Our Vision Our Dream
In the fall of 1947 a few Catholic students of Washburn University met with Fr.Thomas J. Culhane, acting chaplain, and requested that a Newman Club be established at Washburn University. In January of 1948 the students received the blessing of the Archdiocese to proceed. During the years of the Newman Club the Jesuit Theologians of the School of Theology at St. Mary’s, KS and the Dominican Priests served the Catholic students of Washburn University.
In July of 1970, the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas purchased property on the northwest corner of 17th & Jewell to be used as the Catholic Student Center. The Washburn Catholic Campus Center was established August 18, 1970. Father Vince Krishe was appointed the first director and chaplain of the Center by Archbishop Ignatius J. Strecker. The Center was officially opened on October 3, 1970. Fr. Vince remained at the Center for seven years. Here is a story that Fr. Vince shared with the current director of the Center.
“At the time I was in Topeka, at Most Pure Heart of Mary Parish. Archbishop Strecker was in town. He asked me as well as the pastor of MPHM, Fr. Jack Quinlan, to go for a ride. We were driving down 17th Street when all of a sudden he turned onto Jewell and pulled to the curb. He got out of the car and said come with me. Of course we followed. He went up to a house and rang the doorbell. A woman came to the door and there she found three men standing in black suits and wearing Roman collars, but this didn't faze the woman at all. The Archbishop introduced himself and then proceeded to ask the woman if she would be interested in selling her house. He explained that he wanted to make this house a center for Catholic students at Washburn University. Well, the woman invited us in, and yes she was interested in selling the house. They came to a fair price and the house became the Washburn Catholic Campus Center in October 1970. The woman moved just a couple of blocks away and remained interested in what was happening at the Center. Years later she died, and she bequeathed the money from the purchase of her house back to the Catholic Campus Center. Now here is the kicker. The woman, Dorothy Palmquist, was not even Catholic.”
Over the next 19 years many priests and students have come and gone. Eventually, the Center fell into hard times. In 1996 there was no chaplain, very little if any student activity, and little community support. That summer, Topeka priests made one last attempt to revive the Catholic Campus Center. They allowed a handful of students the opportunity to take a leadership role. The students started a grassroots movement to bring the Center back to life. They began working together immediately and registered with the university as an official student organization called the Washburn Catholic Campus Center (WCCC). They invited their friends to attend Bible studies and spaghetti dinners. Eventually their friends invited their friends and classmates, and the cycle continued. Ultimately, the amount of time and energy it took to plan, publicize and maintain WCCC activities and property was so great, it was difficult for the student officers to keep up with their schoolwork, jobs and other activities. Finally, in 1999, student leader Janelle Will, petitioned the Archdiocese of Kansas City to become part-time coordinator of the WCCC. After her graduation from Washburn in 2000, she became full-time director of the Center.
Washburn students were responsible for the growth of the Center between 1996 and 2002. In coordination with the director, students planned a variety of campus ministry programs. Additionally, volunteers mowed the lawn, cleaned the Center, and made repairs as needed. Activities during these six years still consisted of the original Bible studies and spaghetti dinners but grew to include Sunday evening Mass, Busy Student Retreats, Eucharistic adoration, and many other faith-building and educational opportunities.
In September of 2002 Patti Lyon became the director and campus minister for the Catholic Campus Center. That same fall she met with Fr. Vince Krishe at the St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center at the University of Kansas at Lawrence. Ms. Lyon went to Fr. Vince to seek his guidance and to ask for assistance as she worked to develop a vision for the Catholic Campus Center at Washburn University. Elements of that vision have included Sunday evening Mass, Scripture study, First Fridays (our Worship, Praise & Adoration Celebration), Theology on Tap, the Kansas Catholic College Student Conference, the Giving Tree Project, small faith-sharing groups, spiritual direction, theology classes, volunteer opportunities, Eucharistic Minister, Lector and Sacristan training and more.
Two past alumni of the Center, Matthew Schiffelbein and Andrew Strobl, were active at the Catholic Campus Center during their years at Washburn. Matthew was among the core group of students working with Janelle Will and Andrew was student president of the Center from 2003-2004. Both were ordained as priests in May 2009.
Many students also met their spouses while participating at the Center and continue to give witness through strong Christian marriages.
The plan for a new chapel was an element of the vision too. In the summer of 2003 the director and then student president Ashley Swanson began to develop a plan for a chapel for the Center. It is four years later. And today Archbishop Joseph Naumann, the members of the Catholic Campus Center, our friends and family and all those who have supported us come together with great joy to celebrate the dedication of our new Holy Spirit Chapel.
Director & Campus Minister