Alice Coltrane says there is something special about Our Lady of Lourdes Parish she wishes she could bottle and distribute.
Now a member of Church of the Magdalen Parish in Wichita, Coltrane said Our Lady of Lourdes has long been an important source of Catholic education in Southeast Kansas.
“In fact, I believe it is, and always has been, the number one priority of the parish. Many generations of my family and several of my classmates families were educated at St. Mary’s Grade School and Colgan High School – now known as St. Mary’s-Colgan Schools,” she wrote in an email interview.
“There were many sacrifices made by the teachers, nuns, priests and our parents to keep the school functioning and operational. Those sacrifices don’t happen if there isn’t value in what is taking place.”
Coltrane said one of the keys in the success of the Pittsburg parish is its extraordinary sense of community and faith.
One aspect of the parish that she has not experienced in the other parishes she has been a part of is the sense of tradition Our Lady of Lourdes embraces.
“It is unexplainable. You hear about it at other places, but it is something you feel at SMC,” Coltrane said. “I wish that was something that could be bottled up and taken to share with others. They are blessed with a gift that binds the hearts of all who attend there. It is something I truly miss and yearn for in my participation in other parish schools.”
The parish’s priority of education and its intense sense of community has impacted Pittsburg and the surrounding communities, she said.
In addition to the schools’ strong academics and athletics, the school has a reputation for producing well-rounded students, strong leaders, and faithful Catholics.
“We know the value of hard work, of giving back and lending a helping hand, and of being an example and good steward of our faith,” she said. “Many SMC graduates still live, work and raise their families in the area. St. Mary’s-Colgan graduates play an integral part in the foundation, operations and success of the Pittsburg area.”
OLL parishioner: parish supports Catholic education
Longtime parishioner Joe Dellasega said the Pittsburg parish has embraced Catholic education for over 100 years.
“We have not found another parish in the country practicing stewardship that is financially responsible for a pre-K through grade 12 Catholic education,” he said. “Our parents and grandparents instilled in us how blessed we were to receive a Catholic education. It was something they sacrificed for daily.”
Dellasega said the parish has alumni all over the country – like Coltrane – who are active in their own parishes.
“Fortunately, many of these alums have stepped up to help defray the cost of Catholic education,” he said, adding that a couple of years ago the parish embraced an ambitious plan called Faith Forward.
“One of our main goals was to provide a Catholic education second to none. Parish leaders have embraced that goal, and we are advancing in so many ways including our Catholic identity in the community,” Dellasega said.
“We have been blessed with great religious at Our Lady of Lourdes. Their example of living out their vocation has inspired several vocations in the past five years.”
Dennis Burke said the parish’s commitment to Catholic school education – now in its second century – has impacted the entire Pittsburg community.
“Originally staffed by the Sisters of St. Joseph, the school went through the difficult transition to lay staff that all Catholic schools endured in the 1960s and ’70s,” Burke said.
“But while some Catholic schools, especially high schools, could not meet the challenge, Our Lady of Lourdes, through the vision and planning of leaders in the parish, established the funds to see that all the schools, both elementary and secondary, could weather the tough times while flourishing during the good times.”
Although the parish is surrounded by quality public schools, he said, St. Mary’s Colgan continues to offer the character and faith development that public schools are limited in doing.
“Many parents look for an education that will not only prepare their children for the world of work but to live a life of faith. We offer a viable choice in this most important of decisions a parent will ever have to make.”
Want to change the future of the church?
The St. Katharine Drexel Catholic School Fund helps Catholic Schools around the diocese build a foundation for the future. It supports the formation and education of our young people – the future priests, religious, and leaders of the church. For more information, call 316-269-3917, or visit the DrexelCatholicSchoolFund.org. The website contains information about the fund and how to contribute.