Although a parish was not formed here until the late 1940s, priests had been attending to Catholic residents since settlers first arrived.
The missionary priest, Jesuit Father Louis Dumortier, traveled as far as Fort Harker, an Army outpost that preceded the town, from his base at St. Mary’s Indian Mission in Pottawotomie County. He arrived in Kansas in 1861, and he died at Fort Harker in 1867 after traveling there to attend to victims of a cholera epidemic.
Starting in 1913, Msgr. Arthur Luckey of Ellsworth began offering Mass in the public school gymnasium for Italian Catholics who had come to the town to work in the salt mine. His successors at Ellsworth continued the tradition, although by the time the parish was organized, the Italian workers had been supplanted by employees of Mexican descent.
Msgr. Ignatius Manzo, then a diocesan priest of just three years, was assigned to organize the new parish. Born in Mexico, Father Manzo was raised in Goodland and ordained to the priesthood in 1944.
He succeeded in acquiring the chapel building from the former Camp Phillips air base at Salina and moved it 35 miles to Kanopolis. At one point, transportation of the building was halted for a month while Father Manzo raised the rest of the money to get the chapel to its destination.
Once it was in Kanopolis, Father Manzo lived in the sacristy rooms of the new church until a house next door was donated as the rectory.
Altogether, the parish spent $27,000 to move and renovate the chapel for their new church.
Its dedication in September 1947 was followed by a fairly unusual event in the diocese. Bishop Frank Thill confirmed 37 infants and small children and seven adults, five of whom were converts. In Mexico, readers of The Register were told, it is practice to confirm children as early as infancy and is done so in accord with teachings of the Church.
Father Manzo led the parish until he was reassigned in 1958.
Parishioners refurbished the church in 1977 and celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1998.
The annual Fiesta fund-raiser, begun by Father Manza, continues to support the parish with the sale of Mexican food.
Mission ParishesSt. Bernard Parish - Ellsworth