Saturday, December 10, 2005

A note about Guardian Angels and Our Lady of Good Counsel, KCMO

[July 16: I've updated this by adding photos, and just rewriting and reorganizing this post]

In perusing This Far by Faith for information on closed churches, I ran across two open churches that I have to comment on, at least in passing.


The first, Guardian Angels on Westport Road, was originally planned with a grand campanile, but it was never built.

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Yes, this is one of those churches you want to stop at as you drive by, because the interior must be specatular, right?

Wrong! This place has been thoroughly vandalized in the spirit of Vatican II and is now as ugly as anything you can find in Johnson County or way-out south in KCMO.

We'll start with close-ups of the old high altar, decorated for Easter or Christmas. Christmas, I think. Like that altar? Like those murals? Like the gold leaf in the vaulting?

Obviously somebody didn't. Now we'll look at what they did, starting in 1966. Doesn't it bring tears to your eyes?

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Note the resurrected Christ on the crucifix (no suffering here, folks, unless you're a traddie!!!). Note the baby-blue carpet, like what was pulled out of Old St. Pat's recently. Note how they lowered and darkened the arches with that stained plywood. Symbolic of the lower, cheaper aspirations of the church today, would you say? What on earth do you say to people who thought this was an improvement? Ugh. Those poor donors who originally gave to the construction of the church! Perhaps seeing this from above is enough suffering to get them out of Purgatory? And what sort of sheep are we, to let the wolves sweep in and destroy something so beautiful in the Spirit of Vatican II?

Anyways, Guardian Angels is, for all intents and purposes, a loss. As you can see below sanctuary has been wrecked, and for many years it's been run by laymen, rather than priests, with sacramental services provided by those lovable Jesuits.

There's apparently a big capital campaign afoot to do another renovation. Here's the little model that they have in the back of the church:

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Instead of the restorations like you're seeing elsewhere in the diocese, like St. Anthony, where the sanctuary once again has a high altar, as it was intended to (and as is more fitting to our Lord), these people have more of the same planned. Finally, they'll get rid of the last of that awful, hierarchical communion rail, and they'll have a piano up front so they can see who's performing more favorites from Marty Haugen!


The second, Our Lady of Good Counsel at 39th and Washington (also in Westport), is still a somewhat beautiful church. The high altar remains, and (although as late as 1996 it was surrounded by a sea of (nearly empty) chipped blond wood veneer pews, green/gold carpet, and walls the color of what gets deposited in my nursing infant son's diapers). Back then, there were three separate islands for the newfangled ambo, altar, and cantor stand built up from the floor just outside the sanctuary, and in the Spirit-of-You-Know-What, the highest island wasn't for our Lord on the new altar--it was for the cantor (back then, by the way, the Glory n' Praise books were still in the pews from the pastor's predecessor, but happily, the pastor didn't let the music director actually use them. They were replaced with Adoremus hymnals as soon as they came out.)
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Anyways, the septuagenarian pastor (now an octogenarian, and still pastor) has managed to restore Good Counsel to some semblance of its original beauty with new oak pews, appropriate carpet and tile, white walls with gold accents on the columns, a orderly and somewhat less objectionable arrangement of the newfangled altar and ambo. If you're in Kansas City, and you're not interested in the Tridentine Mass (and yo should be, BTW), this is the place to go for a good novus ordo--as reverent as the NO can be, with a Latin Kyrie, Gloria and Agnus Dei. Most people receive our Lord on the tongue, with many kneeling. There's been a transformation in the congregation here over the last ten years as well. Where once there were a couple dozen old ladies at Mass every Sunday, now there's a nave full of families and a vestibule full of kids--nearly all homeschooled. I'm told collections have increased eight- or ten-fold, and with that money has made long-neglected and substantial structural and mechanical restorations to the church and parish plant. Unfortunately, though, some of the damage done by the wolves, such as the loss of most of the altar rail, the ceiling fans and the messed up lighting, and 12"x12" acoustic tiles over the ceiling, remains.

But I digress. Here's my point:

Today there is inoffensive non-representational stenciling behind the side altars and in the sanctuary that I thought was original, or at least very nearly so. However, in This Far by Faith, I found a photograph of the sanctuary as it appeared before a 1955 renovation. Wow. Where that stenciling is now, there were murals (of what subjects, I could not tell). There were beautiful light fixtures hanging in the nave, too. What a pity that they're gone! Even with all the good work that pastor has done in saving the parish and restoring the building, he'll never be able to completely undo the damage done over the years.


I've found photos of the old Guardian Angels and the old Good Counsel interiors. I've been waiting to post them until I could get over and take new shots of the interiors, but I've just never made it over (no, I don't have a good excuse--I do live in midtown where they are now located). Anways, here I'm posting what I've got.

First, the original sanctuary at Good Counsel before the 1955 rennovations, and second, the sanctuary from an early-1990s photo. Happily, the pastor keeps the ugly modern altar table covered now, and things have been somewhat restored. You can see the high altar in color in the background.


Anonymous said...

YOu might also note that Bishop Finn has designated Our Lady of Good Counsel as a diocesan shrine -that of the Divine Mercy - clearly indicating that he wishes it to remain an intact parish for years, nay, centuries, to come!

Anonymous said...

May God improve your research skills and forgive your snottiness.

Anonymous said...

This site contains serious factal errors and smacks of bigotry against the poor. You do a grave disservice to buldling up the kingdom of God with your condescention.

Curmudgeon said...

First Anon, I'm not as snotty as those Guardian Angels people are philistine!

Second Anon, you must have posted your comment on the wrong website, eh? There's no mention of poverty in this post, and barely a mention of it elsewhere on the blog. And FYI (I think your post is based on an assumption that's a serious error: the people of Guardian Angels aren't generally poor. Plenty of affluent urbanites in the parish. The "poor donors" are unfortunate (to have been succeeded by people who didn't respect their gifts), not impoverished. I can't see how criticizing those who've wrecked the House of God is a disservice to the Kingdom of God.

Waaa Haaa Haa Haa Haaaaa!!!

Anonymous said...

This is a valuable web site. I have recommended it to several people who wanted to learn about the pharisees and why Christ spoke against them. This is a good modern day example.

Curmudgeon said...

REALLY NOW, anon? This is quite a mild post; I might have taken your comment more seriously if it were made on one of my truly obnoxious ones.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I think the previous blogger is dead wrong. This is terrible. I am not catholic but the ones know don't believe anything lke that. They accept pretty much anybody for who they are. This is being a christian! I think you should be ashamed! Okay, now I have two questions. The curmudgeon said something bad about phillistines. Must be a pirates fan. Anyone from Philadelphia out there to respond? Next. I just went to catholic wedding and the preacher held up this cracker and said it was his body. What's up with that?

Anonymous said...

I left KC in 1967 to never return. But I remember GA's as a vibrant parish during those times pre and after VCII. We had four priests at once but after VCII, two left the priesthood and one other was lost to history and Msgr. Creviston was a real CURMUDGEON of the highest order, smoke and drank like a real trooper. Anyway, Fr. Mahoney, Vatican trained, was the one who was lost to history. Fr. Hart, who became the Bishop of Wyoming, and now retired, had the best CYO is the city for GA"s teens. We had a blast.

GC, also had a great church and we at GA always had great fun with them when the Catholic Schools had their football league.

Your correct about the interior of the church. It was magnificent with its high altar adorned with statues on a wooden backdrop. The choir was wonderful and we as school children used to sing the Mass for the Dead IN LATIN for special funerals.

I miss the old church now more than ever.

Lynn Seale said...

I attended OLGC church and school in the 50's and sang in the choir. Msgr. Downey was at the church at that time. Always loved the Church's beauty and had lots of fun at school Thanks for the memories.

Hoser said...

My mom, sister and myself were brought into the church on Easter 1951 with Fr. Downy as pastor. I attended GC school kg and then the boundary's were changed and we ended up in GAngels church with Msgr. Creviston. At that time the Mass was still said in Latin and we also sang in the children's choir, mostly in Latin. With the VII changes, both churches went into the doldrums. Priests left the service of Christ and went to the service of women. Schools closed, nuns left and catholics left the parishes. Now there is a renewal, but GA is horrible on the inside. GC still retains their elegance.

Anonymous said...

All Saint's and All Soul's Day--dressing up as your namesake Saint; kickball in the yard; Msgr. Downy singing Irish songs through the halls of the school; Sister Simone, my favorite' in 6th grade. I moved during Christmas break. I now go to church (St. Joseph's in Bryan, TX). We have a strong Catholic presence with Texas A&M and St. Mary's Catholic Center.

Anonymous said...

I too went to Good Counsel, fond memories of my school days and the nuns who educated us. I attended GC in 1950 - 1957. Taught by the nuns and Mrs Norris. Often wonder about classmates. They were certainly fun years to be a child.
My brother and I walked a long way to school, rain or shine - didn't know the meaning of "car pool".

mike peppard said...

957am Mike Peppard 9.20.2011

We all know that change is inevitable. OLGC School is now being torn down for a parking lot.

No longer will the school roof be
climbed to get down a softball smacked upon it during the 'scrub' game. There will be boundary changes for the 2 hands below touch/tackle football games & I hope this makes the b=ball court bigger. Maybe the girls will finally get a better place to play softball.
Oh, I forgot. No school & no kids there anymore. No more not using the church basement for b-ball because Msgr. Downey thought it was too nice to mess-up the hall floors. "Get upstairs to the top school floor for your basketballs!" he'd yell. So we would & practice carom shots off theceiling. Good Counsel boys shot with no arc. If you got hurt, Ms. Mullane (school nurse) was on the same floor across from the ladder to the rooftop. Down the stairs you went back to Mrs.Norris, Burns, Sister Angela, Sister Mary Arnold, Sister Rosella or Ms. Pretz. Sister Mark Therese or, lord help you Sister Mark Marie. 0r all the way down to Ms. Robb, Ms. Caffrey & later to Sister Jean Louise.
If you really screwed-up it was off to the rectory with you to see Msgrs. Downey, Devine or Crowell. Frs. Bossert, Martin, Pilsl, Schroeger & Fitzsimmons could be there, too. Fr. Fellows was probably in the ivory tower. The door might be answered by Mrs. Gallagher. She'd ask you what you'd done, shake her head & direct you to a waiting place.
You would most likely soon be joined by another schoolmate from the usual list of suspects.

Life is short and then your school gets torn down. OLGC will be with me always.

phlebotomist said...

In the Old Testament, it states that God told Moses, “I am sending an angel before you, to guard you on the way and bring you to the place I have prepared. Be attentive to him and heed his voice… my authority resides in him.” Additionally, Daniel speaks of an angel guarding over him, protecting him from hungry lions.
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Anonymous said...

I had First Confession and First Communion at OLGC. and Msgr. Is a great guy!

Anonymous said...

I graduated from OLGC in 1965, and still have a picture with my classmates and Msgr. Divine. Sister Mark Therese was still there with her beautiful Gregorian chant., Sister Jean Louise has just retired, and we loved our school. It's sad that they tore it down. The nuns took us to the baseball games in the Spring to see the KC A's, and we had a great education. I agree the Church went downhill after VIi. The music was no longer inspiring, and the mysteries of the Church were a thing of the past. Too sad really, 1900 years of history signed away with a million-dollar pen. I no longer live in KC, but I miss the old OLGC, the community, the music lessons, and all the sports teams we girls used to have. I hope the parishioners can restore it to its former glory.

Ralph B. Merrick said...

Always this will be a most important part of me. I was the bottom of the middle, yet this is how I was raised. From the white families that scorned my deceased cab driver father to the Mexicans who embraced me and my mother. To the first woman I ever fell in love with and her mother and father and all the brothers her sisters. To Benders, the Catholic bar and even the Protestant bar a couple of doors down. To the real bakery, not to mention the real hamburger joint. To the first ever skateboards made of skates as we go around Mercer and take the curve onto Westport around the stone slab of the cornerstone of the lower parking lot. here is to the mean Sisters that at least had a smile on their faces and did teach use something, things of value. Things that Jesus taught and well shall always remember. Here is to all the memories of Westport and Rosedale. Here is to all the blessings of being raised in the inner-city in the hard times of both sides of the line in Kansas City. The sixties and seventies were great times to grow up. Also thank you to the Kelly brothers whom I grew with up in the parish next door

TJ Walsh said...

Graduated in 1963.

My great uncle Msgr John Downey was the pastor there for decades. My mother (his niece) was the bookkeeper before she got married -- so I knew every sq inch of that property like the back of my hand.

Spent many nights in that rectory and loved all of his assistants. Fr Martin and Fr Pilsel especially. Great guys, funny. Treated all us kids like royalty (which I guess we were). Housekeeper, organist, maintenance guy -- all great.

The nuns lived at Loretto up on 39th St and would drive in most days in an old Chevy.
Sr Jean Louise
Sr Miriam
Sr Mark Therese
Miss Maston

Stopped by and took pics of the school demolition a couple of years back -- sad.

Unknown said...

I attended Our Lady of Good Counsel grade school starting in the early 50's through 8th grade. I attended daily Mass in this beautiful church. I studied every inch of this gorgeous church. Why was it changed in the first place? It should have been restored not changed. The ceilings were beautiful. In reference to the name of the nuns who taught at the elementary school in the 50's they were: Kindergarten Sister Lucille First Grade Sister Carolyn Mary Third Grade Sister Lambertine Fourth Grade (Lay Teacher( Mrs. Norris) Fifth & Sixth Grade Sister Angele 7th & Eighth Grade Sister Jean Louise (Principal)
Early Fifties: Sister Mark Therese, Sister Elenor. Msgr. Downey a wonderful Irish priest was our Pastor. Our education was free as Msgr. Downey paid for our education. Across the street from the school Mr. & Mrs. Gallagher were devoted to the parish. Mrs. Gallagher worked on preparing the Altar and Mr. Gallagher drove the nuns and worked with the sports teams. Mrs. Winfrey drove the nuns to and from Loretto Academy daily. I recived a wonderful education from the Sisters of Loretto.

Anonymous said...

Hey TJ fo you have photos of the school you could share?