I was baptized and confirmed there.

Anonymous said...

My mom might have taught 1st grade at this school. It would have been two years, sometime in 1966, 1967, or 1968. If anyone has any information from that time period, please reach out to me: She seems to remember that one of her students was the son of a famous baseball or football player.