Monday, January 02, 2006

Assumption / St. Anthony's, Kansas City, Missouri

A pleasant surprise at my second stop on the closed church tour yesterday: As I said, I had about 17 candidates left, and my first stop was St. John the Baptist, now the local Don Bosco center. My second stop was only a dozen or so blocks away, at Assumption Church, in the Scarritt Renaisance neighborhood at Bennington and Lexington. I didn't recognize Assumption as an active parish in my cursory This Far by Faith research, and the KC-SJ diocesan website didn't list it as a parish, so I expected to find an empty building--or one overtaken by heretics. Instead, I found that the church was still in use, but had been redesignated St. Anthony's.

When I arrived with one of my little Curmudgeons in tow, it was a bustle of activity. It was about 20 minutes before the Saturday evening vigil Mass was to start (novus ordo, of course), and there were four police patrol cars stopped outside with lights a' flashin. It turns out the cops didn't have business at the Church--they had coincidentally stopped a van there, and they were behaving as if something more than a traffic stop were going on. Either they had a suspect for a more interesting crime, or they were just bored and got together to rough up some unfortunate. Given that they were in front of an open church on a busy street, I will assume that their reason was the former, and not the latter. At least that's what I told my little Curmudgeon as she repeatedly asked "Daddy what are those men doing?"

Because the church was open, we went peeked inside, and said a short prayer
before the Blessed Sacrament, and we received another pleasant surprise. The high altar and side altars were still intact, and (except for some minor, easily corrected stuff, like cheap, indoor-outdoor carpet and fans bolted under each of the stations of the cross) the whole building was in respectable condition.

The altar was a typical Kansas City altar: neoclassical/baroque, in a similar style, if not size, as one sees at Our Lady of Good Counsel or Sorrows or any number of other churches of the early twentieth century. In the niche where one usually finds the crucifix on that sort of altar, there was the Child of Prague, so I'm sure my little Curmudgeon thought I was speaking of that instead of the sacred species when I pointed to the tabernacle and told her to "say hi to Jesus."
We only stayed inside a couple of minutes, as daylight was scarce, and when we came out, an older man in a modern, white chausable (polyester?) was talking to the police across the street. This is just my guess: he's a priest. He gave me a funny look when I crawled up by the bushes to take a picture of the cornerstone, then walked my daughter across the street to get a facade picture, but didn't ask any questions. I just said "Good evening Father" and waved. "Hello," he responded. I'm sure that, had he not been dealing with some major police action outside the door of his church, he'd have been more suspicious of me.

This neighborhood is very interesting. It's surrounded by blight and poverty, but the houses are--or were--remarkable. They appear to be 20 or 30 years older than the houses in my own neighborhood (late 19th, rather than early 20th, century). For the most part, the ones directly across from the Church are kept up, although not terribly well.

It's wonderful to see a beautiful old church building still in use. I would guess, from proximity, that the folks at St. John's were folded into Assumption to become St. Anthony's, and it's a relief that in the supposed merger, the people stayed in the more suitable building.

After we got back into the car and I got the little Curmudgeon buckled in, I wondered, why didn't I take a picture of the interior? No one would have minded, but it's just not something I thought of doing, it being an active church with the Host reserved in the tabernacle.

01.06.06 - 11:23 am Curmudgeon »
I was just told by a reader that the altars here aren't original: they were acquired from a closed church in Pennsylvania, and they had been installed in the last few weeks. Rumor has it that Finn is insisting that older churches restore their traditional furnishings so that they look like older churches--that they take down the Star Trek props and restore the traditional altars, rails, and other furnishings as they should be.

02.11.06 - 8:00am

02.18.06 - 11:00pm
OK, kids, as you can see, the altar isn't original; it's a restoration. God Bless Bishop Finn for "encouraging" this sort of thing.

The parish was founded in 1909. The cornerstone of the current church (designed by Checker Dean as a combination of Mission and Romanesque styles to match other development in the neighborhood) was laid in October 1922, and it was built with reinforced concrete and fire-proof steel girders (they didn't skimp like so many other parishes did). Inside, the interior was finished by Dante Cosentino. All that work was undone in a 1967-68 project and subsequent renovations in which the walls were painted over, the altar torn out, and the sanctuary was completely undone. To the side is a picture of the interior as it was before the recent restoration.

In 1991, as you noted in my posts on St. Francis Seraph and St. John the Baptist, these two parishes were consolidated with Assumption at the Assumption site to form St. Anthony's.


Anonymous said...

Wow. A traditional church that was actually renovated and not torn out and sacrificed on the altar of the "Spirit of Vatican II" And it only cost them $60,000. Gee we had our cathedral "wreckovated" for a cool $20 Million. This in a diocese (Rochester)that has had to close or cluster parishes due to lack of money and a shortage of priest "capable" of being pastors.

Jason Anderson said...

The update link to the altar is here. the old one is dead.