The Archdiocese inaugurates the construction of a residence for retired priests
band Joe Bollig
OLATHE — He’s already packed a few boxes and is counting the days until he can move into the new retirement home for the priests of the archdiocese.
“The contractor says he’s going to build it in 295 days – that’s only about 10 months – and I’m moving in,” said Father Al Rockers, a retired archdiocesan priest. “I have my shovel here [from the groundbreaking ceremony]. I’ll keep this shovel and come here in 295 days to move into our new house.
Father Rockers is one of many retired archdiocesan priests looking forward to moving into the long-awaited archdiocesan residence for retired priests.
As a member of the committee that guided the project, he participated in the March 1 groundbreaking on the 3.63-acre site located northwest of the Santa Marta Senior Living Community, near the intersection from W. 116th St. and W. 115th Terr.
Raising funds to build the $5.2 million residence was one of the main goals of the recent “One Faith, One Family, One Future” campaign. . . in Christ” fundraising campaign.
“It is a wonderful day,” said Msgr. Michael Mullen, a retired priest from the Archdiocese also at the groundbreaking. “The church provides for the retirement years of the priests. There will come a time for many of us. We would like to live together to pray together, spend time together and learn together.
Msgr. Mullen said there was some symbolism in the fact that three of the four original faculty members present at the inauguration of the Savior of the World Seminary – Father Al Rockers, Father Ray Burger and himself – were at the inauguration of the retirement home.
The blessing was led by Bishop Joseph F. Naumann, assisted by Father Anthony Saiki, acting as master of ceremonies.
“Today is the culmination of the efforts of many people,” Bishop Naumann said. “The construction of this residence is tangible proof of the great love that the people of the Archdiocese have for their priests. Their desire to build this residence and, also, to look after the well-being of our retired priests, is an expression of this. So we are grateful for the generosity of God’s people for all they have done to make this possible today.
“Furthermore, we are grateful to some of those who have been strong advocates for this – Bishop Ray Burger — good to have him with us today — and a number of people who have served on the committee Father Jerry Volz was one of them, Father Al Rockers, who was sort of the poster boy for our campaign, Father Frank Burger, and Father John Riley We are grateful to everyone who contributed to make this a reality.
Also remembered is Leon Roberts, former archdiocesan director of real estate and construction, who retired at the end of 2019 and died on January 19. He played a major role in the preparation of the project.
Dan Himmelberg, who succeeded Roberts, arranged for one of the “pioneers” to wear a construction helmet with a picture of Roberts, and his widow was also invited to participate.
“It’s such an honor,” said Patti Roberts, who turned a shovel of dirt. “That was the picture we had at his funeral. I’m sure he’s here, looking down, and he’s very happy that this is happening. I think he and Mike Johnson are watching together .
Johnson, president of Excel Constructors, Inc., worked with Leon Robert on the project. Johnson died in October 2019.
The facility is something priests have wanted for decades, said Father Jerry Volz, pastor of Corpus Christi Parish in Lawrence and a member of the Priests’ Retirement Residence Planning Council.
“From my experience as a priest for almost 30 years now, this is something that the presbyterium has discussed and wished for – to have some sort of facility where we could live in community a bit,” Fr. Volz said. “For many years there has been an interest among priests in this kind of installation.”
Some priests preferred to live in presbyteries or alone, but several priests wanted to live in a more communal setting. Originally the plan called for 12 individual apartments, but due to COVID-19 and rising construction costs the plan has been reduced to 10. Facility could be added if required.
The residence will be a one-storey, three-winged building with an area of 19,000 square feet. The wings will come together in a triangular-shaped common space with a stone fireplace, library, TV room, dining room and chapel. The chapel will use objects salvaged from closed churches and chapels.
There will be a guest suite with a folding bed for visitors, which will also serve as a conference room and storm shelter.
Each apartment will have its own kitchen, one and a half bathrooms, living room, bedroom, walk-in closet, attached garage and outdoor patio. Each apartment will have its own exterior entrance, but also a door to the interior hallways that end in the common area. Each apartment will also have its own washer and dryer.
The residence will contract with nearby Santa Marta for housekeeping and some meals. The facility will have emergency call stations that will connect to Santa Marta.
The architect is WSKF Architects based in North Kansas City, Missouri; and the general contractor is Excel Constructors, Inc., of Overland Park. Representatives of both companies participated in the groundbreaking.