KANSAS CITY, Mo. — St. Louis Catholic Church has closed after serving the Swope Park neighborhood for 103 years.
A spokesperson for the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph said dwindling resources and changing demographics in the surrounding neighborhood were factors in the decision.
“Closing a church is never an easy decision, and it requires many months of evaluation, discernment and prayer," Bishop James Johnston said in a statement provided to KSHB 41. "Our churches are so much more than buildings — they carry generations of memories, witness to God’s graces in our lives and sacramental value. They are places of holiness and reverence. Sometimes, a parish community’s needs simply outweigh the available God-given resources to sustain them."
A final Mass at the church was held Sunday, June 26.
"As pastor of St. Louis Catholic Church for nine years, I have shared their (parishioners) joys, sorrows, hopes, dreams and glories. St. Louis has been their home for many years, and it is sad to see it closed," said Father Carlito Saballo. "Coming from a different country, culture, heritage and upbringing, the people of St. Louis Church made me feel welcome and thought about me as one of their own."
Some feel as though 103 years were simply not enough.
“It’s really devastating and caught a lot of people off guard," said parishioner Darryl Norton.
For Norton, the church has been a symbol of kindness and service.
“They helped so many people over the years from guidance, the assistance, for food. You name it, they’ve done it, and they always had open arms," he said. "Never discriminated against anything. If you need help, they’ve always been here to help.”
He says he was one of the many people helped by the church. When Norton and his family became homeless, the church offered him a security job and place to stay.
“The church has saved my life. Without them, I probably wouldn’t know what me and my family would do,” Norton said.
After decades of worshiping together, parishioners will have to find a new church.
“It’s like I’m losing my family," Norton said. "But I know that no matter what happens, we’ll always have each other’s back."