St. Andrew Catholic Church began in Abilene in the city’s infancy. Prior to 1874, the members of this church had no house of worship; the nearest church was in Solomon. The first Mass was held in 1859 at the Margaret Callahan cabin west of the cemetery on Mud Creek. After that, Mass was held alternately at the homes of James Ryan, Jim Hall, or in a room over the McInerney Shoe Store on Broadway Street. It was there the choir originated.
With the opening of the Kansas Pacific Railroad in the fall of 1866, many new families moved to Abilene. Soon this small group of families felt they were quite capable of supporting a church. The lots were laid November 30, 1874. The cornerstone was laid November 30, 1874. July 5, 1875, saw the church completed and the first Mass said. In 1894 the church bell was installed. Not only is it still in use, but it was the first bell in Abilene.
In 1880 Saint Andrew’s saw its first resident priest, Fr. John O’Leary. Father O’Leary built the first rectory, which was in use until 1997. He also aided Mother Bernard Sheridan in the building of Mount Saint Joseph’s Academy, which was located north of Abilene.
The current church was constructed in 1916 with the first Mass celebrated in 1917. It features the statues of the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Andrew, St. Joseph and the Christ Child, Infant Jesus of Prague and the Pieta. An Our Lady of Guadalupe painting and Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Madonna and Child, and Divine Mercy icons are on the walls. A mission cross in tile is on the floor of the entrance. The Altar Crucifixion features Mother Mary and St. John the Apostle standing next to Jesus on the Cross. Fourteen devotional Stations of the Cross line the walls of the church.
St. Andrew’s Church is Romanesque in design and is constructed of dark red brick with white limestone trim. The $60,000 structure is 120 feet by 50 feet and has a capacity of 500-600 people. It is a tribute to the parishioners that the church was paid for upon completion. The spire towers 125 feet above the sidewalk and is surmounted by a 12-foot cross. The original interior of the church was devotional and rich in color with three white altars. The frescoing which decorated each side archway with a Christian symbol, cost $3,000. The windows, manufactured in Munich, Germany, are all stained glass in earth tones. They were donated by parish families. Each window depicts a mystery of the rosary. The large crucifix at the rear of the church was part of the original sanctuary. Msgr. Cornelius J. Brown was appointed to St. Andrew’s in 1962. His hobby was woodworking. Along with Stan Veal, he constructed new altars of solid imported walnut, highlighted by columns with many fluted lines.
The half-dome at the top of the columns is finished in 24 art gold leaf and is inscribed with the Latin phrase “Ecce Agnus Dei” — “Behold the Lamb of God.” The apron of the altar table is carved with the symbol of St. Andrew — a shield with a cross in the shape of an X on it. (St. Andrew was crucified on an X-shaped cross.)
1859 – First Mass at Margaret Callahan’s cabin.
1866 – Fr. Louis Dumortier, S.J. celebrates early Masses in the area.
1874 – First St. Andrew Church cornerstone laid Nov. 30 St. Andrew feast day.
1875 – Bishop Fink of Leavenworth celebrates First Mass July 5, Fr. Philip Sholes pastor.
1877 – Quick succession of Fr. Carius, Fr. Fogarty, Fr. Hayden, Fr. McNamara, and Fr. McAuliff.
1880 – Fr. John O’Leary, as first resident pastor, builds first rectory. Fr. O’Leary also helps Mother Bernard Sheridan, CSJ build Mount St. Joseph Academy, north of Abilene.
1893 – Another quick series of priests: Fr. Eugene Bononcini, Fr. Heller, Fr. Shields, Fr. Regan, Fr. Horgan, and Fr. Conway.
1894 – St. Andrew’s first bell installed – 1500 lb. bell is installed in current church.
1910 – Fr. Thomas O’Reilly assumes pastorate.
1915 – Parish razes first church and constructs the current one.
1916 – Cornerstone is laid in the spring.
1917 – Bishop Cunningham of Concordia consecrates church. The $60,000 structure is completely paid for then.
1930 – Msgr. C. J. Roche assumes pastorate.
1936 – Knights of Columbus hand dig church basement. This is used as the social center for the next sixty years.
1939 – New church furnace installed.
1959 – St. Andrew School is built. Sr. Stanislaus Porter, CSJ serves as first principal.
1962 – Msgr. Roche dies. Fr. Alvin Werth serves as Administrator in interim. Msgr. C. J. Brown is the new pastor. He and Stan Veal build new altars and communion rail of solid imported walnut.
1966 – Msgr. Alfred Wasinger assumes pastorate. He also heads Catholic Charities. He implements many Vatican 11 changes.
1981 – Fr. John Moeder is the new pastor. He builds the concrete parking lot, refurbishes the church windows and installs new church doors. He also starts the school auction, initiates the cemetery collection, and establishes the church endowment.
1990 – Fr. Richard Lutgen follows as pastor at St. Andrew, as well as at St. Michael’s in Chapman.
1992 – Fr. Henry Baxa is the new pastor.
1993 – Fr. Henry Baxa also serves as pastor of Immaculate Conception in Solomon.
St. Andrew Church interior is renovated.
1994 – Fr. Louis Mattas assumes pastorate.
1997 – St. Andrew Parish Center is built.
1997 – New rectory is built at 201 SW Fourth St.
1999 – Fr. Randall Weber becomes the new pastor. He inaugurates school endowment and concentrates on liturgical renewal. He installs a new sound system connecting the church and Parish Center, thus handling an overflow crowd.
2004 – Fr. Henry Baxa returns as pastor. He also serves as the pastor of St. Michael’s in Chapman. The church basement is renovated. A new Allen organ piano is purchased for liturgical worship.
2005 – Church flooring is resurfaced with carpet and tile along with other refurbishing. Sidewalks between the church and parish center are rebuilt, along with school sidewalk and parking lot repair.
2016 – Fr. Abraham Panthalanickal is named pastor. The parish marks the 100th anniversary of the church building and adds the Memorial Garden beside the church.
2017 – Replaced steeple louvers.
2018 – Fr. Don Zimmerman is named pastor.
2019 – Updated the heating and cooling system of the church.
2020 – Fr. Randall Weber is named pastor. Fr. Peter O’Donnell was assigned parochial vicar.
2021 – Fr. Peter O’Donnell is named pastor. Boiler was removed and heating and cooling system added to the sacristy.
Parochial Vicars (Associate Pastors) serving St. Andrew’s include Fr. Carl Kramer, Fr. John Moeder, Fr. Eugene Stehno, Fr. Alvin Werth, Fr. Basil Torrez, Fr. Norman Leiker, Fr. Jerome Morgan, Fr. Robert Reif, Fr. James Dallen, Fr. William Dunphy, and Fr. Chris Conklin.
Vocations to Priesthood and Consecrated Life
St. Andrew parishioners ordained priests include Fr. Roger Hough in 1964, Fr. Chris Conklin in 1973, Fr. Mark Wesely in 1994, Fr. Jarrett Konrade in 2005, and Fr. Leo Blasi in 2017.
Brother Chris Wesely, OSB is a Benedictine monk at Blue Cloud Abbey, South Dakota.
Daughters of the parish in consecrated religious life include Sr. Harriet Baldwin, CSJ, Sr. Marie Coleman, CSJ, Sr. Mary Mark Whitehair, CSJ, Sr. Nancy Meade, CSJ, and Sr. Ann Wylder, CSJ.
Celebrating 120 years of Catholic Education in Abilene
St. Joseph Orphanage Home and School Highlights
1885 – Sisters of St. Joseph in Wichita build and staff Mount St. Joseph Academy.
1912 – Concordia (now Salina) Diocese purchases facility.
1915 – Reconversion of facility is completed. St. Joseph Home and School is dedicated.Sister of St. Joseph in Cordia staff.
1958 – St. Joseph Home and School closes. This concludes the 73 year history.
1959 – Present St. Andrew Elementary School and CRE Catechetical Religious Education.