St. Mary's Academy & College
The History of St. Mary's Academy &
Timeline: 1967 - 1978
Summer - The Jesuits leave St. Mary's. The
Jesuit superiors decided to move the Theologate of the Missouri Province
back to St. Louis. A large auction is held, the highlight of which is the
historic bishop's chair, hand carved in 1878 [it returned to St. Mary's in
1978]. The place known as St. Mary's Mission and St. Mary's College seems to
sleep. Silence closes over the classrooms, the dorms, the refectory - and
especially over the empty Immaculata where Our Lord no longer dwells in the
tabernacle of the marble altar and the voices of students and seminarians
are no longer lifted for the glory of God. During part of these silent
years, an old brother caretaker stays on in the Infirmary building. Gone are
the black-cassocked priests and seminarians the townspeople had come to know
and love so well. No more can the footsteps of hurrying students or the
swish of seminarians' cassocks be heard in the halls. No more does the
College bell ring out across the valley. St. Mary's - hallowed by lives of
holy religious who had toiled here in heat, in cold, in pioneer conditions -
is left alone. And someone writes what proves to be a prophesy: "Time will
tell. Maybe in a new role, the College will still play a meaningful part in
The Jesuits lease the old Indian Pay Station (to
the west of campus now) to the City of St. Mary's. In 1969, it is restored
as a museum by the newly formed St. Mary's Historical Society.
||June 6 - While the old campus sleeps, an even in Europe will
have far-reaching effects for the College and the village of St. Mary's. In
view of the disastrous situation in the modern seminaries, His Excellency
Francois Charriere, Bishop of Lausanne, Geneva and Fribourg, gives verbal
permission and encouragement for Archbishop Lefebvre to open a seminary
under the title of Saint Pius X in Fribourg.
||November 1 - Bishop Charriere approves and confirms the
constitutions and proceeds to the canonical foundation of the International
Priestly Society of St. Pius X. This is the birthday of the Society. On
February 18, 1971, will come the second canonical step, approval from Rome,
when Cardinal Wright, prefect for the Sacred Congregations for the Clergy,
will officially approve and encourage the Society.
||May 23 - In a ceremony that takes place on the porch of the
Faculty Building, the use of St. Mary's is returned by the Jesuits to the
Prairie Band of the Potawatomi, who requested it to be given to them. The
land and buildings are given in trust for the purpose of developing them
into an Indian cultural and educational center open to all tribes. Plans
include a home for aged Indians, day care center, vocational school, and
alcoholic treatment center. None of these plans materialize, and by about
1975, the Jesuits have St. Mary's again on the market.
||Parties interested in St. Mary's campus include the Kansas
Police (to convert it to a training center), the local school district (to
use it as a combined high school for Rossville and St. Mary's - the
communities build two new high schools instead), and local businessmen, who
have feasibility studies made for converting it into a business park. St.
Mary's businessman, Carl Simecka, leases it from the Jesuits for about a
year and a half, and sets up his office in the old Jesuit accounting office
on the southwest corner of the ground floor of the College building. He mows
the grounds, which had been mowed only intermittently for several years. His
hope is to develop the property into apartments and business offices while
retaining their character, and to make the historic Immaculata Chapel
available for special functions such as weddings. He works to save the
Chapel's stained glass windows, which one party wanted to buy and remove;
and to keep out the "Moonies," who twice attempted to obtain the property,
once representing themselves as a women's cultural group. None of this
gentleman's plans for the property materialize. For a time, the McCall's
pattern company in Manhattan use the old Jesuit Refectory (now Assumption
Chapel) as a warehouse.
||March - KATO Corporation (a land company based in the
Southwest) of Phoenix, Arizona, purchases an option on the St. Mary's
property. Job Corps is interested in buying it through KATO and setting up a
training center for high-school dropouts. Concerned local residents call a
town meeting and stop the purchase at the eleventh hour.
||Autumn - Traditional Catholics discover St. Mary's and begin
attempting to interest the Society of St. Pius X in it. At the invitation of
a local dentist, Dr. Eugene McKenzie, priests come from what was the the
U.S. District Headquarters on the East Coast and have a look at St. Mary's,
||January - Fr. Hector Bolduc of the SSPX, based at Dickenson,
Texas, comes to Topeka to offer Mass in the home of the David Gayner family,
who bring him to St. Mary's. He predicts that the Society will acquire the
property and a novena is started.
||February - Representatives of the SSPX meet with KATO's
representatives at the Mainstreeter Restaurant in Rossville. KATO's price
tag is in the millions, and the little group in Topeka has fourteen dollars
in their checking account. Father says, "We don't want to buy it; we want
you to give it to us!"
||May 22 - His Grace Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre inspects St.
Mary's and especially admires the Immaculata Chapel. It is because of this
magnificent church that he urges Fr. Bolduc to continue negotiations and
find the means to acquire St. Mary's for a traditional Catholic center. The
chapel seems to him a symbol, raised up in the heart of America, and
destined to favor the Catholic renaissance of our great country.
Negotiations continue, and in the end, arrangements are made, by which KATO
donates their interest and a benefactor puts up the remaining amount asked
by the Jesuits.
Early Threads in the History of St. Mary's
Time Line: 1827 - 1847
Time Line: 1848 - 1869
Time Line: 1869 - 1931
Time Line: 1931 - 1967
1967 - 1978