Legend says that the Spanish priest, Franciscan Father Juan de Padilla, brought Catholicism to Kansas in 1541 when he traveled with explorer Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, who was searching for the fabled Cibola, the seven cities of gold. They found the Quivira Indians instead and spent 25 days among their villages in central Kansas. Coronado and his party returned to New Mexico, but Father Padilla came back the next summer to evangelize the native Americans. He was killed by Indians, but whether they were the Quivira, the neighboring Kanza or another tribe is unknown.
Memorials in Herington nd atop a hill south of Council Grove both claim to be the site of Father Padilla’s martyrdom. Another monument west of Lyons is said to be near the site of a wooden cross the priest erected at one of the Quivira villages, and a large cross east of Dodge City purports to mark the site where Coronado’s party crossed the Arkansas River and where Father Padilla celebrated a Mass of thanksgiving.
In Herington, within sight of St. John the Evangelist Church, is the city park where the granite marker was erected and where a lake is named in Father Padilla’s memory. Another monument in Junction City memorializes him.
About 300 years later, the first Catholic settlers began arriving in the region.
A priest from Abilene first began ministering to Catholic residents in Herington in 1888, and by 1891, there were enough families to form a parish and build a church. A resident pastor was assigned in 1902, and the church was moved to a new location and renovated.
A new church was built and dedicated in 1909, followed the next year by the construction of a new rectory. The parish opened a school in 1926, which operated until 1969.
The parish built a new hall in 1978 on the site of the old school, which had been razed in 1974.
4:30 pm (between fall and spring DST)
30 min before Mass