ST. JOHN MARY VIANNEY LATIN MASS COMMUNITY, a chaplaincy under the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas, is administered by the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter. Three Fraternity priests, Chaplain Fr. Eric Flood, FSSP; Assistant Chaplain Fr. Robert Fromageot, FSSP; and Assistant Chaplain Fr. John Kodet, serve Catholics throughout the greater Topeka area, daily offering the traditional Latin Mass of 1962. This form of the Mass is often called “The Extraordinary Form” or “the Tridentine Mass.” In addition, all the Sacraments and sacramentals, such as blessings, are administered to the faithful in their traditional Latin forms. We are faithful to Tradition and faithful to the Magisterium. Our priests administer to the faithful with explicit faculties from the local ordinary, Archbishop Joseph Naumann. With three Masses in Maple Hill on Sundays and one in Topeka, we have around 700 people who attend regularly.
Where We Are
MAPLE HILL, KANSAS, is the main location of the apostolate, which includes the Chapel of St. John Vianney, St. John Vianney School (grades K – 12), and the priests’ rectory. Three Masses and Confession are provided here daily.
Maple Hill is a small, rural, residential community at the edge of the Flint Hills about 20 miles west of Topeka and two miles north of Interstate 70. Parishioners live throughout the area in towns such as St. Marys, Rossville, Delia, Paxico, and Alma. For typical everyday needs, services and stores are available in St. Marys, Rossville, and elsewhere. More comprehensive goods and services are available in Topeka and Manhattan.
TOPEKA, KANSAS, is also an important part of our apostolate. The Traditional Latin Mass is offered on Sundays at 11 a.m. and Holy Days (circumstances permitting) at the historic, beautiful, twin-steepled St. Joseph’s Church at 227 SW Van Buren Street, about five blocks north of the state capitol building. Confessions are heard for an hour before Mass. Parishioners of this growing apostolate come from the greater Topeka area, Lawrence, and their environs.
A Brief History
The present Latin Mass Community of St. John Mary Vianney traces its beginnings to a small group of Catholic faithful who desired to attend the traditional Latin Mass in full communion with the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, and who persevered in their greater goal of having daily Mass and complete sacramental life in the traditional rite. The first step came in 1989 when Archbishop Ignatius Strecker, under the 1984 Papal Indult, permitted the traditional Latin Mass to be offered alternately in Kansas City and in Topeka at Most Pure Heart parish.
The spring of 1993 saw the arrival of Fr. John Rizzo who was willing to serve the group of “traditional” Catholics while seeking incardination in the diocese. Mass was offered in various places, and that autumn the first school, under the name Our Lady of Compassion, was opened in a building in Maple Hill.
At Easter of 1994, Fr. Rizzo was accepted into the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter. Arrangements were made enabling him to offer Sunday Mass in St. Stanislaus Church, Rossville, and at St. Joseph’s in Topeka. Thanks to the support of Msgr. Arthur Trompeter, Frs. Carl and Earl Dekat, and Fr. Tim Haberkorn, the FSSP Sunday Mass has continued without interruption at St. Joseph’s. Also in 1994, recently appointed Archbishop James Keleher officially invited the Fraternity to work in the Archdiocese and two FSSP communities were established: St. Philippine Duchesne in Kansas City and St. John Vianney Latin Mass Community in Maple Hill. Soon, a house in Maple Hill would be acquired for use as a rectory. From the beginning the Fraternity has supplied assistant priests and seminarians to help the chaplain at St. John Vianney.
Fr. Peter Gee became the Community’s second chaplain in 1996, followed in 1998 by Fr. Valentine Young, OFM, a Franciscan working with the FSSP. At this time daily Mass was offered at St. Stanislaus, Rossville, where, by that time, the school was housed in the church basement.
The fourth chaplain, Fr. Michael Irwin, FSSP, arrived in August of 2000, and under his leadership the Community moved to acquire a permanent home. Permission was received to build in Maple Hill which had never had a Catholic church since the town’s founding in 1887. In November of 2000, ten acres were acquired, and groundbreaking took place the following July. In the spring of 2002, construction began on the chapel, adjoining school wing, and rectory. Parishioners assisted with uncounted hours of labor. School opened in the new premises in September, and the chapel was dedicated by Archbishop Keleher on October 20, 2002. With the acquisition of a permanent home, St. John Vianney has grown steadily.
Fr. Eric Flood, FSSP, appointed chaplain in 2003, acquired additional acreage, as well as prefabricated buildings to increase classroom space. In 2005, coadjutor Bishop Joseph Naumann was appointed head of the diocese, and has continued to support the work of St. John Vianney. The sixth chaplain, Fr. John Fongemie, FSSP, was followed in 2008 by Fr. James Gordon, FSSP, who enlarged the rectory to provide the priests with office space for working and receiving visitors. Fr. John Rickert, FSSP, a native Kansan, became the community’s eighth chaplain in July, 2012.
Thanks to the perseverance of a handful of faithful Catholics twenty years ago, St. John Vianney continues to flourish and grow as new families learn about the availability of the traditional Mass and school in northeast Kansas. The next milestone? Perhaps the building of a much larger church, as we have outgrown the current capacities.
Thank you for your interest in reading this, and please pray for us. We hope we may see you someday.
Last updated: July 9, 2017
Many thanks to Mary E. Gentges for providing the original article at Fr. Rickert’s request.