What is now the largest parish in the diocese was formed in 1959, prompted by the city’s growth, fueled by the expansion of Schilling Air Force Base. It was the city’s third parish; Our Lady of Guadalupe had served a Hispanic population in north Salina since 1927.
A tract of 29 acres in what then was the south edge of Salina was purchased in 1954 for an eventual school, convent, parish and rectory complex.
A new grade school was completed on the site in 1955 at a cost of $226,000 and expanded in 1959 at a costs of $63,000. Also that year, a new $573,000 interparochial high school opened at the complex. A two-story house that was on the property was moved and remodeled for use as a convent.
In 1959, St. Mary, Queen of the Universe Parish was established to serve south Salina.
Fund-raising for a new church began, and a home in the neighborhood was purchased as a temporary rectory. Masses were celebrated in the all-purpose room of the new grade school.
A new convent, costing $135,000, was built in 1960 to accommodate 26 sisters. They lived there until 1987, and the convent was converted to a xxxxxx
Ground-breaking for the church and rectory took place in September 1962.
The new church was dedicated Aug. 22, 1963. There were 650 people in attendance at a banquet afterward. About 2,000 toured the new church, rectory and school complex at an open house three days later. The final cost of the new church and rectory was $340,000.
The closing of Schilling Air Force Base in 1965 resulted in the loss of parishioners and school children, The Register reported. Many of the military personnel lived within St. Mary’s parish boundaries, although the cathedral’s Sacred Heart Grade School also reported a decline in enrollment.
St. Mary’s Parish conducted numerous fund-raisers over the next 16 years to pay off the substantial debt of building the new church and school complex. By January 1979, the last payment was made, and more than 800 people attended a free banquet celebrating the milestone.
In 1983, parishioners agreed to build a combination parish hall, meeting facility and multipurpose room attached to the grade school. It was dedicated in 1985 before a crowd of 800.
In September 1998, the parish began a $2 million fund drive to build a new parish hall and office complex, as well as renovate and expand the preschool center and grade school. Pledges surpassed that goal by December.
Construction of the new hall and office complex began in 2000. The original rectory attached to the church was demolished to make way for the new addition.
The new hall seats 300 for dinner and 600 for meetings and includes a large kitchen. There also are new parish offices and conference rooms. The facility cost $1.5 million and was completed in October 2001.
A new rectory just south of Sacred Heart Junior-Senior High School was built in 2010.
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