Parish History

Early history of the Catholic Church in Montgomery County, Kansas

In 1869 an Irish Jesuit priest, Fr. Philip Colleton from the Osage Mission in St. Paul, Kansas arrived to serve our mission even before Independence was an organized town. He is believed to be the first priest to trod Montgomery County, Kansas soil. In November of that same year, Father John Schoenmakers, born in Holland, was given charge of the local mission. The Sacraments were then received in the homes of the Catholic settlers. In 1870 the first Church of St. Stanislaus, a small log church, was completed 3 1/2 miles northeast of Independence. It was the first church of any denomination in the county. That church was abandoned when the next priest, Father Paul Ponziglione, an Italian, bought the old Pugh Drug Store and had it moved to the present location of our school where it was remodeled into a church and dedicated to St. Stanislaus Kiska. This church was used as a place of worship until 1881.

History of St. Andrew Catholic Church

Photo by Karen Lee Mikols

Father Philip Scholl was appointed pastor of the Independence church in 1879. As new arrivals came to this area, the little, remodeled drug store at the corner of Park and Laurel Streets could no longer accommodate the growing parish. Father Scholl bought the adjoining lots and began the building of St. Andrew Church in 1881. The church is Gothic in architectural style with the following dimensions: 100 feet in length; 47 feet in width; 34 feet high walls and a 154 feet high steeple, which is the highest point in the city.

The exterior, completed in 1885, is sandstone quarried on farms near Independence. The keystone block above the door is a Greek cross, symbolic of the type of cross on which St. Andrew, the Apostle, was crucified. Directly above the front door is the feature window of St. Andrew. The keystone block for that window is a Latin cross with letters “IHS” (the first three letters of Christ’s name in Greek) imposed on the cross.

The interior of the church is old English Gothic and features a groined vault ceiling, a Gothic altar and side altars. At the base of the altar is a statuette of Leonardo da Vinci’s "Last Supper." The fourteen life-like images comprising the Stations of the Cross were purchased in 1905 and were donated by various individuals or groups. The thirteen stained glass windows, depicting the original Twelve Apostles with St. Paul in place of Judas, and St. Patrick, were installed about 1907. The bell in the tower was purchased from McShane Bell Foundry Co. in Baltimore, Maryland on September 30, 1908, and weighs 1640 pounds. A carillon with a cartridge hymn player was added in 1991.

Photo by Karen Lee Mikols

On September 7, 1916, lightning struck the north end of the church. Only the sandstone walls, the steeple and the stained glass windows remained following the very damaging fire. By March 1917, the rebuilding was completed and the church was rededicated. Oilman J. E. O'Neil donated a new pipe organ during this first renovation. The organ, one of a few of its kind in the United States, is "tubular pneumatic" and was purchased from George Kilgen and Sons of St. Louis, Missouri on November 8, 1916.

Lightning again struck the church on December 9, 2003, this time igniting the steeple. The fire was contained to the steeple so there was very little smoke damage, however, extensive water damage occurred from the steeple down through the bell tower, the organ, the entry way and some of the rear of the church. A complete renovation was necessary including repainting the church’s interior, repairing the organ, re-leading the large stained glass window of St. Andrew, replacing all the carpet, as well as building and installing a new steeple. This renovation took more than one year to complete.

Photo by Karen Lee Mikols

The school at St. Andrew began with lay teachers for the 1904-05 school term in the church basement. Four Sisters of St. Joseph were sent to teach in 1908. The two- story red brick school was built in 1911 and expanded in 1926. The school closed in 1972 and reopened in 1979, once again with lay teachers. New classrooms were added next to the Parish Center in 1998 and dedicated to Father Kevin Trayers.

The Parish Center, which was dedicated on February 19, 1963, includes a basketball court, kitchen and meeting room. The present rectory was completed in 1987 to replace the home that was donated to the parish by Harry Sinclair in 1915.

*The above is adapted from St. Andrew’s Church in Independence, Kansas by Ken D. Brown (1983).
*Photographs © 2004-2005, Karen Lee Mikols.


The Parish Center was first dedicated February 19, 1963.  The main contractor was W.F. Jack, Inc. from Coffeyville.  The Most Reverend Mark K. Carroll gave the dedication address.  Master of Ceremonies for the evening events was Bill Buser; Father Francis O'Donoghue was pastor.  The Parish Center included a gym, bleachers to accommodate about 300 fans, two shower rooms, a fully-equipped kitchen and a general meeting room.  The general meeting room was air-conditioned. 

The Parish Center has been a vital part of the St. Andrew Catholic community since 1963.  Many bazaars, wedding dances, birthday parties, bingo games, basketball games, volleyball games, CYO meetings, community dinners and even Masses have been held in the Parish Center.

In 2002, Reverend Stephen Mahn Thapwa, with the Parish Council, began to plan for capital improvements to the facilites of St. Andrew.  A small group took a plan to the Diocesan Building Commission who suggested the group "think bigger" and "look further down the road," not just address the "current problem."

A Long-Range Building committee was then formed to study the needs of St. Andrew Parish.  Their recommendations were presented to the Parish Council in June of 2005.  Those recommendations included locating the bathrooms together, designing a new kitchen, additional meeting rooms, air conditioning the gym and installing a new gym floor.

A Building Committee was formed to develop an expanded plan to submit to the Diocesan Building Commission and the Finance Council began to study ways to finance the project.  In September, 2006, a group returned to the Diocesan Building Commission for approval of a plan.  The Commission was encouraging but suggested a facilities assessment be performed by an architectural firm and they recommended a feasibility study be conducted.

A Communications Committee and a Capital Campaign Committee were formed and all committees continued to work toward specific architectural and financial plans.  Property was purchased across the street to the south for use as a staging areaduring the eventual construction phase and later for use as a parking area.

A feasibility study was conducted in the summer of 2007 by Mark Davy and Associates which indicated the parish would be supportive of a capital campaign.

Reverend Daniel Vacca became pastor of St. Andrew on July 1, 2007.  Under his guidance, and in conjunction with the 2008 125th anniversary of St. Andrew Church, the Legacy of Faith campaign began.

In November of 2007, a small group again presented plans (architectural and financial) to the Diocesan Building Commission and they were given approval to proceed with the project.

In February, 2008, Walsh and Associates of Burnsville, MN, served as consultants for the capital campaign and a total of $1,810,121.00 was pledged for improvements to the Parish Center and the Church.  A newly formed Campaign Cabinet served to conduct the campaign and continues to oversee the efforts during the 3-year giving phase.

Improvements to the Parish Center began in March of 2009.  John Heckman and Sean Clapp (members of the parish) of Heckman and Associates, P.A., were the architects for the project and Decker Construction Incorporated, of Coffeyville, the general contractor.

Today St. Andrew celebrates the completion of the remodeling of the Parish Center.  The original meeting room is now a science classroom for the school, the gym floor has been replaced, the roof is new, heating and cooling systems have been installed, and there are new windows.  In addition, there are three new meeting rooms, new storage areas, restrooms which meet ADA standards and a new kitchen!

Since its establishment, St. Andrew has been committed to being a welcoming, caring and supportive community of faith.  Today, with this wonderful facility, St. Andrew continues to build and nurture the experience of community so as to remain a vital family of faith.