St. Patrick Catholic School, since opening our doors in 1930, has played an integral part in the education and development of the students in our Diocese and community. Catholic schools have also been vital to education in Kansas since 1800, actually pre-dating public schools in our state. The Catholic elementary and secondary schools in the Diocese of Wichita have been a gift to the people of this diocese, and we are committed to continuing to offer Catholic schools that are academically excellent and spiritually engaging, as well as affordable and accessible through the stewardship way of life.
Currently at St. Patrick, we have nearly 170 students in our pre-K through 8th grade Catholic School. St. Patrick is a Drexel School within the Diocese of Wichita, with a poverty level between 30 to 50%, depending on the year. We proudly serve the needs of our students with a full teaching staff, three para-professionals, music teacher, art teacher, technology instructor, and elective courses in economics, and Spanish. Our students participate in a wide range of sports and band through cooperative agreements with the public school district here in Kingman, and are avid Battle of the Books and Scholar’s Bowl participants. This school has enjoyed many successes, but is founded in faith and tradition.
It all started on a day in late September, 1878, when a lone horseman rode up to the homestead of the Edward McKenna family, about eight miles southwest of the present site of Kingman, Kansas, and informed them that he was a Catholic priest who would be saying mass in the area in the next few days. The place chosen for this was the home of the O’Neil family, located about three miles east of the present site of Penalosa. According to the best available information, this was to be the first Mass offered in what is now Kingman County.
Through the years as the parish and city grew and prospered, St. Patrick’s parish was still not considered a complete plant. In accord with the Catholic Church’s teaching, that providing a Catholic education is one of the Churches primary duties, Father William Chawke undertook the building of the first parochial school in St. Patrick’s parish. Plans were drawn and the contract was given to two parishioners, Joe and Cornelius Thissen. The modern brick building was erected at the cost of around $35,000, and included a full basement, four classrooms and a gym-auditorium. On October 15, 1930, Bishop Schwertner dedicated the new building.
The Sisters of St. Joseph, whose mother house is in Wichita, were engaged to teach in the new school. Sister Mary Isabella was the first principal, and she and a companion Sister taught 40 children of the parish in two rooms of the new school when the term started in the fall of 1930. Two teachers and classrooms were adequate until the fall of 1934 when an increased enrollment necessitated the addition of another teacher. By the fall of 1936, the enrollment had increased to 83 students.
Through many years, enrollment and the city of Kingman continued to grow. In 1961, plans had been made to expand the school plant. At the spring pre-enrollment, it was obvious that more classroom space would be needed to accommodate growing student numbers. The parish expressed their interest in building an addition to the school to meet the long range plans of the parish. With Bishop Carroll’s approval, plans were drawn and the new school addition was begun in October, 1962. The new addition would blend into the existing building and add four new classrooms, library, offices, rest rooms, boiler room and gymnasium, to the existing school facilities at a cost of $165,000.
Many years passed, as well as varying school enrollments, some reaching over 200 students, and a great need to rebuild the 1930’s building due to age and the need to be updated to meet needs of all students, the parish once again decided to build for the good of the parish and community. In 2006, discussions started, to replace the 1930’s building with a state of the art school. The new building would replace the 1930’s building, blend in with the 1960’s building and provide enough classrooms to accommodate students of the 21st Century. In 2008, plans were finalized for this project. Sauwerwein Construction was granted the bid for construction. Bishop Michael Jackels, in February of 2010, dedicated the building. The total cost of the project was nearly 6 million dollars, and the debt from this project was paid in full in February of 2014.
St. Patrick Catholic School may have a new look with the completion of our building project, but our commitment to our faith and excellence is alive and well. As always our mission is rooted in our Catholic faith, and as many know, our faith is the driving force to the many years of success our school and parish has enjoyed. The traditions remain the same. The St. Patrick Dinner and auction still is among one of the largest events in Kingman. The community waits in long lines for homemade fried chicken and mashed potatoes! The community supports and believes in the success of our school. Additionally, the home cooked meals that many graduates so fondly remember from the cafeteria are still being served on a daily basis. Academic success also remains at peak performance, and we have been honored to earn seen seven consecutive Governor’s Awards for Academic Achievement, eight Banner School Awards from the Diocese, a National Blue Ribbon for Academic Excellence in November of 2014, honored as a school of excellence in the state of Kansas on the House of Representatives floor for four consecutive years, and an appearance on the television show “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader.” From that appearance, we were awarded $10,000! We are truly blessed!
Again, we may have a new school, but our hallways still echo with the memories of the past and all the sacrifices that have been made by the many priests, sisters, teachers, principals, parishioners, and alumni. All that has been accomplished, as well as our bright future, is due to the many grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, sisters, and brothers who have paved the way for our success. I think that you will find that the traditions that were established long ago are still alive and that we honor the memories of our culture and community by continuing to succeed at the highest levels. May God continue to abundantly bless all that we do!