Saturday, January 28, 2006

Foreboding in Topeka

When I was at my parents' house this afternoon, I picked up this week's issue of the Archdiocesan newspaper, The Leaven, which contains an article on the suppression/merger of parishes in Topeka.

It seems that St. Joseph's parish, with its landmark, twin-spired German church just north of the capitol district downtown (near I-70), is slated for suppression/merger into Sacred Heart. The report is that the merged parish will continue at the Sacred Heart facilities, but that St. Joseph is to be maintained and available for use in the discretion of the folks at Sacred Heart. St. Joseph (at least up until I was last stopped by for a Rosary on my way to Home Depot one Saturday four years ago, when I lived in Lawrence) had perpetual adoration and hosted a noon Mass in the 1962 rite. The high altar was beautifully-carved wood, and a look at the confessionals alone was worth the drive to Topeka.

Likewise, Assumption, directly across the street from the Statehouse, is being suppressed/merged into Holy Name. Assumption was larger and plainer than St. Joseph, and it was where my dad, my aunts and uncles attended through grade school (it was also the home of Hayden High School, back in the day). In the 1970s or 1980s, the high school was moved out to a suburban neighborhood, and the building sold for offices. More recently, Assumption was the site of the
sacrilege of pro-abort Catholic governor Kathleen Sebelius's inaugural interfaith hootenany, which Abp. Kelleher refused to stop. The Leaven reports that Assumption will still be used for regularly scheduled Masses.

Without getting dragged back into the Sebelius story (which is tempting--as I was then subject to Abp. Kelleher's jurisdiction, I availed myself of Canon 212 (JCL 1983) and made sure he heard from me about it), I will move on. I've never been to Mass at St. Joseph's, and have only been once, on a Holy Day of Obligation, to Assumption. Assumption seemed pretty "progressive," suitable for its notorious parishioner Sebelius. Obviously, there's reason to keep Assumption open in some fashion for daily Mass and simply to maintain a Catholic presence so close to the statehouse, and ideally, they could get rid of the freestanding altar/table and keep the old Mass going at St. Joseph's (perhaps through the continued services of the FSSP priests at Maple Hill is just a few miles west of town).

But I'll give Naumann his due, at least on my first impression: frankly, central Topeka has been depopulating since the mid-1960s. My dad's old neighborhood just east of the statehouse was completely wiped out by the construction of I-70 long ago. Houses and apartment buildings have been leveled, year-by-year, for state parking lots, as the Kansas leviathan has grown, and even if those who remained were active and faithful Catholics in the same proportion that existed in the 1960s, and there were adequate priests to run both parishes full time, there probably wouldn't be enough parishioners to sustain both Assumption and St. Joseph's. Central Topeka is industrial and governmental--it's no longer a place where people live, with a few exceptions, so some change here is inevitable. If only, though, they could move St. Joseph's out the the suburbs instead of building some newfangled monstrosity named (questionably) after Mother Teresa.

What is foreboding, though, is the warning the articles carries to the folks elsewhere (especially in Kansas City, Kansas): consolidation is coming, and it would seem that at least some of the parishes I'm featuring on my little tour must be slated for closure.

1 comment:

CS said...

Glekhh...I get sick when anyone mentions the Wicked Witch To The West...