Prior to 1958, the local Lawrence parish of St. John the Evangelist served the Catholic students at the University of Kansas. There were few Catholics at KU at that time since the Catholic Church had always encouraged her young people to attend Catholic colleges and universities. As the trend of Catholic students attending KU grew, the Church responded by establishing a Catholic Center with buildings located on Stratford Road. The Benedictine priests of Canon City, Colorado, and then of Atchison, Kansas, served this mission until 1977. An Archdiocesan priest, Fr. John Rossiter, assigned in 1972, also worked with the assigned Benedictine priest until 1977.
By 1977, it was time to begin new development and discover new resources to respond to the growing phenomenon of Catholic students attending public universities. At that time, it was estimated there were 5,000 Catholic students at KU. The Catholic Center was financially dependent upon the Archdiocese and Sunday collections. It was at this time that Msgr. Vince Krische came to St. Lawrence, and the initial steps toward growth and development began.The year of 1979 saw the beginning of plans to build a chapel and student center to meet the spiritual needs of students and faculty. John O’Leary, then president of the KU Alumni Association, agreed to help Msgr. Krische begin a campaign to raise funds for the establishment of a building. John was able to gather other Catholic KU alums to serve on the building committee, and the planning began. A local planning committee, composed of KU faculty, served as the “in-house” committee. The plan was approved, and the planning committee, with Archbishop Ignatius J. Strecker, encouraged the project to begin. On September 6, 1986, Archbishop Strecker dedicated the new chapel and student center, and a new era in campus ministry had begun. Since then, St. Lawrence has continued to develop and grow. Today, it is estimated that more than 6,000 Catholic students attend KU.
Today's St. Lawrence Center
In order to meet the needs of University students and of today’s Church, St. Lawrence has more than 45 programs, which emphasize theological education and spiritual formation. The goal throughout is to develop students to be leaders in their parishes, and to develop moral and upright professionals. By their very attitude and behavior, they will give witness to Jesus Christ and His Church.
The St. Lawrence Center also serves a permanent community consisting of KU faculty, staff and alumni in the Lawrence area who agree to assist in the mission of St. Lawrence. There are 142 families in this permanent community, and they are the foundation of the St. Lawrence constituents. They provide consultation and support; serve as role models; and develop, form, and mentor the Catholic students of the University. They are true stewards through the devotion of their time, talent and treasure for the benefit of the Catholic Church. In addition, they are beneficiaries of services that St. Lawrence provides, such as sacramental life, pastoral care and religious education.