Our Lady of Good Counsel
(This is also the Diocesan shrine of St. Faustina and the Divine Mercy).
3934 Washington Street
Kansas City, Missouri 64111
Remember, you can enlarge any image simply by clicking on it, then twice if you really want a closer look.
Our Lady of Good Counsel Church traces its history back to 1866, when Fr. Bernard Donnelly constructed a log cabin church on the property which the church occupies today in the Westport area of Kansas City. According to Fr. Michael Coleman’s beautiful book, Further by Faith, which chronicles the history of parishes in the Kansas City and St. Joseph Diocese, in 1874 Father Donnelly was having trouble saving the church property from a sheriff’s sale due to mechanics’ liens, and the church was boarded up for some years. The church was identified as Our Lady of Good Counsel in the Catholic Directory for the first time in 1889.
As population in the area known as Westport and the surrounding area of Kansas City grew, the need for a church to serve the growing population led to the building of a larger church. The corner stone for Our Lady of Good Counsel Church was laid in 1906, and the church was formally dedicated about a year and one-half later.
Our Lady of good Counsel has seen many renovations over the years. The interior walls and the area over the apse had been decorated with beautiful paintings and stenciled designs by Dante Cosentino. A recent “modernization” brightened up the church interior, but Cosentino’s lovely and distinctive paintings from earlier years have been lost. However, the altar from the original church remains.
The widows in the church are still glorious. The richness of design as well as the range and subtlety of colors is stunning. Unfortunately, as of this date, I have not been able to learn anything about the source of the windows: the glass, the designers, the painters, or the fabricators. I believe the windows follow the Munich style of stained glass design and execution that was popular in American Catholic churches in the early years of the twentieth century. I have not yet located any information about them. Also, there are no memorial dedications for any of these windows. Interestingly, I have found other windows which are identical to some in Our Lady of Good Counsel. Some found in Guardian Angels Catholic Church, not far away, provide a good example. They obviously were created by the same artists and the same company.
The entrance to the church faces east. The altar sits in a half-domed apse at the west end of the nave. The north and south walls each hold five large windows whose scriptural images are based on the life and ministry of Jesus. Each window is comprised of two “lights” with a round medallion above which relates to the theme of the pair of windows beneath. The window on each side of the pair is designed to balance the overall composition into a unified and effective whole. Each of the individual windows of the pair has an architectural framework situated below and above the scriptural scene, as well as a border. The architectural element of white stone with red, blue, green and yellow accents is consistent throughout all of the large double windows. These slight accents create a subtle connection with the more vibrant colors of the scenes themselves.
Moving from the front of the church toward the rear, which is the entry to the church, the first window on the south wall depicts the Annunciation. In the Catholic tradition this is the first Joyful Mystery of the Rosary. Here the Angel Gabriel appears in human form to Mary as she prays, announcing “Hail, full of Grace! The Lord is with thee.” (Luke 1:26 -38) Gabriel carries white lilies in his hand which are symbols of Mary’s purity. Above Mary a dove radiates the Holy Spirit. The angel informs Mary that she will conceive by the power of the Holy Spirit and her Son will be called the Son of God. The Incarnation awaits Mary’s consent, and Mary answers “Behold the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done unto me according to your word.” On the ground are roses, also symbols of Mary’s purity and foreshadowing the blood of the passion and of Christian martyrs. Mary is in her conventional blue robe. Her light brown hair is flowing behind her. The garments of both Mary and the angel, as well as the garments throughout these windows, are beautifully painted in rich patterned fabrics with interestingly treated folds and shadows. The medallion above this window includes an image of God the Father.
The next window depicts what Catholic tradition refers to as the Second Joyful Mystery of the Rosary. It is the Visitation of Mary with her kinswoman (cousin) Elizabeth, who conceived in her old age and is to give birth to the child who will be known as John the Baptist. As they greet each other, Elizabeth exclaims “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” (Luke 1:39-56) Mary replies with the Magnificat “ My soul glorifies the Lord…” In this window we see Elizabeth kneeling before Mary. Joseph stands behind Mary and Zachariah, John the Baptist’s father and Elizabeth’s husband, stands behind Elizabeth. In the medallion above this scene an angel holds the Tower of David (Turris Davidica) referencing the descent of Jesus from King David.
The third window from the front on the south wall depicts the Nativity, with shepherds, townspeople and angels honoring the newborn Christ child. This is the third Joyful Mystery of the Rosary. Mary, in her blue gown, kneels over the new born child with Joseph standing behind her. Again, roses bloom in the planter behind Mary. In the medallion above this scene, an angel holds a banner with the words “Gloria in Excelsis Deo.” The angels sing Glory to God in the highest, and peace to His people on earth. (Luke 2:7-20)
The Fourth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary, The Presentation, is depicted in the next window. Here we see Mary and Joseph bringing the Christ child to the Temple as part of the traditional consecration of the first born son.( Luke 2: 22-40) Variously referred to as the Presentation of the Lord or the Purification of the Virgin, according to the law of Leviticus, 40 days after the birth of a son, the mother underwent a ritual purification ceremony and then brought the child to the Temple. The child was consecrated to the Lord and the parents made a sacrifice to redeem him. If parents were too poor to offer a lamb, two doves were accepted in its place. Here we see Joseph carrying the doves in a cage to be offered as the sacrifice. Mary again is dressed in her blue gown, a symbol of her purity. We also see the prophet Simeon holding the child and declaring that he (Simeon) now may die because he has witnessed salvation in the person of the child, Jesus. His song of praise is known as the Nunc Dimittis from its first words in Latin. Beside Simeon, kneeling before the Child, is the old woman, Anna, who is a prophetess in her own right. In the medallion above this scene, an angel holds the Light of Christ.
The next window depicts the twelve year old Jesus preaching/teaching to the elders in the Temple who were astonished by his wisdom. This is the Fifth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary. In this curious tale, Joseph, Mary and Jesus have traveled to Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover. Joseph and Mary unwittingly set out for Nazareth without Jesus. At the end of the first day they discover he is missing. Upon returning to Jerusalem they find him in the Temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. When his parents inquire as to why he left them and was preaching in the Temple, Jesus replies “I must be about my Father’s business.” (Luke 2:41-50) In the medallion above this scene, an angel holds the tablets with the Ten Commandments, symbolizing the Law as given in the scripture.
This window is based on the painting Christ in the Temple-Age 12 (1881) by Heinrich Hoffman. The original is in the Gemaldegalerie in Dresden. A copy made by the artist 1882 is in the Riverside Church in New York, along with three other well-known paintings by Hoffman.
This is the last large window on the south wall.
Two small windows are above the altar in the side wall of the apse.
One, devoted to the Eucharist, depicts Jesus at the table with two of his disciples. Jesus is holding a loaf of bread and a cup (of wine) is on the table. “And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.’ ” (Luke 22:19-20)
Between the south and north walls is the main entrance to the church. Above the doors in the entryway are three narrow, horizontal windows. The northern one displays the “IHS” monogram for the name of Jesus based on the first three Greek letters of His name. In the center are the crossed gold and silver keys of the Papal seal. On the south window is a cross within a crown.
On the north wall, starting at the back of the nave, closest to the door, is a window depicting the moment when Jesus gives the key to Peter saying “I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Matt 16:19) Thus Peter is given the authority to govern and care for the Church. The sheep represent not just Jesus as the shepherd but also Peter who must now care for his flock. Here Jesus tells Simon that his name is now Peter, that he is the rock upon which Christ shall build His Church. Around Peter, who is kneeling before Jesus, are several of his disciples. In the medallion above this scene is an angel holding the crossed silver and gold keys and the three-tiered tiara which symbolize the papacy and its authority.
The next window, moving toward the altar, depicts the Wedding Feast in Cana where Jesus performed the miracle of turning the water into wine. (John 2:1-11) Here Jesus, his mother (Mary), John and other disciples (?) attend a wedding feast. When the wine was gone, Jesus instructed the servant to fill six jars with water which then became wine. In this window we see John looking out to us as Jesus instructs the boy pouring the water/wine into the jars. Mary and Jesus sit closest to the viewer. Behind Jesus is his disciple (?).The bride and bride-groom sit at the head of the table in the center. The angel in the medallion plays a harp, providing music for the festive wedding and perhaps for all festive celebrations.
In the next window we witness Jesus healing a sick (dead?) child. (Matt 9:35; Luke 7:21 ) The lame and blind stand by. Two of Jesus’ disciples stand beside Him. The angel in the medallion holds a crucifix, symbolizing His victory over sin and death.
The next window shows Jesus surrounded by children He is blessing and their mothers. He says “Bring the children to me for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matt 19:14; Luke 18:16) In the medallion above this scene, an angel holds lilies and doves symbolizing The Holy Spirit.(See also Matt 9:35-37)
The last window on the north wall depicts the moment when Mary Magdalene recognizes Jesus, who has revealed Himself to her in the garden after the Resurrection. (John 20:17) Jesus says, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” In this window we see angels above Mary Magdalene and Jesus is bathed in heavenly radiance. Pointing to his heart, we see that his hands reveal His wounds and that He is pointing to an image of the Sacred Heart: It is surrounded by flames, shining with Divine light, surmounted by a cross, and encircled by thorns. In the medallion above this scene, an angel holds the Ciborium.
[Insert Ciborium image here]
Above the altar is an image of our Lady of Good Counsel. (See information about the history of the original image in Genazzano, Italy below.)
Just off the entry vestibule is a small room or chapel with two windows. One depicts the sea shell of St. John, the other a lamb with a banner which says Ecce Agnus Dei (This is the Lamb of God).
Windows in the two vestries just off the apse are comprised of soft, golden colored glass with a geometric and floral border of leaves. One window has a central medallion with a cross encircled with white blossoms. The other window shows a staff with roses and a banner with the words Ave Maria Gratia Plena.
Two additional windows are located in the back of the choir/organ loft. One quite fittingly is of St. Cecelia, the patron saint of music. She is holding her small organ and is surrounded by flowers with a radiant glow behind her.
I have not yet identified the other figure, most surely a depiction of a Pope because of the triple tiara he is wearing. (Need more information here.) This window is probably from the time the St. Cecilia window was installed.
St. Faustina and the Divine Mercy
One final note about Our Lady of Good Counsel Church. It is also the Diocesan shrine of St. Faustina and the Divine Mercy. In the 1930’s Sr. Maria Faustina Kowalska , an uneducated nun living in Poland, wrote a diary of 600 pages recording revelations she was receiving about God’s mercy. She was born in 1905 in Glogowiec, Poland. She was called to religious life following a vision of the suffering Christ and in 1925 entered the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy. She died in Cracow in 1938 at the age of 33. Pope John Paul II beatified her in 1993 and she was canonized in 2000.
The Story of Our Lady of Good Counsel (The Painting)
Created in Genazzano, Italy c.1417-1431
Attributed to Gentile da Fabriano (1370-1427)
Santa Maria was the name given to a small church erected in the 5th century on the ruins of a temple of Venus in what is now the town of Genazzano, about 30 miles from Rome. The Augustinian friars were charged with its care and restoration in 1356.
According to the legend, this small church stood unfinished and roofless until April 25, 1467 when, on the Feast of St. Mark, the image of the Madonna was miraculously transported from its former home in a church in Sculatori, Albania. A widow known as Petrucca di Nocera had devoted her entire savings to the restoration of the church. According to the legend, on the day of the feast, the people heard sweet music in the air and a soft cloud settled over the church. When the cloud lifted, the image of the Madonna and Child mysteriously appeared on the wall. The “miraculous” picture has been in the reverent keeping of the Order of Saint Augustine for over 400 years.
Restoration of the fresco in 1957-59 suggests that the image was once part of a larger fresco that had been plastered over at some time before 1467. The experts believe that it was painted by an early 15th century artist by the name of Gentile da Fabriano sometime between 1417-1427. The painting is said to represent Mary and the Child after returning from the Temple and hearing the sad prophesies of Simeon.
The unexpected appearance of the image probably occurred when a ledge was being inserted into the wall. Most likely, the plaster cracked and fell away, revealing the fresco beneath. Of special note is the fact that the top of the fresco image is separated from the wall and, although extremely thin, has survived for hundreds of years, even through earthquakes and bombing during World War II.
Over the years the small church and its mysteriously appearing image of the Madonna and Child has become a center of pilgrimage and of many reported cures that have been attributed to its power (and of course to Our Lady of Good Counsel) .