A Short History of St. Patrick's Parish

Compiled by Fr. Merlin Kieffer

The impetus for the founding of St. Patrick’s Parish came with the building of Ft. Riley in 1853.   Irish and German immigrants, stone masons and carpenters, employed in the construction of the Fort later settled in the area, many of them in and around Ogden.

In 1854, at the invitation of the commandant, Major Ogden, a priest from St. Mary’s Jesuit house began to hold services at Ft. Riley once a month.   He was called upon from time to time to administer the Sacraments to the residents of Ogden.   Jesuit Father Duerinck probably performed the first marriage in Ogden.   As the number of settlers in the area increased, Ogden became a regular mission station.

Fr. Louis Dumortier, a Jesuit from St. Mary’s, began serving the Catholics in the territory of the upper Kaw River and its tributaries in 1859.    As far as we have been able to determine it was at about this time that Ogden became a parish – the people meeting in house churches.   (As far as I know there is no actual date of the founding of the parish recorded.) The first baptism recorded by Fr. Dumortier at Ogden was in December of 1859.

One of the stories told about Fr. Dumortier is that when he was still some distance from Ogden he would dismount and send his horse on ahead.   The familiar rider-less horse coming into town was the signal for the parishioners to gather for Mass and the Sacraments.   By the time Fr. Dumortier had walked in from across the prairie reciting his Breviary, his people had gathered.

Five or six Jesuit priests followed Fr. Dumortier in those early years.   Noteworthy among them was Fr. Joseph Rimmele who saw a great potential for the Catholic Church in Kansas.   He notes in a letter to the famous Fr. DeSmet in 1869 that at Ogden was the “Church of the Immaculate Conception, 30 x 18 feet, with twenty-five families and annual resources of $50.   The church is finished.  The Irish predominate.”  (Manhattan had only six Catholic families at this time!)

Fr. Dumortier’s diary and Account Book in the archives of former St. Mary’s College seems to leave no doubt that the first church was actually finished in 1866.   As many of you know it is the east part of St. Patrick’s Parish Hall today.

In 1876 the Ogden parish was turned over to the Diocese of Leavenworth by the Jesuits.   Bishop Fink was then the Ordinary.  In 1881 Bishop Fink appointed Fr. A. T. Ennis resident pastor at Manhattan, and foreseeing that it would become the larger center, he made Ogden a mission, even though at the time it had a larger congregation.   In 1897 Riley County became part of the Concordia Diocese.

Two priests later in 1907 Fr. James M. Reade became pastor, and seeing that the original church was too small for the growing congregation, Father Reade built a new church in 1909, which is preserved in the limestone walls of the present church.   Fr. Reade was still remembered with affection when I came here in the 1960’s.   He loved the good people of Ogden and even wanted to be buried here.   Some parents still remembered him for his wonderful catechism lessons.

Msgr. Christopher Roche gave St. Patrick’s, as the parish came to be named, a touch of Ireland by building a stone and concrete block fence around the property.   It was still there on the south side near the present sidewalk when I came here in 1964, but it was in disrepair and falling down, so it was removed.   I believe the stone wall still on the west side of the property is part of that fence.

On March 18, 1938 a disastrous fire gutted the church and toppled the upper part of the walls.   Fr. Joseph Browne declined to remain and rebuild it, so Fr. Edmund Arpin, the new pastor, did so in 1939.    The standing walls were used and built on, but the church was enlarged, and I believe the bell tower was added.  With the coming of World War II, an enlargement of Ft. Riley took a large portion of the parish territory to the north and many of its farm families were forced to move elsewhere.

While I was pastor, on December 8, 1966, the feast of the Immaculate Conception, we commemorated the official dedication of the Ogden parish to the Immaculate Conception one hundred years earlier.    And here we are 43 later commemorating the 150th Anniversary of the Parish, the 143rd anniversary of the First Church and the 100th Anniversary of the current Church.I succeeded Fr. John Whitty in March of 1964, who had been pastor here for 17 years following Msgr. Arpin in 1947.   Just prior to our 100th Anniversary celebration the current altars were built by Msgr. Cornelius Brown and the sanctuary area was enlarged and re-fashioned to reflect the changes in worship following Vatican II.

Quite a few priests and one nun, Sr. Janis Wagner, SSJ, have served the people here since my departure in 1971.    I am not so familiar with St. Patrick’s history since then, having been exiled to Goodland, the western-most parish of the diocese by Bishop Vogel.The priests who have been successive pastors since then were: Msgr. Raymond Menard for several months in 1971.   And then Fr. Marvin Kaiser, 1971-73; Fr. Larry Grennan, 1973-75;  followed by Msgr. Thomas Keogan with his assistant, Fr. Chris Conklin, for a short period in 1975-76 from St. Xavier Parish, Junction City; Fr. Carl Kramer, a native son, from 1976-82; Fr. Donald McCarthy, 1982-88; Fr. Reginald Sanders (a Benedictine priest), 1988-89.  When Fr. Jerome Morgan became pastor at Seven Dolors, St. Patrick’s became a mission of Seven Dolors and was served by its pastor and associates.  Fr. Morgan is listed from 1989-91, and then Associate Fr. Keith Weber for a brief period.

And then thru April 1997 several priests from area parishes lived at the rectory and offered Mass here, or were associates at Seven Dolors: including Fr.  Randall Weber and Fr. Richard Lutgen, who was Sacramental Priest at Chapman.

During Fr. Larry Grennan’s pastorate 1993 thru 2005, Joe Popelka, Fr. Mark Wesley, Fr. David Metz, Fr. Urbano Tin and Fr. Michael Elanjimattathil were Associates who also cared for St.  Patrick.  Since 2005 Fr. Joseph Popelka with his Associates, Fr. George Chalbagham, Fr. James Thomas, and, of course, Bishop Emeritus, George Fitzsimons, have serve here.  Sr. Janis Wagner came to assist as Liturgy Director at Seven Dolors in 1994, and in 1999 came to live in the rectory here and became more directly involved as Pastoral Associate to Fr. Grennan for St. Patrick, where she worked extensively with parishioners both spiritually and in beautifying the buildings and grounds.   She was instrumental in the renovation of the Parish Hall in 2000, and, in getting the electronic Carillon installed in the Church in 2003.  July 1, 2005, Bishop Emeritus George K. Fitzsimons took up residence in the rectory under the pastorate of Fr. Joseph S. Popelka.  On March 15th, 2009, Bishop Paul S. Coakley celebrated a Mass to honor the 150th Anniversary of the founding of the parish, the 143rd Anniversary of the Original Church, and the 100th Anniversary of the Current Church (built in 1909) and rebuilt after a fire in 1939.

Priests who have served the Parish:

1899-1907            Fr.Shields     

1973-1975            Fr. Grennan

1907-1913            Fr. Reade     

1975                      Fr. Keogan

1913-1930            Fr. Roache

1976-1982            Fr. Kramer

1930-1939            Fr. Brown

1982-1988            Fr. McCarthy

1939-1946            Fr. Arpin

1988-1989            Fr. Sanders

1947-1964            Fr. Whitty

1989-1993            Fr. Morgan

1964-1971            Fr. Kieffer

1993-2005            Fr. Grennan

1971                      Fr. Menard

2005-present        Fr. J. Popelka

1971-1973           Fr. Kiser