Catholic Diocese of Salina | Demolition of the Saint-Antoine church in Saint-Pierre
To anyone connected with St. Anthony’s Church, St. Peter, Kansas:
Several months after I arrived as bishop of the Diocese of Salina, a woman told me that she was concerned about the statues and other religious items in the Church of Saint Anthony of Saint Peter. I had never heard of this Church before. St. Anthony had been closed twenty years earlier. Some time later, I visited the Church. There were discussions about what to do with the church building and the interior. After much prayer and discernment, on April 8, 2021, I issued an executive order relegating St. Anthony’s Church in St. Peter, Kansas, to secular, but not sordid, use. This is a formal decree required by canon law, and many are probably wondering what that means? I write this letter as a less formal supplement to the official decree. “Secular use” is a term used by the Church to describe closed parish churches that will no longer be used as churches. It is also commonly referred to as “dismantling”; “secularization”; and “desecrate”. By decree, the church loses its dedication or its consecration as a sacred place. Once the dedication or consecration is removed, the building can be demolished or, if necessary, used for other non-sacred purposes. However, they cannot be used for “sordid” or improper purposes.
It is not a decision that the diocese or I have taken lightly. The buildings of the church are sources of memories and anchors of faith in the lives of many faithful. In these buildings we receive the sacraments, marry our spouses, baptize our babies and pray for our beloved dead. While the Church of Christ will survive to the end of time, no such promise exists for any given church building. After having consulted many people in the vicinity of Saint-Pierre, the clergy of the diocese, the architects and contractors and the Diocesan Financial Council, the decision had to be taken to demolish the building of the Saint-Antoine church. Here are some of the reasons:
- The population of Saint-Pierre and the surrounding area has been in constant decline for decades and shows no signs of retreating. Saint-Pierre is not accessible by any road suitable for high traffic, whether it is paved or not, so it is unlikely to see future growth or rebirth.
- The old school building has been sold and is now in serious disrepair. We don’t want the same to happen in the church building.
- Little to no maintenance has been done at the church since it merged with WaKeeney and Collyer over two decades ago. It gradually disintegrates.
- Making simple cosmetic repairs and repainting is not enough. AT restore the church, which would be necessary if it were to be saved, it would have to do the following. None of this is optional or can just be carried over to the future:
- The roof and gutters need to be replaced.
- The ceiling inside the church needs to be replaced due to water damage. Black mold damage should be contained and cleaned up.
- The boiler and all associated plumbing must be replaced.
- Air conditioning needs to be replaced.
- The two small bathrooms are to be torn up and replaced with a large unisex bathroom that complies with the U.S. Disability Act.
- The plumbing associated with the bathrooms must be replaced.
- The floor should be replaced with a new carpet or a new hard surface floor.
- All around the interior of the church, the places where there has been water damage must be repaired.
- The wiring will require at least a serious inspection. The entire church may need to be rewired.
- The interior of the church needs to be repainted.
- While not strictly necessary, it would be nice to redo the benches.
- The organ will have to be repaired or replaced.
- There is black mold damage under the carpet and in the ceiling where water has leaked.
- Repair work is needed on the stained glass windows, some of which have been broken. The large rose window could simply fall off at any time.
- The cost of all this work would be at least $ 300,000. Assuming that this sum can be raised, an additional $ 1 million will have to be raised and invested prudently for the perpetual maintenance of the building.
- Even if over $ 1.3 million could be raised, there are serious moral questions about spending that kind of money on a building that will be of little use.
- Insurance will be expensive. Catholic Mutual will not insure buildings that are not in regular use. We would have to go to the free market and find an insurer who would insure the building for the replacement cost of the building and its contents. It would be expensive assuming we could even find an underwriter who would be interested in insuring the building.
Some questions and answers:
- Why can’t the church be taken over by a private council that will take responsibility for restoring and caring for it?
While some would like to see the Saint Anthony Church building saved, there is no guarantee that others will want to move forward and continue the project when these people have passed. Such a council would be responsible for seeing to mowing the grass, cleaning the interior, maintaining the plumbing, boiler, air conditioning, regular building inspections to keep abreast of maintenance, repairs, etc. people in 25 or 50 years who will assume these functions? As is unlikely, then a future group of people will be faced with the same decision that faces us now.
- Is the church building going to be demolished with nothing to remember?
No. If any funds remain after the demolition fee has been paid, a memorial will be placed on the site or in the cemetery so that future generations will know that St. Anthony’s Church once served the town of St. Peter and surrounding areas. .
- What will happen to all the contents of the church?
The diocese will establish a list indicating who will get the first, second, third, etc., the choice of content. Some of the larger pieces such as the old high altar, statues, hanging lights, etc. will be stored for reuse in future church and church renovation projects. There will certainly be an opportunity for people who have an emotional attachment to the church to acquire one or two artifacts by which to remember the church.
Hope this helps explain what is being done and why. Not everyone will like this decision, but given the circumstances we face, I think it is the best we can do.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
+ Gerald Vincke,
Bishop of Salina