The first Mass was offered in Mitchell County possibly as early as 1871 by Father John Fogarty, the missionary priest who served a wide area of northern Kansas from his base in Solomon. Father Louis Mollier, from his parish in St. Joseph, then served the Beloit Catholics until a resident priest was assigned when the parish was organized in 1877. A stone church was completed in 1878.
Twenty years later, Father Michael Heitz encouraged parishioners to begin work on a grand church, one that eventually would use 9,000 tons of stone to create a Romanesque structure featuring flying buttresses and an entire stone ceiling.
Although told by Bishop John Cunningham not to “go into debt with your dreams,” Father Heitz proceeded. Rock quarries were opened on 10 parishioners’ farms, and each family was assigned a quota of quarrying or hauling stone. Craftsmen from Ellis County, where numerous stone churches had been built, were hired to dress the rock. Construction began in 1900 around the old church. The building opened for worship in 1902, but the twin towers were not completed until 1904 and 1907.
Inside, 29 art-glass windows depict scenes in the life of Christ. Six granite pillars were so heavy that they could only be transported to the site on custom-built horse-drawn sleds after a heavy snow. Marble altars and statues grace the sanctuary. Two Italian artists were commissioned to paint frescoes in the sanctuary and transept.
By 1910, with the construction debt paid, Msgr. Heitz began work on a convent. Again, parishioners provided the stone and much of the labor, and the Altar Society furnished it. Work began on a school building in 1913, which served all grades until a separate high school was constructed in 1952.
Sisters of the Precious Blood taught at the school from 1886 to 1889, followed by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia, who remained until 1973. The parish continues to operate a school from pre-kindergarten through high school.
In 2000, the parish began a $500,000 restoration project of St. John the Baptist Church to stabilize the foundations of the two towers, refurbish the exterior stone and repair and restore the interior. The building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.
Mission ParishesSaints Peter and Paul Parish - Cawker City
4:30 pm - 5:30 pm
9:30 am - 9:45 am
Tuesday - Thursday
30 min before mass