Fort Scott parishioners will return ‘home’ after construction of new church is finished

The new Mary Queen of Angels Church will be very similar to the structure it is replacing. (Artist’s rendering courtesy Alloy Architecture.)

An unsuspecting parishioner of Mary Queen of Angels Parish in Fort Scott who walks into the church next Christmas after several years of being away might be shocked to discover he’s in a different building.

The new church’s design is very similar to the structure that was severely damaged by fire on Aug. 29, 2022, after a lightning strike.

Andrew Faires, an architect with Alloy Architecture in Wichita, said the new church will be handicapped accessible and have a larger gathering space, but will be a few feet shorter than the building it is replacing.

“We’ve added a vesting sacristy near the front of the church,” he said, “and we’ve added a bank of restrooms near the front of the church off of the gathering space as well.”

Easier entry, exit

The footprint of the church was moved farther away from the street, Faires said. “So now there’s a bit more of an exterior plaza for entry and exit off the main entrance of the church.”

The architect said he and his colleagues attempted to maintain the integrity of the original design of the church’s interior.

Bishop Carl A. Kemme, Fr. Yancey Burgess, and others associated with the construction of a new Mary Queen of Angels Church took part in ceremonial groundbreaking Sunday, Dec. 17, in Fort Scott. (Courtesy photo)

“We wanted the parish to feel as though they were already home…so there’s not that shock that can happen with a new church. We’ve gone in there with the intent of ‘this is what it felt like beforehand,’” he said. “A lot of the work was how can we make it feel like it’s just restored and improved for modern-day use of the building.”

Stained-glass windows are being refurbished

Another reason parishioners will feel at home is that the stained-glass windows are being refurbished and reused in the new church building.

“It’s still going to be the same rose window stained glass and all the side windows stained glass,” Faires said. “There are different ways that we’ve had to arrange them. We couldn’t necessarily place them in the same locations, but we were able to get them all integrated into the building design.”

The reredos and side altars are being replicated. The Stations of the Cross and statues are being refurbished and will be returned to the new church. “We’re trying to go back with the same design but with a slightly different scale,” he said. “For the most part, it’s all integrating with what the original church looked like.”

Brick detailing will be similar to old church

Red brick will again be used for the exterior and the brickwork detailing along the roof line will be similar to the previous church. One difference is that the base of the church will be limestone, which will tie it to the adjacent school building.

A larger paved parking area will be added south of the church, Faires said.

The church is scheduled to be finished by the end of November.

Fort Scott’s pastor, Fr. Yancey Burgess, said he appreciated Bishop Carl A. Kemme’s blessing at the groundbreaking, an event that occurred during Advent, a season of anticipation.

“We would like the church to have been done yesterday,” he said. “It’s a slow process and we understand that – but it’s begun.”

The congregation is excited about construction, Fr. Burgess said. Mass and other services are being held in the parish’s Kennedy Gym.

Looking forward to the old church in the new church

“The people wanted to rebuild their church – only with indoor plumbing – we had only one bathroom,” he said. “They’re looking forward to having their old church – the look of the old church – with modern conveniences.”

Fr. Burgess added that parishioners have expressed their appreciation that the new church will be at ground level and that accessibility will be much easier for the elderly and others with mobility challenges.
“They’re going to miss the old church but they’re excited to see the old church in the new church,” he said. “They should be able to walk into the church and, for the most part, recognize they are back home.”

Simpson Construction Services of Wichita is the general contractor for the project.