Timeline: 1967 - 1978

The Silent Years

1967 Summer - The Jesuits leave St. Mary's. The Jesuit superiors decided to move the Theologate of the Missouri Province back to St. Louis. A large auction is held, the highlight of which is the historic bishop's chair, hand carved in 1878 [it returned to St. Mary's in 1978]. The place known as St. Mary's Mission and St. Mary's College seems to sleep. Silence closes over the classrooms, the dorms, the refectory - and especially over the empty Immaculata where Our Lord no longer dwells in the tabernacle of the marble altar and the voices of students and seminarians are no longer lifted for the glory of God. During part of these silent years, an old brother caretaker stays on in the Infirmary building. Gone are the black-cassocked priests and seminarians the townspeople had come to know and love so well. No more can the footsteps of hurrying students or the swish of seminarians' cassocks be heard in the halls. No more does the College bell ring out across the valley. St. Mary's - hallowed by lives of holy religious who had toiled here in heat, in cold, in pioneer conditions - is left alone. And someone writes what proves to be a prophesy: "Time will tell. Maybe in a new role, the College will still play a meaningful part in the world."
  The Jesuits lease the old Indian Pay Station (to the west of campus now) to the City of St. Mary's. In 1969, it is restored as a museum by the newly formed St. Mary's Historical Society.
1969 June 6 - While the old campus sleeps, an even in Europe will have far-reaching effects for the College and the village of St. Mary's. In view of the disastrous situation in the modern seminaries, His Excellency Francois Charriere, Bishop of Lausanne, Geneva and Fribourg, gives verbal permission and encouragement for Archbishop Lefebvre to open a seminary under the title of Saint Pius X in Fribourg.
1970 November 1 - Bishop Charriere approves and confirms the constitutions and proceeds to the canonical foundation of the International Priestly Society of St. Pius X. This is the birthday of the Society. On February 18, 1971, will come the second canonical step, approval from Rome, when Cardinal Wright, prefect for the Sacred Congregations for the Clergy, will officially approve and encourage the Society.
1972 May 23 - In a ceremony that takes place on the porch of the Faculty Building, the use of St. Mary's is returned by the Jesuits to the Prairie Band of the Potawatomi, who requested it to be given to them. The land and buildings are given in trust for the purpose of developing them into an Indian cultural and educational center open to all tribes. Plans include a home for aged Indians, day care center, vocational school, and alcoholic treatment center. None of these plans materialize, and by about 1975, the Jesuits have St. Mary's again on the market.
1975-1977 Parties interested in St. Mary's campus include the Kansas Police (to convert it to a training center), the local school district (to use it as a combined high school for Rossville and St. Mary's - the communities build two new high schools instead), and local businessmen, who have feasibility studies made for converting it into a business park. St. Mary's businessman, Carl Simecka, leases it from the Jesuits for about a year and a half, and sets up his office in the old Jesuit accounting office on the southwest corner of the ground floor of the College building. He mows the grounds, which had been mowed only intermittently for several years. His hope is to develop the property into apartments and business offices while retaining their character, and to make the historic Immaculata Chapel available for special functions such as weddings. He works to save the Chapel's stained glass windows, which one party wanted to buy and remove; and to keep out the "Moonies," who twice attempted to obtain the property, once representing themselves as a women's cultural group. None of this gentleman's plans for the property materialize. For a time, the McCall's pattern company in Manhattan use the old Jesuit Refectory (now Assumption Chapel) as a warehouse.
1977 March - KATO Corporation (a land company based in the Southwest) of Phoenix, Arizona, purchases an option on the St. Mary's property. Job Corps is interested in buying it through KATO and setting up a training center for high-school dropouts. Concerned local residents call a town meeting and stop the purchase at the eleventh hour.
  Autumn - Traditional Catholics discover St. Mary's and begin attempting to interest the Society of St. Pius X in it. At the invitation of a local dentist, Dr. Eugene McKenzie, priests come from what was the the U.S. District Headquarters on the East Coast and have a look at St. Mary's, but decline.
1978 January - Fr. Hector Bolduc of the SSPX, based at Dickenson, Texas, comes to Topeka to offer Mass in the home of the David Gayner family, who bring him to St. Mary's. He predicts that the Society will acquire the property and a novena is started.
  February - Representatives of the SSPX meet with KATO's representatives at the Mainstreeter Restaurant in Rossville. KATO's price tag is in the millions, and the little group in Topeka has fourteen dollars in their checking account. Father says, "We don't want to buy it; we want you to give it to us!"
  May 22 - His Grace Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre inspects St. Mary's and especially admires the Immaculata Chapel. It is because of this magnificent church that he urges Fr. Bolduc to continue negotiations and find the means to acquire St. Mary's for a traditional Catholic center. The chapel seems to him a symbol, raised up in the heart of America, and destined to favor the Catholic renaissance of our great country. Negotiations continue, and in the end, arrangements are made, by which KATO donates their interest and a benefactor puts up the remaining amount asked by the Jesuits.

Prologue: Early Threads in the History of St. Mary's
Time Line: 1827 - 1847
Time Line: 1848 - 1869
Time Line: 1869 - 1931
Time Line: 1931 - 1967
Time Line: 1967 - 1978