St. Mary’s / Our Lady of the Presentation
The history of our parish dates back to 1885, when Thomas Mulligan organized a small group of Lee’s Summit Catholics to consult Bishop John J. Hogan of the Diocese of Kansas City about forming a Catholic parish in Lee’s Summit. Until that time Catholics in this area were only able to attend Mass when priests traveled here from Independence or Holden. These Masses took place in the home of Thomas and Mary Mulligan. After the meeting, Bishop Hogan appointed Fr. Thomas Fitzgerald of Independence to establish a parish in Lee’s Summit, which was to be called St. Mary’s.
In addition to the Thomas and Patrick Mulligan families, the other founding families of the parish were the Nicholas and Elizabeth Scheer family, the Joseph Cooper family, the William and Eliza (Cooper) Donovan family, and the Fabian Etue family. The adult meeting rooms in our current parish facility are named after these six founding families, and many of their descendents are still parishioners. Records show that the first baptism for St. Mary’s Parish took place on October 11, 1885 when the Donovan’s infant daughter Marian was baptized.
Lee’s Summit founder William B. Howard and his wife Mary donated land so that a small church could be built for St. Mary’s Parish. (The Howards were Methodist, but they donated land for several churches of various denominations in Lee’s Summit.) The church was built on the corner of Third Street and Johnson and was completed in 1887. It was a small, white, wooden structure that was 42 feet long and 26 feet wide. Sadly, Thomas Mulligan had caught pneumonia and died in 1886 after being caught in a severe thunderstorm while transporting an altar for the new church from Independence to Lee’s Summit.
A series of Redemptorist priests served the parish from other locations until 1896, when Fr. William Hovestadt was appointed as the first resident pastor. A house was built for Fr. Hovestadt next to the church. By the turn of the century when Fr. Hovestadt left, the parish had grown to 25 families and had a very active Altar Society. Despite changing pastors nearly every year or two, the parish continued to flourish and had grown to 40 families by 1917 when Fr. John Whelan became pastor. Fr. Whelan found that very few written records had been kept, so he chronicled the early history of the parish based on his talks with older members of the congregation. Fr. Whelan stayed until 1930.
In 1939, while Fr. Francis Hagedorn was pastor, the parish established a school which first met in the church and then in a converted house near the church. Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth soon arrived to serve as teachers at the school. After Fr. Francis J. Sullivan was appointed pastor in 1947, a group of about 30 parishioners met with him to discuss the need for a larger, more modern school. Seven men were chosen to form a school building committee. In 1948, the house that had served as the school was torn down and a brick school building was erected across the street from the church. This building still stands at the northwest corner of Third Street and Johnson.
Fr. Richard Pilsl was appointed pastor in 1958 and served the parish for 20 years. In 1959 Bishop John Cody officially changed the name of the parish from St. Mary’s to Our Lady of the Presentation, following the merger of the Diocese of Kansas City and the Diocese of St. Joseph. Several parishes in both dioceses had been named St. Mary’s so some were renamed at this time using other titles for the Blessed Mother. The new name was chosen in honor of the feast of the Presentation of the Virgin Mary which is commemorated on the Church’s calendar on November 21.
By 1963, the parish had outgrown the old white church. It was sold to a Baptist congregation and became Faith Baptist Church. When that congregation moved to a new location in 1975, the white church was torn down and a gas station and convenience store were erected on the site, which remain today. St. Mary’s old church bell was saved by Faith Baptist Church and can be seen hanging beneath their sign on Langsford Road.
Meanwhile, Our Lady of the Presentation Parish built a new church and school at the current site on Murray Road. This facility was dedicated on August 4, 1963. The church was located in what is now the south hallway of the school, and if you look closely you will observe the Stations of the Cross still etched on the classroom walls there. The school was located in the area of the current Mulligan/Scheer room. At that time, the brick wall of the gathering space in the current church was the outside wall of the front of the school. In the mid-1960s the blue and brick house just south of the church was built as a rectory and now serves as the Parish Office. The first priests to move in were Fr. Richard Pilsl and Fr. James Hart. Our Lady of the Presentation was the first assignment for Fr. Hart after his ordination. He stayed until 1967; in 1971 he was reassigned to Presentation parish and stayed until 1975.
Fr. Richard Pilsl retired in 1978 and Fr. Donald Powers became Pastor. By this time, Lee’s Summit and surrounding areas were beginning to experience population growth. In 1979, the southern part of Presentation parish was reassigned to the boundaries of the newly formed Holy Spirit Parish on 150 Highway and Fr. Roger Miller, who had been an Associate Pastor at Presentation, became Pastor at Holy Spirit.
Presentation was once again outgrowing its facilities and in 1985 our present church was built onto the northeast corner of the original buildings and the old church was converted into classroom space. Bishop John J. Sullivan dedicated the new church on February 16 of that year. In 1986, Fr. Michael Rice was appointed Pastor.
With the construction of new highways, Lee’s Summit has experienced rapid population growth since the mid-1980s and correlating expansion has occurred at our parish. The Presentation/Mary Kirn Early Childhood Center was established in 1988 in what used to be the convent of the Sisters of Charity who had taught at the elementary school until 1972. The parish also purchased the O’Brien farmstead, consisting of the white house and log house. The white house was converted to preschool facilities for 2-year-olds, the yellow house served 3-5 year olds, and the log house became the priests’ residence. A fund drive was conducted in the 1990s for major expansion of the facilities that included a three-story addition to the school, a new gymnasium and the adult meeting rooms. In 1999, as the number of registered parish households hovered near 2,500, a third Lee’s Summit parish, St. Margaret’s, was established east of M-291 with Fr. Rice as Pastor. Fr. James Hart returned to Presentation for a third time as Pastor and Fr. Charles Rowe became Associate Pastor. A new, larger rectory was purchased, freeing the log house to be used for our youth community and other parish functions.
In 2001, Presentation parish welcomed a new Pastor, Fr. Michael Clary. Continued expansion of facilities led to the construction of a new Early Childhood Center. In 2002, Presentation welcomed a new Associate Pastor, Fr. Paw Tun Lwin, and construction on the Early Childhood Center was completed. In 2010, our parish celebrated its 125th Anniversary Year. In addition, $1.5 million Capital Campaign began to raise funds to renovate the worship space and build a classroom addition to the school.
In 2011, Fr. Thomas Holder was appointed Pastor.