‘One more time’

Church will demolish old school building new building will welcome congregants in a year

These former grade school students are meeting for the last time at their old Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception’s school building. In a matter of weeks the building will be demolished so they came to bid a final farewell.

Former student, John Garcia (in red top picture), shares stories with his children of his years in this classroom. “It is a precious parcel in downtown,” Father Paul Turner (bottom picture)said of the land. “We have a visible Catholic presence downtown, and the cathedral is alive and thriving. We want to build on that and make it a more beautiful place.”


Former students of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception’s grade school got to walk into their former classrooms one more time before the building is demolished later this spring.

Taking its place will be a new building at 11th and Broadway. The building, which will be connected to the cathedral, will act as a fellowship hall and event space for the church, and it also will house the parish offices. The new building is expected to be completed in the next year and a half, according to Father Paul Turner.

“This was about a simple need for better heating and air conditioning in the place the priests were living,” Turner explained. “Every priest who has lived there has complained about problems with that building. It’s a building we just haven’t been able to keep up very well.”

The church owns the land on which the new building will sit, Turner added, though the church raised funds for the building’s construction.

“It is a precious parcel in downtown,” he said of the land. “We have a visible Catholic presence downtown, and the cathedral is alive and thriving. We want to build on that and make it a more beautiful place.”

In recent years, the soon-to-be-demolished building has offered services for the downtown’s homeless population, including daily meals.

“We can serve up to 200 people here who otherwise would not have a good meal,” Turner said. “That meal service will move to the old New York Life building at Ninth and Baltimore. That facility has a professional kitchen in it, and it will be a much more accommodating place to welcome people who are trying to get back on their feet.”

The church’s new building will continue to provide other critical needs, including identification cards, clothing, shoes and other essentials.

“We are one of the best centers for providing that service in Kansas City, and we will keep that service in this new building,” Turner said.

While the church continues to plan for its future, former students, including a delegation of Westside residents, reminisced about the past as they toured the old building.

“I tell the stories of going to school here, playing volleyball. … We had a great time here and we have a lot of memories here. It was all a part of our childhood,” said Estella Morales, a congregation member and member of the planning committee for the new building.

Frank Thomas Hernandez said he toured the building because he “wanted to walk the halls one last time.”

“I’m all for progress for this church,” Hernandez said. “I’m looking forward to the new rectory.”

Teresa Ramirez Rollins, who attended the school, said she remembered school lunches fondly.

“I remember the women made good lunches, and it was fresh,” Rollins recalled. “I’m sure schools don’t have it today like we did.”

For John Garcia, who helped to organize the tour group, one memory stood out above all the rest – the day he and his classmates went to listen to the orchestra play on Nov. 22, 1963.

“We were going to the philharmonic. We had gathered in the hallway and we were going to walk down there together. It was rainy and cold outside,” Garcia recalled. “As we were doing that, (the school’s principal) came in and explained to us that the President of the United States had just been shot.”

The children would pray – and eventually mourn – for the nation’s first Catholic President, John F. Kennedy.

“All of us knelt down and prayed. It was shocking to us,” Garcia recalled. “We ended up going, and they announced it at the philharmonic, too.”

Turner said he appreciates the school’s former students sharing their memories, adding that he hopes new memories will be made when the new building is completed.

“I hope they realize how important their education is for the world,” Turner said. “They learned something here as children that they carry with them as adults everywhere they go. Even though this building has served its purpose, they now will carry the building inside of them to everybody they meet.”

Morales said she will be back to wish the building farewell one more time.

“The day they demolish this building, I’ll be standing on the corner to watch it,” she said. “It has a special place in my heart.”