Archive for Tuesday, September 22, 2009

St. John’s Catholic Church begins planning for major expansion

St. John want to add on to school, sanctuary

September 22, 2009


A space crunch at St. John the Evangelist has the Catholic church considering a major expansion that would take up much of the 1200 block of Kentucky Street.

Leaders of the church, 1234 Ky., have begun talking with parishioners about adding onto both the church building and the adjacent Catholic school.

“We just can’t gather together as a whole community,” said Father John Schmeidler. “We have to split into six different masses during the weekend to fit into the space that we have.”

Plans under consideration would allow the sanctuary of the 84-year-old church to expand its seating capacity from about 300 currently to about 950 people.

The project would involve building onto the south of the current church building, using an architectural style almost identical to the 1925 church building.

“The people love this church,” Schmeidler said. “We told the architect it needs to have this feel.”

The project also would involve expanding to the north of the current church to connect the church with the existing St. John’s school, which serves students pre-school through sixth grade. The southern addition could include a gymnasium, cafeteria and some additional classroom space.

The addition would make it easier for the school to eventually add seventh- and eighth-grade classes to the school, if Lawrence public schools decide to reconfigure junior highs in the district by moving ninth-graders to the high schools.

But the church hasn’t made any final decisions about the school or the expansion project.

“Nothing is official yet,” said Jane Ellen Liebert, director of development for the church. “We have a long way to go before we actually could launch this. We need to get input from parishioners.”

Schmeidler said the discussion with parishioners has begun and likely will continue through the spring. A formal pricetag for the project hasn’t yet been determined, but the church does own the property it needs to undertake the expansion.

Liebert said the church owns the entire east side of the 1200 block of Kentucky. The project as currently envisioned would occupy most of the east side of the block. The expansion likely would require removal of a house that currently houses the church offices. It also would remove a house that serves as a Catholic thrift store.

The project would require several approvals from Lawrence City Hall before it could proceed, and issues such as parking, design and stormwater would have to be reviewed by planners.

“We like being in the downtown area,” Schmeidler said. “We like the feel of it. We want to stay here, but we’re pretty confident it will take adding more buildings for us to do that. It is a great problem to have because it means we’re alive and vibrant.”


ralphralph 8 years, 2 months ago

Pave the whole works, paint it green. ... or, maybe, plant a tree every now and then, when you get the chance.

momof2many 8 years, 2 months ago

Mr. Lawhorn has his directions backwards. The church would be extended to the south and then expanded to the north to connect with the southend of the school.

hujiko 8 years, 2 months ago

it makes no sense in building another gymnasium, give the kids an auditorium

Jonathan Kealing 8 years, 2 months ago


You're right. Fixed it.

Jonathan Kealing Online editor

KS 8 years, 2 months ago

Well, all those folks that left Corpus Christi because they didn't want to have to pay for that new church will now have another chance to go someplace else. Cheap! Good luck, St. John's with your plans.

LadyJ 8 years, 2 months ago

You know there is always the St. Lawrence Church up at KU. Nice little Catholic Church and friendly people.

Beth Ennis 8 years, 2 months ago

Leaving a church that you belong to just because you don't want to pay for a building that will house enough people is a cop out. I go to St. John's because it is where I feel at home. I've been to St. Lawrence Center, but it wasn't where I felt at home. I can't explain it. St. John's has standing room only at almost every mass. Overflow goes into the basement where you can watch on a tv from a video camera in the balcony. Holidays are even worse, the church is full 30 minutes or more prior to the Mass. There is a very real need for the expansion.

KS 8 years, 2 months ago

travelinggeek - I totally agree with everything you say. Unfortunately I have watched it happen. Again, good luck with the campaign. St. John's is a great parish.

Bobo Fleming 8 years, 2 months ago

Great church. Love the 5:00 mass. New plans look like they keep the old and blend it with the new.

Beth Ennis 8 years, 2 months ago

KS, thanks! Say some prayers please!
Senegal, I agree, it is a great church, and they did a great job blending the old with the new in the plans. It really is a wonderful design.

Matt Toplikar 8 years, 2 months ago

I grew up going to school at St. John's. I have to say, I hate the idea of changing that beautiful church. I realize there are space problems, but what can I say, logic rarely wins in a war with nostalgia.

I went a few times to Corpus Christi's big church out west-- it seemed so impersonal-- like watching a concert at Sandstone vs. Liberty Hall.

Not that I should have a say in the matter really-- I don't live in Lawrence anymore and haven't been to church in years. Still, I hope they realize that what they have there is pretty special-- and wouldn't adding on to the north and south sides mean losing the stained glass windows?

kansasfire911 8 years, 1 month ago

Well its good to see in this economy that the church has the funds for major expansion project. Way to go milking the parishoners for every cent and making them feel guilty if they don't. How about redirecting some of those funds back to the school? Being a former St. John parent, I know first hand the constant probing for money from the school/church due to lack of funds available by the church. Will this be a hired job or will you be asking your school parents to volunteer their skills, time and money to complete the job??? After all, they need to pay for that "higher" education.

MissinLawrence 8 years, 1 month ago

I've been attending St. John's for over 20 years now and I am excited to see this happening. Father John and Earl provide a welcoming environment for anyone of any religion. But as a regular at the 8:30 mass, I am afraid that with the expansion, the mass I attend will lose its more "traditional" mass ways. I hope and pray that the church committees looking into this, will realize that some parishioners do not care for the 5:00 mass, with the more modern music and that they consider keeping these two masses seperate.

kansastruthteller 8 years, 1 month ago

The comments just prove you can't please everyone. This is why those in charge must evaluate information and comments and then decide what is best for the parish as a whole. No one decision will make everyone happy.

I am new to Saint John's and must comment that it is a wonderful church. I felt welcome and could feel the warmth as I entered the church for the first time.

The parish is very diverse and I had the pleasure of attending Mass with Mariachi music and look forward to Saturday's Polka Mass.

Change is tough for some people, but it is necessary.

overthemoon 8 years, 1 month ago

Who is the architect mentioned? The journal world has this strange history of rarely mentioning the architects on major projects. Its like the whole scheme just pops into place magically at the start of construction. There are many many people who spend thousands of hours designing and documenting a project. It would be really nice if the JW would acknowledge the effort and involvement of the people who's efforts make projects like this happen.

kansasfire911 8 years, 1 month ago

Consumer- I'm with you on this one. Never forget: Spectacles, testicles, wallet and watch.

Georgine McHenry 8 years, 1 month ago

I think this is a great long range goal. St. John's is the best church I have ever gone to. to Consumer1...I know what you are talking about having gone to Catholic school for 12 years but, back in the day, that was the way and since, the schools have changed a lot. There will be good teachers and bad teachers throughout life. I've learned to sort them out. I hope you will come back someday to your roots.

EudoraFolk 8 years, 1 month ago

It is good to see St. John's expanding. I am encouraged that a faith community that preaches and teaches about the sins of abortion and homosexual marriage can grow even in Lawrence, Kansas. I guess you cannot stop the truth.

BigPrune 8 years, 1 month ago

consumer1, Mass 3 times a day? I've never heard of such a thing. I'm 50 and never remember sitting through a latin mass. You say it's been 35 years. Where exactly did you go to school?

Beth Ennis 8 years, 1 month ago

I think the architect is the same one that designed the current chruch, BA Green Construction. Mtop, the current church will still be there, and I'm pretty sure the stained glass windows that have to be moved, will be moved to the new church building. The current church will have a small chapel for smaller needs. I also attend the 8:30 mass and like the music. Some of the newer music is good, but I prefer the 8:30. I know they will combine some masses, really, there are just too many now. Obviously some of the choirs will also have to combine, hopefully there will be a blend of music.
Consumer, I'm sorry for your previous experiences. I did not grow up Catholic, but I attended Catholic church more than I did my own (with my cousins). It has changed a lot in how the mass is done. I do hope one day you will give it a try--you can wipe out all those bad memories with new, good ones. Frs John and Earl are wonderful. I hope you will come to our Oktoberfest celebration on Saturday and see for yourself how much it has changed.

Boston_Corbett 8 years, 1 month ago

Notice that Marion is a posting fool tonight..... trying to get to that million mark. What a maroon.

alchemist 8 years, 1 month ago

Cool. Good for them. I just hope this still means there will be a fiesta and Oktoberfest. Can't wait for Saturday.

alchemist 8 years, 1 month ago

I hope they expand. maybe they can then get the city to increase the number of street lights. That street is beyond unsafe at night.

George_Braziller 8 years, 1 month ago

Is it possible to make a donation just to get rid of trolls who feel they have to throw vinegar on everything? Let me know where to send the check.

Poof - he's gone. (Don't we all wish.)

trixiemariefuzz 8 years, 1 month ago

Having attended a parish that was short on space for worship as well as school space & meeting areas, our expansion was a blessing!

From the information in the article, it sounds as all the questions that have been raised in the other comments here (re: parking, windows, combining of Masses) will all be addressed when the parish administration presents the proposal to the community.

My advice (having been through this) is to avoid gossip, thoughtfully listen, pray, and be open to God's will for the parish.

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