St. Mary Parish History
Father Philip Colleton, S.J. was the first to provide services to Catholic families in the Newton area. St Mary's parish was founded in 1872, with Fr. Felix Swembergh as its first pastor. The congregation was predominately German and Irish, along with Hungarian and French immigrants. A limestone church was completed in 1873 at 6th and Oak streets. A parochial school opened in 1880. In 1883 the Sisters of St. Joseph took over the teaching duties.
During the pastorate of Monsignor Moses Maguire, funds were raised for the building of the present church. Twelve large stained glass windows were imported from Europe in 1902. The new church was completed in 1903 and dedicated on January 31, 1904. In 1918 German artist Theodore Brasch painted the Biblical scenes that adorn the church's interior.
The brick school building west of the church was completed in 1908. A frame house, between the church and school, was used as the priest's residence until 1914 when it was moved to east 8th street and the current brick rectory was built. A new school located at Ninth and Main was built in 1964, during the pastorate of Monsignor J. George Hermann.
Throughout the years several changes affected the interior appearance of the church. When new liturgical regulations were implemented requiring the priest to face the congregation while celebrating Mass, the old altars were removed and replaced by plywood altars covered with oak veneer. Improvements in the church facility during the 1990's included interior repainting, new wiring, lights, and a sound system.
Promoting stewardship as a way of life took shape under the pastorate of Fr. Ken Schuckman. The Stewardship Way of Life involves asking people to give back to God out of a sense of gratitude, gifts of time, talent, and treasure.
The parish continued in the tradition of stewardship under the succeeding pastors. In 2003, before his transfer to Phoenix, Bishop Thomas Olmsted appointed Fr. John Hotze as Pastor. Msgr. Robert Hemberger was elected as Administrator of the Wichita Diocese in the absence of a bishop. In 2004, he appointed Fr. Ken Van Haverbeke as Administrator of St. Mary Parish.
Pope John Paul II appointed the Most Reverend Michael Jackels as the 10th Bishop of the Wichita Diocese in January of 2005. Fr. Jim Mainzer was appointed pastor of St. Mary Parish by Bishop Jackels in June of the same year. After Bishop Jackels was appointed archbishop of Dubuque, Iowa, the Most Reverend Carl Kemme was installed as the 11th bishop of the Wichita diocese on May 1, 2014and in 2015 appointed Fr. Nicholas Voelker as our current pastor.
It was decided to add a classroom complex to the present school facility, uniting all grades under one roof. An extended capital campaign was launched for the expansion with the first effort begun in 2007 and the second in 2009. Construction on the nine classroom and office addition was started in 2010 and was completed in time for the beginning of the school year in August 2011. The existing 1964 building to which the classroom addition was attached, was also upgraded during construction creating a seamless facility. St Mary's school was recognized as a banner school in 2000, 2014 and again in 2016.
The 1908 school building has been renovated and is now used as Parish Center. The four main floor classrooms are now the John Paul II and St. Kateria multipurpose meeting rooms, a Children's Room and the Father Kapaun Library. Future plans include refitting and renovating the upstairs level.