The History of Saint Anthony Catholic Church of Lakin
Upon completion of the railroad across Kansas on January 1st of 1873, new towns began to spring up along the rail lines. Pioneers soon appeared in these remote establishments and religions wanting to spread their messages sent traveling ministers to the area. The first recorded Catholic service conducted in Lakin, was held by Father Ferdinand Wolf, a traveling priest. He conducted the service at the Boylan home in 1879. The congregation was mainly composed men who were working on the Santa Fe Railroad.
In the early 1880’s there were few settlers in Lakin, and the only Catholic family in town was that of John O’Loughlin. During this time a traveling priest came to Lakin to say mass about three to four times a year. The mass service usually occurred at an individual’s home. With the O’Loughlin’s being the only Catholics in Lakin, the mass occurred at their home. Records show that Father Vonderlogger conducted services there in 1882.
In 1884, Lakin experiences a population boom as settlers move into the area to take advantage of the free land grants offered by the government. Different religions look for places to hold their worship services. The Lakin Town Hall at 110 North Main and the Kearny County Courthouse at 100 South Main are shared by different religious denominations over the next four years. Services are irregular as Father John Begley comes from Dodge City to Lakin and conducts a service on the first and third Sunday of each month. After a tornado strikes and destroys the Town Hall in July of 1886, the different religions begin to use the new Lakin School located on the 400 Block of North Main for a place of worship.
In 1890, Father Kearful, of Dodge City, was put in charge of Lakin and several other western Kansas missionaries. During his time here he stayed at the John O’Loughlin home traveling out of Lakin to visit Catholic families where ever that may be. Times were hard in the 1890’s and many settlers left the area, and the churches membership declined.
During the early 1900’s church services continued to be held in private homes, the courthouse, and schools. In 1902, Catholics began discussing ways to build a church. At this time, Mr. and Mrs. M. A. Weber donated Lots 5 and 6 on Block 9, at the northwest corner of Lakin and Lincoln Streets for the building of a church.
On December 8, 9, and 10, of 1904 the Catholic Church held a Catholic Fair for the purpose of raising funds to build a Church. The fairs and projects continued until enough money was raised to start the church. Lumber was placed on the ground in preparation for building a church in 1906. Building progressed slowly but persistently, interspersed here and there by ice cream socials and other affairs to keep up the funds. In the end a 32 x 50 foot building was built on top of a stone foundation. Many parishioners donated hours of labor to the construction of the church. Jacob Hollaway was the contractor and M.A. Weber supervised construction.
At long last on Wednesday, September 30, 1908 the dedication of the Catholic Church at Lakin took place. The church belfry was remodeled in 1909, and the bell was placed in position. For some time after that the bell rang morning, noon, and night. At this time Lakin was a mission church and remained so until 1948, when it became a self-supporting church.
Father Meyer was appointed as Lakin’s priest in 1927. Mass was now celebrated twice a month, and a vacation bible school was held that summer. When Father Meyer was in Lakin he stayed with the Weber family. After some fund raising projects and a generous donation to the church by Mr. and Mrs.
A.G. Campbell, the church to builds a stucco parish house in 1931. On April 10th construction began and a rectory now sat next to the church. This construction made it possible for a priest to spend more time in Lakin.
The Thirties were poor and hard times in Kearny County, but the church continued to grow. In August of 1934, three pews were brought from the church at Ingalls in order that more people might be accommodated at Sunday Mass. Later in the year twelve trees were planted around the church and in the last week in October men from the parish began constructing a concrete curb around the church property, at a cost of $36.00. In 1937, a Catholic women’s organization, the Altar Society was formed. During the summer a Vacation Bible School was started.
In 1948, St. Anthony’s became a self- supporting church. Father Alex Leiker was officially installed as the first resident pastor and he made new altars for the church. Through fund raisers a new organ and pews were added to the sanctuary.
On September 30, of 1958, the church celebrated its 50th anniversary. The church had grown from four members in 1873 to 60 families by January of 1960. The idea of building a new church was being explored. The need for more adequate church space and the generally inadequate facilities and poor condition of the former parish plant prompted the parishioners into action. By now the church had grown to count 285 members. The building of a new church and rectory would be a tremendous undertaking.
Father D’Angelo and a building committee of Dorrell George, Ted Miller, Lawrence Urie, Albert Miller and William Hinekr got the project rolling. In January of 1960, property was acquired on Soderberg Street and Highway 50 for a new church. Construction began in February, 1963, and had proceeded far enough by September of that year to allow for the solemn blessing and placing of the cornerstone. The new church and rectory of matching red-bark brick replaced the old frame church and stucco rectory located on West Lakin Street. George I. Pitcher and Co. of Liberal was the architect for the new parish plant. General contractor was Joe Ward of Garden City. Plumbing and heating contracts were awarded to Pat O’Brien of Elkhart and the electrical contract went to Frank Thomas of Lakin. The completed cost of the new church was a little over $ 150,000.
The new church combined contemporary church design with a rather new idea, a sloping roof line which drops from its highest point, (40 feet) over the altar, to its lowest point (20 ft.) at the opposite end of the church, the vestibule. The effect on the worshipper entering from the lobby is a strong emphasis on and an irresistible attraction to the focal point, the altar, with its 25 foot cross and 2/3 life size Body of Christ emphasized by the colored abstract art window behind it.
In the sanctuary are the wooden main and side altars with matching furnishings. The main altar, pedestals and candlesticks are the work of Father Alex Leiker. Father Leiker combined birch with darker woods, and did inlay work with a lighter wood. A communion rail of oak and mahogany was the work of a former parishioner, Lawrence Ferrell of Ulysses. Birch wood side altars credence table and candlesticks are the work of David Buerskens, a former parishioner. Dark wooden sanctuary chairs and priedieux are the work of Ralph Lopez of the parish. The sanctuary wall has an 8-foot wainscot of cut limestone, topped by wood paneling. The floor in the body of the church was covered by brown asphalt tile; the sanctuary area was carpeted in blue.
The 12 major windows on either side of the nave are from the old church. The large abstract window behind the crucifix is Blenko stained glass, produced by the Orco Company of San Antonio, Texas. The sacristy and vestibule areas are lighted thru small, irregularly placed, and faceted, Blenko stained glass windows nearly an inch thick. The designs in the vestibule windows represent Faith, Hope and Charity.
The rectory has eleven rooms, providing quarters for the pastor, a visitor, and domestic help. Special features of the house include its two skylights, one in the pastor’s study and one in the dining room. These provide sufficient light during the day in both rooms to be able to read. The church and rectory were completed by August 15th. The Church and Rectory were dedicated on December 8th, 1964.
Ten years after in 1974, the debt was paid for building the church and the rectory. Efforts began immediately to save funds for a much needed hall to serve both Lakin and Deerfield parishes. The members of the building committee were: Dorrell George, Junior Perez and Michael Broeckelman. Other members of the parish council were: Arthur Anderson, Ken Diamond, Marlene Dunlop, Claire Fawcett, Eldon Gilbert, Pat Koons, Ann Singleton and Billie Urie.
Ground was broken April 16th 1978, and work began shortly after. Zerr Construction, from Garden City, was awarded the general contract for $121,646.00. Sub-contractors for the building were: Tatro, Garden City, plumbing; Frank Thomas, Lakin, electrical; Lakin Appliance, heating and air conditioning. Ivan Duvall was the carpenter, supervisor and coordinator of the work. The hall was completed that same year. The bell from the first Catholic Church in Lakin was placed on a stand in front of the hall, by Elmer Grubbs and Michael Brockelman.
The new Catholic Hall contained eight classrooms for religious instructions. Two of the classrooms can be united to make a meeting or conference room. Besides the classrooms, the building has a large kitchen, well equipped by the Catholic Ladies Altar Society. Also there is a hall large enough to take care of dinners and other functions.
Sunday, October 16th 1983, was a special day for members and friends of the St. Anthony Catholic Church as they gathered to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the church’s organization. The Diamond Jubilee celebration began at 1:00 p.m. with a reception honoring Fr. Francis Laudick, on his 50th year of priesthood. A reception was held in the Catholic Hall following the mass. A cake, baked, decorated and donated by Mrs. Eldon Gilbert, was served to the guests. The four foot high cake represented a cathedral.
Around 2005, the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic Men’s organization wanted to do something with the empty lot to the east of the Catholic Hall. Some members of the group thought it would be a good place to build a prayer garden. A few of these members experienced them at other parishes and thought it would be a good project for the men’s organization. The Knights along with other members of the church undertook the project. The Knights and several families took the lead in the project. Members and families of the church, built an outdoor altar, donated memorials, installed resting pews, and planted flowers, shrubs, and trees. Michael and Cindy Brockelman, Frank and Jeannette Soukup, led the project. Randy and Sharon Steinle, and Tom Grauberger were very active in the project. These families continue to see that the prayer garden stays nice.
About this same time Jim VanCampen sculpted a number of statues for the church. Some were placed around the church, in the prayer garden and inside the church. The Stations of the Cross were hung on the walls of the sanctuary. Lyle Lobmeyer aided Jim in the installation of the statues.
The large stain glass window at the front of the church was in need of repair. With the aid of a donation from the Bob and Diane Beymer family, in 2010, the window was taken out repaired and reinstalled to its original state.
In 2014, Members of the church worked through fund raising projects and donations to rebuild and reset the stain glass windows on each side of the sanctuary. These windows are the original stain glass windows from the first church on the corner of Lakin and Prairie.
After a half century of wear and tear the rectory was in need of some updating and repairs. Through fundraisers of the Altar Society and donations of church members in 2014, funds were raised to remodel the rectory. Several rooms inside of the Rectory were remodeled by men of the Catholic Church. Taking charge of the project were Tom Bachman and Tom Grauburger. Others helping with the project were: Bob Woodrow, Michael Brockelman, and Bill Rooney.
Because of church functions that require the use of a modern and effective kitchen the one in the Catholic Hall had become outdated at forty years of service to the church. The Altar Society, the women’s organization of the church started a push to remodel the kitchen. Through fund raisers and donations, $26,000 dollars was raised and work began on the kitchen in the summer of 2017. Tom Bachman was in charge of the remodeling project. Tom Grauburger took care of the plumbing, members, and Joe McVey did the electrical work. Other members added in tearing out the old materials. Through their hard work, leadership, and help of parishioners a beautiful remodeled kitchen was installed, that summer.
The church has always maintained a high education system, with yearly CCD classes for the youth. These are taught by volunteer parishioners from the church. Many members have donated time helping with church services, singing and playing in the choir. Others care for the cleaning of the facilities, as well as the care of the lawn and the prayer garden. The church is proud of these volunteers who have stepped forward and donated their time to the betterment of the church and its grounds.
Over the years priests, members, and buildings have changed at the Saint Anthony Catholic Parish in Lakin. However the beliefs and doctrines of the church remain constant through the years providing a strong foundation for the church to build on. The church hopes to be just as vigilant and strong over the next one hundred years as it was over the last one hundred years.