The Story of Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish
Our parish had a humble beginning. During the Civil War era, Catholic families settled near Bonner Springs: to the east in Edwardsville vicinity, to the northwest from the present city, and to the south across the Kaw River in Johnson County, which came to be known as Wilder. Farming attracted these families to the rich and productive soil, as did the Santa Fe Railroad.
The nearest Catholic churches were at Horanif, Eudora, Shawnee, and Olathe. Catholics drove their teams and wagons over rocky roads to attend Mass when weather permitted. During these early years, priests from Shawnee, Olathe, and Eudora came by horseback or train to Wilder. There they offered Holy Mass once a month in the homes of the faithful.
Fr. Michael Simmer of Holy Family, Eudora, who attended to the spiritual needs of the people at Wilder, proposed that a church building be erected in Bonner Springs, a mile north across the Kaw River. In May 1900 Fr. Simmer and Fr. Goldman of Horanif, whose parish included Bonner Springs, began to visit Catholic families in and around Bonner Springs to solicit funds for a Catholic church. The Christian church, planning to construct a new edifice, offered their building and grounds to the Catholics for $700,000. The Most Rev. Louis Fink, O.S.B., Bishop of Leavenworth Diocese, gave his approval, and the Christian church was purchased May 22, 1900.
The building was renovated and dedicated August 8, 1900. The new parish in Bonner Springs was a mission to Eudora with Fr. Simmer in charge. The Catholic people of Sacred Heart parish were grateful to God for a church where they could come together for services, but they wanted a resident priest. In November 1914, Bishop John Ward appointed Fr. Joseph Jacobs as the first resident pastor. A small house next to the church was purchased for $750.00.
In September 1919, Fr. Jacobs acquired more ground. A new church, built of stone and brick, was constructed in September 1921. The original church building was moved to the rear of the parish property and later converted into a parish hall. The total cost of the new church and fixtures was $24,440.49.
After nearly twenty years of faithful and zealous service in the parish, Fr. Joseph Jacobs was succeeded by Fr. Leavite Jacobs, who remained at Sacred Heart until September 1935. Fr. Joseph McManus became the third pastor of Sacred Heart parish and ministered to the growing community until August 1955.
Fr. Michael Moriarty succeeded Fr. McManus. Fr. Moriarty’s first concern was to build a parochial school. With the approval of Archbishop Edward J. Hunkeler, Fr. Moriarty and the members of the parish launched a capital fund drive. Within months, construction of the school began. The school was dedicated on September 14, 1958. But within two years, parish growth indicated need for additional classrooms and a gymnasium. Construction began in the spring of 1960 and the new addition was completed in March 1961.
Fr. John Yadrich succeeded Fr. Moriarty in July 1964. During his time at Sacred Heart, the interior of the church was remodeled to bring it more in line with Vatican II requirements.
In August 1969 Fr. Stanley Loncaric succeeded Fr. Yadrich, Fr. Loncaric remained at Sacred Heart until July 1978. Fr. John Harrington, who remained at Sacred Heart for two years, succeeded Fr. Loncaric.
In July 1980 Fr. Raymond Davern and Fr. Dennis Wait were appointed co-pastors at Sacred Heart. Again the parish was in need of additional classrooms. A mobile unit, providing two additional classrooms, was purchased and placed on church property across the street from the original school building.
In July 1981 Fr. Charles Brink came to Sacred Heart parish. The house next to the rectory was acquired and this property was developed into a playground and parking lot. In 1993, a second mobile unit, providing two additional classrooms, was purchased and situated just north of the original school building.
Although in declining health, Fr. Brink continued as pastor at Sacred Heart until his death on December 3, 1994. At that time, Fr. Leo Cooper was appointed administrator of the parish. In July 1995, Fr. Patrick Jerome was appointed administrator of Sacred Heart and a few months later was appointed pastor.
On June 30, 1996, the beloved church in Bonner was destroyed by arson and had to be demolished. But the people of the quiet little parish did not crumble with the building. Adopting the slogan “we will rebuild,” they began to move ahead. A period of temporary “exile” followed, with daily mass at the rectory or school gym and weekend mass at Savior of the World Pastoral Center.
Rebuilding required funds. The first fundraiser after the fire was held on November 23, 1996 at Embassy Suites. Meetings were held, tears were shed, and prayers were said. Together our spiritual family made the necessary plans to relocate and rebuild.
The new church began with the decision to relocate to the corner of Monticello Rd and Johnson Drive. A capital campaign in 1998 enabled the building of a twelve-room school with a multi-purpose center to accommodate weekend masses. Groundbreaking at the new location was held on Oct. 3, 1999. Dedication for the new school and worship center was held on Oct. 15, 2000.
The faith community of Sacred Heart, united in prayer and sacrifice, had a gathering place again. Although the location back across the Kaw River was new to most, in reality the church had simply returned to the area where it had begun some 100 years ago.
Our history repeatedly evidences the ongoing commitment of this parish. Continuous challenges have been met over the past one hundred years. From the outset, building campaigns were completed in record time, beginning with those first priests on horseback securing funds for the original church, to the present campaign to replace the burnt-out church in Bonner Springs. It has been a little over nine years since the fire. Skeptics said it couldn’t be done in less than ten years. And yet here we are, ready to dedicate a new church in which to gather to worship God.
Sacred Heart is a rapidly growing parish. Before the destruction of the church in Bonner Springs, the community included 326 families. Now almost 1400 families are registered. When Fr. Craig Maxim came to Sacred Heart as Pastor in January 2001, he immediately recognized the work to be done, the plans to be made, and the money to be raised for the church the people of Sacred Heart so desperately missed.
Fr. Craig initiated a capital campaign in 2002 to build a permanent worship space and a two-story addition to the school. Over $4 million was raised. In August 2004 the Archdiocese approved plans to build the church, but an additional $1.43 million in funding was required before the school addition could begin. Those pledges were raised by November 2004.
Groundbreaking for the church was held on June 28, 2004. Archbishop Keleher presided over the ceremony.
Groundbreaking for the two-story school addition was held on April 25, 2005. Archbishop Naumann presided; school children were invited to bring along their own shovels to assist in the groundbreaking for the event! The anticipated opening date for the school addition is March 2006.
Financial goals established, Fr. Craig urged parishioners to be involved in a variety of opportunities not only to raise funds, but also to unite the ever-growing parish. Every year the Knights of Columbus provide the annual fish fry each Friday evening of Lent. People throughout the community know the fish is good and the company is excellent, but Fr. Craig’s hot cross buns make Sacred Heart’s fish fry unique.
The Brown Bottle Dinner and Auction was held annually during the Easter season. Begun thirty-five years ago by the Athletic Committee to raise money for sports supplies for the teams at Sacred Heart, it is now the major fundraiser for the parish. Many parish members lend a hand; most look forward each year to this enjoyable event and its legendary money jar.
The Golf Classic, now in its fourth year, is another popular parish fundraiser. Held at Dubs Dread golf course in early fall, the Classic consistently attracts over 100 players.
After the groundbreaking for the new church and the addition for new classrooms, parish focus moved to the construction itself. Parishioners enjoyed each step of the building process as earth was moved, beams were raised, and the edifice appeared.
The bell from the old church was first cast in 1906 at the McShane Bell Foundry in Baltimore, Maryland. It was restored, blessed, and rededicated prior to being installed in the cupola/bell tower of the new church. The bell and its parts weigh 1036 pounds. Many other items from the church in Bonner Springs have been restored and returned by generous members and friends of Sacred Heart.
Our church building was dedicated by Archbishop Joseph Naumann on November 20, 2005.
A school addition was added in the Spring of 2006 to accommodate the growing number of students attending.
In 2015, a change of Pastors occurred and Fr. Pat Sullivan was assigned to Sacred Heart.
Sacred Heart continues to be a vibrant parish community with over 1,800 families loving and serving the Lord.
“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace.” 1 Peter 4:10