Jesuit Father Louis Dumortier, based at St. Mary’s Indian Mission at St. Marys, began serving settlers in the area in 1859, and he celebrated Mass in the home of the first Catholic residents of Manhattan in 1865. The home of Mrs. J.T. Ellicott, the niece of Cincinnati Archbishop William Elder, was the center of Catholic activity in the community from 1868 until the old Methodist church was purchased in 1880. Because of anti-Catholic sentiments at the time, the 1859 structure was purchased through a non-Catholic lawyer in Wamego. The first resident pastor came in 1881.
In 1908, a three-story home across the street from the church was purchased, and Sacred Heart Academy, the first Catholic high school in the diocese, was opened, staffed by Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia.
In 1919, plans for a new church were developed. The brick-and-stone structure with twin towers rising 85 feet was dedicated on Oct. 31, 1920, at a cost of more than $66,500.
In 1938, the parish purchased a frame structure from the Free Methodist congregation and moved it next to the Academy and remodeled it for use as a grade school. A an addition was built in 1945.
With student enrollment surpassing 200, plans were made to build a new high school. The new Msgr. Arthur Luckey High School, named for the parish pastor who arrived in 1913, was dedicated in September 1951. Before his retirement in 1954, Msgr. Luckey began planning for the construction of a new grade school. He died three months before the new building was dedicated in March 1955. An addition was completed in 1961 after the old Sacred Heart Academy building was razed.
Msgr. William Merchant, who succeeded Msgr. Luckey in 1954, remained at the parish until 1968. During his tenure, school enrollment reached 600.
The Sisters of St. Joseph left the school in 1985, and the high school was closed in 1986, with 11 seniors graduating that last year.
The old frame building that had served as a grade school since 1938 burned in 1992, but in its place the parish constructed a fine arts wing.
In 1995, the Seven Dolors Church was listed on the Register of Historic Kansas Places and the National Register of Historic Sites.
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Fr. Ryan Mccandless
Deacon Edward Souza
Fr. Michael Leiker
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