Today, May 11, 2023, marks the 139th anniversary of our "new" St. Francis Catholic Church. Seems like we should start planning for its 140th celebration!
The majestic stone building has evolved constantly since its dedication on May 11, 1884. Its steeple has grown, and the entire building now sits four feet higher than it did when construction started in the 1870's. The stained-glass windows we take for granted were added about 16 years after our ancestors started using the Church.
Another thing we have taken for granted is its nickname "Beacon on the Plains." We suspect the brightly lighted steeple, visible for miles around the region, has something to do with that. But the nickname is not quite right! The term Beacon on the Plains was coined by Sister Mary Paul Fitzgerald in her book Beacon on the Plains, when she wrote: “In the fifties, the mission was something of a beacon light to the few scouts, weary teamsters or perplexed travelers who stopped for rest, refreshment and supplies for which they customarily paid nothing. Not infrequently the missionaries rescued individuals lost on the plains …” She was speaking of the 1850's, and the original Osage Mission log church, and the mission that surrounded it.
The old log church also carried another important designation that seems to be forgotten — The Cradle of Catholicism in Southeast Kansas. That designation refers to the wide-spread missionary work that extended well beyond southeast Kansas. Our Osage Mission Jesuit priests actually covered a five-state area including Kansas, southwest Missouri, Oklahoma, northwest Arkansas and at least one location in Colorado. This designation can probably be expanded to include a very large number of Catholic vocations that occurred here — but that's another story.
Some related links from our website:
Thoughts 'n Things
Some 'Thoughts' and short articles about past and present-day St. Paul and the Southern Kansas - 4 State Region.