How did the Passionists end up in St. Paul, Kansas? An Historical Reflection on the Osage Mission.

Home / How did the Passionists end up in St. Paul, Kansas? An Historical Reflection on the Osage Mission.

by Father Rob Carbonneau, C.P.

Hugh K. Barr, C.P.


Father Hugh K. Barr, C.P. had the exciting assignment of writing Passionist history in the United States during the last decade of the nineteenth century. This led him to visit Osage Mission, Kansas September 8 to October 22, 1894. Information gained was compiled in a hand-written history which concluded in 1898 as it appears that information continued to be sent to him after he had visited Kansas. This document is located at the Passionist Historical Archives, Union City, New Jersey.

The article below offers some key historical events taken from the Father Barr narrative. Before the information can be taken as gospel, Barr’s facts would have to be compared to other sources: the Kansas State Historical Society and Kansas Highway Commission Roadside Marker K-7; Osage Mission Sesquicentennial, 1847-1997: Celebrating 150 Years. St. Paul, Kansas. Mary Frances Van Leeuwen Casey, 1997; Sister M. Lilliana Owens, S.L. “The Early Work of the Lorettines in Southeastern Kansas,” Kansas Historical Quarterly, 14 (August 1947): 263-276; likewise documentation at the Passionist Archives, Holy Cross Province, Chicago, Illinois, and assorted Jesuit, Catholic, and Kansas state directories and archives. What a great dissertation topic!

The 2002 Passionist Sesquicentennial history Celebrating 150 Years allows us to set the historical stage. We learn this Passionist mission in the Kansas plains began in 1894. From 1936 to 1966 this was home to Holy Cross Province novitiate. The Passionist presence at St. Paul, Kansas ceased in 1987 when Father Luke Connolly, C.P. completed his assignment as local pastor. Today, Father Carrol Thorne, C.P. upholds the Passionist presence as a civilian chaplain for the Department of Pastoral Care at the nation’s maximum security prison for military offenders convicted of serious crime at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.


“How we reached Osage Mission, Kansas. On Friday night at 11:30, September 7, 1894,” wrote Father Barr, “the following Passionists left St. Louis over the Missouri, Kansas and Texas RR called the Katy Route for short.”

“Rev. Fathers Hugh [K. Barr], Alphonsus [Rossiter], Denis [Callagee], Felix [Ward] and Stephen [Kealy]. We never in all our journies [sic] felt the heat as it was on this day in St. Louis. Yet when the cars moved we felt some relief. At 3pm September 8th, the Feast of the Nativity of Our Blessed Lady we arrived at Osage Mission Kansas. We were all most agreeably surprised to find at the Depot the Rt. Rev. Louis M. Fink, Bishop of Kansas City, Kansas and Rev. Fr. Bononcini who had boarded our train at Fort Scott though unknown to us.” Barr then went on to describe the welcoming ceremony at the Osage Mission. “No sooner had the carriage of the Bishop left the Depot than the great Bell in the Church Tower pealed forth its grandest tunes; it seemed to say W—e—l—come!!! Wel come!!!”


Much of Father Barr’s notes pay homage to the important past events. He offers reflections on the long tradition of the Osage Native Americans and the Jesuit experience before 1800. Barr then reveals how pioneers came to Kansas in the first decades of the 1800s. Consequently, evangelical competition between Catholics and Protestants increased. In 1847, Jesuit Fathers John Schoenmakers and John Bax arrived in what was called Osage Mission, Kansas and established a school for Indian boys which later became St. Francis Institute. That same year the Sisters of Loretto of Kentucky began a school for Indian girls which later became St. Ann’s Academy. On Sept 3, 1890 St. Ann’s Academy was destroyed by fire. It was not rebuilt. Despite struggles the Catholics remained even through the Civil War of the 1860s. According to Barr, in 1869 the Osage “sold their land to the U.S.” and moved under duress to the Oklahoma Territory. On July 28, 1883 Father Schoenmakers died. As a result, local Bishop Louis M. Fink, O.S.B. began to exert more influence on the day to day operations at the mission. Barr wrote that the Jesuits decided to leave Osage Mission, Kansas in 1892.

Passionist preachers had become familiar with the area when they conducted a parish mission in Kansas in October 1886. In 1892 Passionists gave a retreat to the Sisters of Loretto assigned to Osage Mission. Bishop Fink and the Passionists initiated discussions to begin a Passionist foundation shortly thereafter.

Selected Passionist Events

In September 1894 the Passionist monastery of St. Francis Hieronymo Church was dedicated by Bishop Fink. It had originally been constructed by the Jesuits in 1872. During his 1894 visit Father Barr made a special effort to list the names of the fourteen generous benefactors who made financial contributions for the newly acquired Stations of the Cross which arrived from Chicago for dedication that October. In addition Barr offers a detailed description of all three floors of the monastery.

His detailed description of the third floor monastery choir helps us imagine how it was to be a Passionist in Kansas in 1894. “The ceiling of the choir as well as that of all the choir corridors is made of sheet tin made by a firm in Wheeling, W. Va. and beautifully pointed by Mr. Bohner. The ceiling of the choir is arched over taking in a part of the attic. The small cabinet organ is here made by S.D. & H.W. Smith of Boston. 6 stops. In the corridor of this floor stands an H No. 1 Clock.” Father Barr goes on to write “The Steam Boilers, 2 were made by Crane Brothers of Indianapolis. The Steam fixtures as well as gas fixtures were put in by Lewis Marion & Co. of Kansas City, Mo. costs about $3,000. All the improvements made by the Passionists come [to] about $18,000.”

After reading this description further research would have to be conducted so as to determine whether the Passionists lived in equal to or greater comfort than their contemporaries.

Father Barr’s report also offers a descriptive tour of the water supply operation, the stone college as well as the guest house or infirmary. Great care is given to describe the church statues and the acquisition of four new confessionals.

In September 1894 a Passionist Mission was conducted by Fathers Robert McNamara, C.P. and Joseph Amrhein, C.P. On December 4, 1894 the Passionist Provincial John Baptist Baudinelli made a provincial visitation. On December 31, fire destroyed the boiler house on the property.

Notable events of 1895 included the January 3 transfer of Superior Father Sebastian Stutts, C.P. to Dunkirk, New York. On February 19 the annual Passionist retreat was given by Father Matthew Miller C.P. On April 28, 1895 six Passionist priests were ordained.

On July 1, 1895 Osage Mission, Kansas officially became known as St. Paul, Kansas.

On February 25, 1896 Father Joachim O’Brien, C.P. was ordained. In April Father Fidelis Kent Stone, C.P. was teaching rhetoric. On August 25 Father Peter Hanley, C.P. was assigned as the new superior. Father Barr writes that on September 10 the Sisters of Loretto left the area. That same day the Ursuline Sisters arrived at St. Paul.

Other Concerns

Father Barr summarized the face of Catholicism for the expansive diocese of Kansas City, Kansas in 1893. The Catholic population was 60,000; priests numbered 128. 47 were regular and 81 were secular. 81 churches had a resident priest. 86 churches did not have a resident priest. There were 25 stations, 54 parochial schools, 100 orphans, 4 hospitals as well as 4 academies. 4,000 children attended parochial schools. The convent and novitiate for the Loretto Sisters were 28 Sisters and 8 novices. Pupils attending the Osage Mission School numbered 150. Teachers at the Osage Mission School were 2 Sisters and 3 lay-teachers.

Another part of Father Barr’s notes provided a year by year statistical breakdown of the births, baptisms, marriages and deaths. Total baptisms from 1847 to October 1, 1894 were 6,396. The number of devotional scapulars given between 1851 to 1894 were 2,056. The number of confirmations from 1851 to 1894 was 2,427. The number of first holy communions from 1847 to 1893 was 2,279. Barr noted that the number of children at the Osage Mission School in 1893 was 64 boys and 50 girls. This contradicts previous data. Barr went on to note that from 1872 to 1899 there were 620 marriages. Deaths at the mission by 1899 had numbered 1,175.

Father Barr was no mere observer. During his visit he himself conducted several sick calls and baptisms. On October 1, 1894 he baptized four children: Paul Aloysius [Thomas], the son of Edward Thomas and Jeannie Robb. He was born September 30, 1894 and in danger of death. The sponsor was Mrs. Katherine Abell. The second child was John James Abell, the son of John Robert Abell and Susan Beaser [sic]. Born September 1894 his sponsors were Robert Bertrand Abell and Mrs. Samuel L. Abell. A third child was Mary Theresa Crandon daughter of Doctor Rieland [sic] Crandon and Malinda E. Johnston. She was born September 28th at South Mount. Sponsors were William Walter Crandon and Mrs. Samuel Abell. The fourth child was Mary Ellen Luckett, daughter of Henry Luckett and Harriet Frances Raney. She was born September 27, 1894. No sponsors are listed.

Clearly Father Barr is aware that the Passionists of the 1890s were building on the legacy of the Jesuits and the Sisters of Loretto. To that end he lists the names of the religious of both congregations who had been buried at the Osage Mission.

As was often the case, religious events proved to be civic celebrations and social gatherings. On November 27, 1898 at 7:30 pm a new pipe organ was dedicated at St. Francis Hieronymo Church. It was built by Lyon & Healy of Chicago, Illinois for $2,100. On December 2, 1898 the Neosho County Journal summarized the event as a “Crowning Success.” Notable was the fact that a special train was sent from Parsons, Kansas. Hundreds attended. Rt. Rev. Bishop John Hennessy of Wichita, Kansas gave a special lecture on music. Fourteen musical pieces were performed. The Famous Quartet of Kansas City was featured.

Finally, legal matters and stewardship were very much on the mind of Father Barr during his visit. He takes care to offer information about the ground plan of the buildings on the Passionist property. In his own hand he rewrites in full the contents in existent property deeds, insurance policies, and legal affairs, such as the one conducted between the Passionists and Mr. Pat DeLay in 1894. Furthermore he lists the street names in St. Paul, Kansas and provides a sketch—apparently done in his own hand—of a map of the Neosho County area.


Celebration is very much at the heart of Father Barr’s handwritten history of the Passionist mission in St. Paul, Kansas. While immediate hope is evident on each page, it is also clear that Passionist life in nineteenth century Kansas was a different experience than the urban monastic tradition then being lived by Passionists in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Dunkirk, New York, West Hoboken, New Jersey, Baltimore, Maryland, Louisville, Kentucky, and St. Louis, Missouri. The centenary celebration of Holy Cross Province is an appropriate time to recall this unique Passionist foundation in rural Kansas.

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