Our Lady of Sorrows Parish
2552 Gilham Road
Kansas City, Missouri
Parish Founded: November 1880
Current Church Dedicated: September 16, 1923
Our Lady of Sorrows Parish was founded in 1890 when Bishop John J. Hogan signed an agreement with the Franciscan Provincial for the Franciscans to minister to the German-speaking people within a defined area of Kansas City. (This would occur again further south in Kansas City in 1909 when the Guardian Angels parish was created as a German National Church.) Before 1890, all German-speaking Catholics in Kansas City attended services at the Church of Sts. Peter and Paul, which was located “downtown” at Ninth and McGee Streets.
Our Lady of Sorrows had several homes in the first decades of the twentieth century. The church moved from a rented brick building on Southwest Boulevard to one that was built in 1891 at 23rd and Baltimore. That church property was sold in 1906 so the new Union Railway Station could to be built. A newer church that served the congregation from 1907 to 1923 was built in the area of 26th and Locust (now Gillham Road). The current church building at 2552 Gillham was finally built and dedicated in 1923. The tower of the church was struck by lightning in 1944. It was repaired and given its current appearance in 1946. The interior of the church is of classical style, with columns, arches, and a barrel-vaulted ceiling.
The “Art Glass” windows throughout the church were designed and manufactured by the Kansas City Stained Glass Works Company. According to the original contract, all of the windows in the church were made from “the very best American Opalescent Glasses.” The windows in Our Lady of Sorrows are not intended as primary sources of religious storytelling. As Bruce Matthews notes in his beautiful book, Windows of Kansas City, “their inspiration radiates from glass panes in two shades of color: purple, which represents sorrow, and green, the traditional hue of hope.” Yellow glass throughout these windows represents joy.
Figurative medallions are placed in the sanctuary’s three rose windows and at the apex of the tall sanctuary windows on each of the side walls.
On the north side of the sanctuary, the windows include medallions depicting Christian symbols of Faith and Hope, such as the Crown and the Cross signifying Christ as King, the Cross and an Anchor signifying Hope, and a Heart signifying Charity. Each of the tall sanctuary windows is dedicated with a memorial or honorary plaque.
The window with the wooden Cross inside the Crown symbolizes and is dedicated to the memory of Joseph Sommer and Family.
The window with the Crown and the wooden Cross on the Book of Scripture symbolizes Christ as preached from the Bible and is dedicated to the memory of Lena Mazzaffe.
The window with the Cross inside the Crown symbolizes Christ as Ruler and is dedicated to the memory of Ferd. Kleinman and Family.
The Cross, Anchor, the Heart in this window symbolize Faith, Hope and Charity. the window is dedicated to the memory of Frank Lodde and Family.
Two large rose windows are located on the north and south walls above the confessionals. The medallion in the rose window on the south wall depicts the Triple Tiara of the Pope and Keys of Peter representing the Pope as Christ’s Vicar.
The medallion in the rose window on the north wall contains an image of the two tablets of the Ten Commandments, recalling the Mosaic Law.
An image of St. Cecilia, the patron saint of music, is in the rose window above and behind the choir loft.
Each of the four of the long windows on the south side of the sanctuary has a medallion with imagery from the Book of Revelations symbolizing one of the four Evangelists: Matthew with the Winged Man/Angel, symbolizing Jesus’ incarnation; Mark with the Winged Lion, symbolizing courage and monarchy; Luke with a winged Ox/Bull, symbolizing sacrifice, service and strength; and John with an Eagle, symbolizing Christians looking into eternity with out fear.
The Matthew window is dedicated to the memory of Henry and Anna Brueggerman.
The Mark window is dedicated by the St. Joseph Benevolent Society.
The Luke window is dedicated to the memory of Harry and Mary Elizabeth Thompson.
The John window is dedicated to the memory of Jacob Kirchner and Family.
Other non-figurative windows in opalescent glass continue the color themes and circular shapes in the doors and vestibules.
There is a beautiful and harmonious unity to the design and color of the glass used throughout the church. From the soaring sanctuary windows, to the three rose windows, and even the lunettes over the doors and the small circular windows in the doors, the gentle purples, whites and greens of the opalescent glass contribute to one of Kansas City’s most beautiful and inspirational spaces.
In the 1950’s, the area around Our Lady of Sorrows was rezoned to allow light industry, and people began moving away. But Our Lady of Sorrows now finds itself at the center of a newly developed and thriving Union Hill area of mid-town Kansas City. It is surrounded by new commercial and residential areas and sits next to the corporate headquarters of Hallmark Cards. It is in the heart of the Crown Center commercial district and the “Crossroads” cultural area. It is just across the street from the Adele Hall Campus of Children’s Mercy Hospital and only a short walk to the beautifully restored Union Station and the outstanding World War One Memorial and Museum.
I am grateful for the assistance of Father Randolph Sly, Pastor, and Stephanie Franke-Ibarra, Director of Operations, for the materials regarding the history of Our Lady of Sorrows Parish. And to Father Michael Coleman, JCL, whose wonderful books Thus Far by Faith:A History of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph Missouri and Further by Faith: Celebrating the Art and Architecture of the Diocese of Kansas City St. Joseph have been so very interesting and helpful. Of course, Bruce Matthew’s beautiful book Windows of Kansas City is always inspiring.