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10 of the Best Cities in America to Raise a Catholic Family…

10 of the Best Cities in America to Raise a Catholic Family…

In an era in which America is becoming an increasingly anti-Catholic place to live, Catholics desperately need to be supported by a strong Catholic community in order to live out their faith. For some, the community in which they were born supplies that need. However, for many others there exists a desire to find a community where orthodox Catholicism is supported and lived out. To help those who are looking for such communities, Crisis Magazine has compiled a list of 10 of the best cities to raise a Catholic family (plus an additional unique situation). 

A few notes about this list. It is not a scientific study; the cities selected obviously don’t include every city with a strong Catholic community. However, these cities stand out in terms of offering distinct advantages for Catholic families. 

Regional factors impact families on a local level, so ultra-liberal states are unlikely to have cities that make the list. You’ll also notice a dearth of large cities (the largest city listed is Kansas City, MO, which is the 37th largest city in America). It’s likely that every large city in America has an active Catholic community in it; however, the significant drawbacks for raising a Catholic family in a large city, such as high cost of living, higher levels of “wokeness,” and higher likelihood of a liberal local government kept those cities off this list.

Orthodox. Faithful. Free.

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The Catholic environment in a city is somewhat dependent on the current bishop. A liberal bishop is more likely to make a city more difficult for a faithful Catholic than an orthodox bishop. All of the cities listed below have bishops that at least tolerate orthodox Catholic parishes, schools, and homeschooling groups. For each city listed, the year the current bishop reaches retirement age is listed for some sense of how long that bishop might remain (although a bishop could retire early, be transferred, or die before that date).

Also listed are the number of Sunday traditional Latin Masses (TLMs) celebrated in the city and immediately surrounding area (based on Not every Catholic may desire to attend a TLM, but the existence of a TLM usually represents both a bishop sympathetic to orthodoxy and a strong homeschooling community. There may be many reverent and orthodox Novus Ordo parishes available as well, but such a number is difficult to quantify.

In addition, the population and median listing home price is included for each city. Some families prefer a small town feel, while others appreciate the amenities offered by a larger city. And of course, cost of living is a key ingredient to thriving in any city, and the current median home price reflects the largest expense for most families.

Finally, included with each city is a short description of what it’s like to live there by a resident of the city. This will give a hometown flavor to each city beyond what statistics might reflect or outside observers might think.

Cities are listed in alphabetical order.

Ave Maria, Florida
Cincinnati, Ohio
Front Royal, Virginia
Greenville, South Carolina
Kansas City, Missouri
Knoxville, Tennessee
Lincoln, Nebraska
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
South Bend, Indiana
Steubenville, Ohio
Bonus: St. Mary’s, Kansas

Ave Maria, Florida

  • 2020 Population: 6,242
  • Median Listing Home Price ( $469,900
  • Diocese of Venice, FL
  • Bishop Frank Dewane
  • Arch/Bishop Retirement Year: 2025
  • Sunday TLMs available with ~30 minutes: 4

Ave Maria, Florida was founded just shy of twenty years ago when Tom Monaghan, founder of Domino’s Pizza, moved Ave Maria University to Florida from Michigan. Today within the town a rich and vibrant intentional Catholic community flourishes. Parents seeking to raise their children to be virtuous Catholic men and women find in each other shared values and support. Here, largely insulated from an increasingly toxic culture, our children can grow up learning to love and striving to please Our Lord. Among them, this is normal and natural. It is, in a sense, positive peer pressure.

The Ave Maria parish church, an impressive Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired structure seen for miles across the flat southwest Florida landscape, sits at the center of our town, and like the medieval cities of old, declares our faith central to our lives. During the school year, the Holy Mass is celebrated seven times each weekday in Ave Maria whether in the parish, at the university or at the school. The parish offers the TLM on Sundays. Confession lines are long. Our worship is Eucharistic and Marian, with outdoor processions, Marian conferences, retreats, a dedicated 24-hour adoration chapel and a huge and happy town-wide celebration of the Feast of the Annunciation each year. A crowd of families gathers for joyous celebrations every year for the feasts of Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Joseph. 

While many Ave Maria families choose to homeschool, our town is rightly proud of our PK-12 Catholic classical school, Donahue Academy, which has the distinct privilege of being one of only five elementary schools across the United States to be recognized by the Newman Guide. With demand exceeding supply, the school screens families for mission fit. Our Catholic faith forms the foundation of the curriculum. Students attend Holy Mass daily, and many will stop off at the chapel for a quick visit to the Blessed Sacrament when returning to their classrooms from lunch. The school takes its job seriously: by way of example, the high school junior theology class covers Catholic ethics, Humanae Vitae, the Ten Commandments using the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. These young people graduate well-formed in their faith, equipped to defend it, and eager to bring souls to Christ.

Our town is blessed to be the home of one of the few truly authentic Catholic universities in our country. Throughout the year, we locals benefit from the many wonderful lecture series, conferences and performances. Our high school students are able to take classes at the university and earn college credit. The university students we have met are an impressive lot: joyful, fun and in love with being Catholic. Professors impart not only their subject-matter knowledge but also their zeal for the Catholic faith. The university is a true light in our town.

Cincinnati, Ohio 

  • 2020 Population: 310,113
  • Median Listing Home Price ( $289,900
  • Archdiocese of Cincinnati
  • Archbishop Dennis Schnurr
  • Arch/Bishop Retirement Year: 2023 (reached retirement age)
  • Sunday TLMs available with ~30 minutes: 4

Picture this: you arrive on Sunday morning at your parish—a beautiful gothic Church bursting with statues and sacred art built in the middle of the 19th century by German immigrants. You see a dozen fully-habited religious sisters in the front rows, along with another dozen young cassock-wearing seminarians from the local seminary. Every age is represented in the congregation: from grandparents to infants to everything in between. Large young families in particular dominate the pews. Inspiring professional-grade sacred music descends from the choir loft. A veritable army of somber altar boys enter the sanctuary, as everyone rises to begin a sung traditional Latin Mass that seems more like heaven than earth. Where is this possible? In the heart of the Midwest: Cincinnati, Ohio. 

Historically Cincinnati is a “Catholic” town. Catholic immigrants from both Ireland and Germany flooded the city in the 19th century, and ever since then the Queen City has been imbued with a Catholic spirit (even growing up Protestant in Cincinnati I could not but help notice the Catholicism that surrounded me). One claim-to-fame of the city is that McDonald’s Filet-a-Fish was created here: back in the early 1960’s so many local Catholics were abstaining from meat on Fridays that a local McDonald’s manager came up with the idea of a non-meat option. Back in the 1950’s the most common question when meeting someone new was, “What’s your parish?”

Although times have changed Cincinnati is still a great place to raise a Catholic family. There are multiple thriving Latin mass parishes in the area (including Old St. Mary’s described above), as well as a number of solid Novus Ordo parishes. Cincinnati has not just one, but two strong Catholic homeschooling groups, including co-ops and more activities than even the most overscheduled family could attend. Just this month, a state law was changed to make Ohio even more homeschool-friendly—reducing paperwork and reporting to one simple annual form. 

There are also a number of strong traditional schooling options for Catholics in the area, including a new classical school connected to Hillsdale College. If you want to be a practicing orthodox Catholic family, no matter the “flavor,” you’ll find a home in Cincinnati.

Cincinnati also has all the amenities of a big city while retaining a small-town feel and a relatively lower cost of living. Cincinnati has a walkable, vibrant, revitalized downtown where you can tour the underground tunnels that breweries used during Prohibition to keep their businesses alive underground (literally). Families stay rooted here, and it’s becoming more and more common for young adults to settle here after high school and college because of the strength of the local Catholic community.  

Front Royal, Virginia

  • 2020 Population: 15,109
  • Median Listing Home Price ( $419,900
  • Diocese of Arlington, VA
  • Bishop Michael Burbidge
  • Arch/Bishop Retirement Year: 2032
  • Sunday TLMs available with ~30 minutes: 3

Front Royal is an epicenter for the traditional Catholic and homeschooling crowd, as well as being blessed with a number of great Catholic schools and no fewer than four TLMs or eastern liturgies in town (six if you expand the search out even twenty minutes). It is also affordable!

Everyone is looking for a great parish these days. Well we have those in abundance! At one time, we had as many as twenty-four diocesan TLMs, which was second most in the world. So that tells you a bit about our diocese in itself.

Even after the restrictions came down, we still have eight parishes offering the TLM that are conveniently located so you are never more than a thirty minute drive from a Sunday TLM basically anywhere in the diocese. 

Although I’m no fan of the “unicorn” Novus Ordo argument, we have those in abundance as well! Altar rails, only clergy distributing communion, the use of chant, the use of Latin, and ad orientem worship are all familiar in this diocese.

Plus, we are sandwiched in between Baltimore and Richmond, which both have TLM options. We also have the Canons Regular of the New Jerusalem on our western border, while the SSPX has (quite successfully) set up shop right in Front Royal! There is also a great Ukrainian Catholic Church in town.  

Within just a few miles we have Holy Family Academy, John XXIII Montessori School, Chelsea Academy, the Laetare Center, Seton School, and Christendom college just to name a few orthodox, Catholic options. The homeschooling community here is also massive and the state is very friendly to homeschooling. 

The main complaint I hear about Northern Virginia is “it’s too expensive.” But what so many fail to realize is that you get what you pay for! It is expensive for a reason: the infrastructure, housing developments, shopping centers, hospitals, and everything in between are some of the nicest in the country and we have negligible crime in most areas. Northern VA has four of the ten wealthiest counties in the country and if you can tap into the job market here, some of the highest salaries as well. Front Royal is one of the cheaper towns in terms of housing, so it is a great place to get your foot in the proverbial Virginia door.

The vast network of traditional, conservative Catholics in Northern Virginia may be the biggest in terms of population in the whole country. Other areas may have four or five traditional parishes at most, and a few homeschool groups to go with them. What we are blessed with here puts those kinds of numbers to shame! I can personally vouch for over 20 parishes in our diocese, and almost all of them have distinct traditional and homeschooling communities. 

Greenville, South Carolina

  • 2020 Population: 70,899
  • Median Listing Home Price ( $385,000
  • Diocese of Charleston
  • Bishop Jacques Fabre-Jeune
  • Arch/Bishop Retirement Year: 2030
  • Sunday TLMs available with ~30 minutes: 1

Greenville has long been an attractive place to live, regularly appearing on lists of best small cities in the U.S. Given the excellent weather, food, entertainments, and livability, it is no wonder. Yet only recently have many begun to realize this gem of the South Carolina upstate is also an oasis of vibrant, faithful Catholicism as well.

Greenville boasts several parishes – St. Mary’s, Prince of Peace, and Our Lady of the Rosary lead the way – whose Novus Ordo liturgies are so impeccably beautiful and reverent they’d be the crown jewel of many much larger towns. Or do you prefer a traditional Latin Mass? Prince of Peace offers it on Sunday and during the week. Looking for orthodox Catholic education? Our Lady of the Rosary’s K-12 classical academy is teeming with joyful Catholic families. Perhaps you’d rather homeschool? The area’s collection of homeschooling families is large, active, and frequently gathering.

Catholicism in Greenville is refreshingly evangelical in spirit. Whether at St. Mary’s “Center for Evangelical Catholicism,” Steve Wood’s “Family Life Center,” or the newly minted “Christ on Main” Catholic information center, one will find plenty of dynamic Catholic activity, led by clergy and laity alike. To top things off, the city hosts a massive Marian Eucharistic Conference each fall and a Catholic women’s conference each spring.

Every day a new Catholic family moves to Greenville, and who can blame them? Greenville offers the best of Catholic worship, education, culture, and fellowship, without sacrificing the amenities and conveniences of a handsome, well-governed American city. 

Kansas City, Missouri

  • 2020 Population: 507,932
  • Median Listing Home Price ( $280,000
  • Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph
  • Bishop James V. Johnston
  • Arch/Bishop Retirement Year: 2034
  • Sunday TLMs available with ~30 minutes: 5 

Kansas City, MO was originally settled by French Catholics over 200 years ago and the faith is still alive here today. I moved to the city in 2014 and the faithful Catholic community is the reason our family has stayed put. 

My wife and I owe our marriage, (and three young children), to the City on a Hill apostolate, having met at a social after Sunday mass. We have numerous married friends who had the same experience. We belong to the admirable St. Andrew the Apostle Parish, where we are currently endeavoring to build a once-in-a-generation church. I encourage my sons to pay attention to the reverence of the altar boys, seven of which are currently enrolled in seminary. 

As for mere practicalities, K.C. is relatively cheap in comparison to other cities with a large Catholic presence, (I’m looking at you, Denver), but boasts opportunities for employment and culture that may not be available in smaller towns. We are home to a Caravaggio, for starters. Education options include numerous parochial schools, a burgeoning homeschool movement, and a Chesterton Academy. There are a handful of Catholic-owned employers that provide useful products and services. These include Lamar Hunt Jr.’s KC Mavericks hockey team, Custom Truck One Source, and Straub Construction, to name just a few. Straub Construction, by the way, was responsible for construction of the abbey church for Sr. Wilhelmina’s Benedictines of Mary, Queen of the Apostles, a 45 minute drive north of the metro area. 

I have noticed that one benefit of these more worldly attributes is there are numerous multi-generational Catholic families at our parishes that have remained together in the area. There seems to be less need for enterprising young sons and daughters to seek financial opportunity elsewhere. Likewise, the good and holy priests at St. Andrew’s, Our Lady of Good Counsel, Old St. Patrick’s Oratory, and others, have made settling in Kansas City the right decision for our family. 

Knoxville, Tennessee

  • 2020 Population: 190,594
  • Median Listing Home Price ( $425,000
  • Diocese of Knoxville, TN
  • (No current bishop)
  • Arch/Bishop Retirement Year: n/a
  • Sunday TLMs available with ~30 minutes: 1

Three years ago, after battling the closure of a family business and rising home costs, my wife and I sold our home in southeast Michigan and set out to find a new place in which to raise our 6 children. But where to go was always the looming question. For my wife, only one thing was certain, her Bilbo-esque desire to once again see mountains! For me, the over-practical husband, anywhere with a lower cost of living.

After selling our home, a friend offered to let us vacation in their cabin in the mountains of east Tennessee, and it only took about half the drive down before my wife decided she liked it there. So began our year-long effort researching life in Tennessee, making bi-monthly trips to the area, and deciding against the purchase of numerous homes until we finally found the right one.

For us, east Tennessee was an attractive area that checked off numerous boxes of important “must haves” (including the aforementioned mountains of course). First, there was the important requirement to be able to continue to homeschool our children. Though Tennessee does have some requirements and reporting mandates, there are numerous ways, such as through a “satellite school,” to meet these demands with little effort and maximum freedom, including the ability to hold vaccine exemptions.

There was also the ability to live on an idyllic, countryside farm with rolling hills and an expansive pasture teaming with wildlife, farm animals, and children, all within a short 20-30 minute drive from the city of Knoxville itself. And should we ever decide that we no longer wish to farm, the area is rife with suburban neighborhoods complete with majestic mountain views and golden rays of sunshine. And there is always the option of moving to the city, living life at a fast pace, with great food and a myriad of opportunities within reach.

Foremost, though you may not expect it from a state in the “Bible Belt,” east Tennessee’s Diocese of Knoxville is home to a large, growing community of conservative Catholic families that have made us, as recent converts to the Catholic Faith, feel more welcome and at home than any place we have been before. Parish locations abound and the diocese is home to a strong Latin Mass Community with four parishes offering weekly mass in The Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite for all who are interested.

Lincoln, Nebraska

  • 2020 Population: 291,383
  • Median Listing Home Price ( $370,000
  • Diocese of Lincoln
  • Bishop James Conley
  • Arch/Bishop Retirement Year: 2030
  • Sunday TLMs available with ~30 minutes: 4

When our family was looking for somewhere to settle down, we knew there were many good places with good parish communities where we could go, but we also knew we needed a place that checked as many boxes as possible. First of all we needed to find a city or town that wasn’t too big or too small. It would have to have a strong economy with good job opportunities so that if/when my daughters/son married, they wouldn’t need to leave the area to find good work. We wanted a slower, Midwest, down-to-earth atmosphere, after having grown up in New Jersey and California. After having lived in an incredibly liberal state, where crime was rampant and gang members were more numerous than palm trees, we knew we wanted a more conservative government and a lower crime rate. 

The traditional Latin Mass was going to be the starting point of our search. We had come to appreciate the FSSP and wanted to be where it had a full parish life, not a shared church building. We wanted a good, solid diocese with a bishop that not only tolerated the TLM and the FSSP, but actually supported and encouraged them. As the location of the FSSP’s North American seminary, Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Diocese of Lincoln fit the bill. Being so close to the seminary has allowed us to get to know the seminarians and priests, who all enhance our experience of living the Catholic faith in a vibrant community. Each year the seminary assigns us 2–4 deacons who come every Sunday during the school year to make the offering of Solemn Mass possible and to assist in preaching and religious education—and dodgeball matches! 

We have come to know many religious communities, especially orders of sisters, who have helped shape and form our daughters through camps, retreats, and visits. The traditional Carmel of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph is just twenty minutes outside of town, and the Benedictines of Mary in Gower are two and a half hours’ drive. The influence of the seminarians, priests, summer camps, and attendance at multiple solemn pontifical ordinations per year has taught my boys more than I will ever be able to quantify.

Though we had been homeschooling for many years we wanted to make sure the area we moved to had good Catholic schools, if we ever could no longer homeschool. We also wanted a state that was friendly to homeschooling,with few requirements or interference from the state. Our children have many opportunities to be involved in academic, athletic, and social activities. I would be remiss not to mention that a private classical Catholic school has recently opened—Our Lady of Hope Academy—which is a blessing for many.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

  • 2020 Population: 302,777
  • Median Listing Home Price ( $262,000
  • Diocese of Pittsburgh
  • Bishop David Zubik
  • Arch/Bishop Retirement Year: 2024
  • Sunday TLMs available with ~30 minutes: 2

Did you know that Pittsburgh is home to more first class relics of saints than any city on earth other than the Vatican? In the decaying decades of the nineteenth century, when Europe was rejecting its Catholic identity, an intrepid Pittsburgh priest took it upon himself to build a refuge for the sacred. Now known as Saint Anthony Chapel it is a fitting metaphor for the Pittsburgh area itself in our own days of cultural chaos.

The city of Pittsburgh also boasts Most Precious Blood parish, run by the Institute of Christ the King. Here, the traditional Latin Mass is celebrated every day of the week, and baptisms, weddings, and funerals in the traditional rites are still able to be offered. More than 240 children from 100 families attend the parish’s catechism classes that run during the school year, while the young adult ministry, Sursum Corda, attracts dozens of 18-35 year olds to its bi-monthly meetings. Over the past decade or so, roughly 50 families from Most Precious Blood have created a close-knit Catholic community in and around Brookline, a historic neighborhood in the city limits. There, almost entire streets are made up of Catholic families who play together, pray together, and educate together.

But this is not all the greater Pittsburgh area has to offer. Those interested in a dynamic Catholic community of families in a rural setting might be interested to learn about the Saint Thomas Moore House of Prayer in Cranberry, two hours north of Pittsburgh. Situated in the rural woodlands of western PA, the Saint Thomas Moore House of Prayer is a Catholic retreat center dedicated to praying the Liturgy of the Hours every day. As in Brookline, Catholic families have moved to be near the retreat center and a community has organically arisen, comprised of Traditional Latin Mass families, Byzantines, and Novus Ordo Catholics. Many of them meet on Sunday afternoons at an event center owned by the House of Prayer for a community potluck and evening prayer. A huge draw that brings families to Cranberry is the Catholic homeschool co-op, with children pre-kindergarten through seniors in high school. 

Apart from these more close-knit Catholic communities, the greater Pittsburgh area is dotted with young Catholic families attracted by the lower cost of living and relatively affordable housing market. This is still an area of the country where a young blue-collar man can buy a modest house on land for his newlywed. And she can stay home with their children without too much financial strain.

South Bend, Indiana

  • 2020 Population: 103,527
  • Median Listing Home Price ( $168,000
  • Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend
  • Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades
  • Arch/Bishop Retirement Year: 2032
  • Sunday TLMs available with ~30 minutes: 4

Home to Notre Dame University, often assigned the epithet Notre Shame among some faithful Catholics, one wonders why South Bend should even make the list of good areas for Catholic families to settle. Readers will be relieved to know that the many, many Catholic families in the South Bend area parishes are not primarily the types associated with the famous scandalous shenanigans that sometimes occur at the university. Even the university has pockets of truly outstanding, faithful and devout Catholic professors and staff though less known in the greater Catholic world.

St. Joseph County boasts a large and very active Catholic homeschool network. In addition to the affiliated network of Catholic homeschoolers offering various programs, social opportunities, and activities, there is currently operating a Catholic Schoolhouse co-op. Mishawaka also offers a private library/café and meeting house geared especially toward homeschool families.

There are dozens of Catholic parishes in the area offering the Novus Ordo, some of which stand out for their active parish life and fidelity to orthodox Catholic teaching. One in particular, St. Joseph, Mishawaka (neighboring immediately east of South Bend), is known for its beautiful Novus Ordo liturgies, which are offered ad orientem and include Latin chant and traditional hymns, as well as Holy Communion at the beautiful marble altar rail.

St. Stanislaus of South Bend is the Traditional Latin Mass parish in the area. The parish operates under the auspices of the FSSP and is a community which is quickly growing with large, young families. The parish offers various outreaches, including a young adults group. St. Monica parish in Mishawaka hosts a beautiful orthodox program called Antioch for high school students, as well as a Totus Tuus summer program for students of all ages. 

In addition to the homeschool scene, there are many parochial schools associated with the parishes of the area, as well as two Catholic high schools. Indiana has a terrific School Choice and vouchers program which makes these schools accessible to all Catholic families, regardless of income or family size. Few states offer programs as generous as that of Indiana.

Steubenville, Ohio

  • 2020 Population: 18,055
  • Median Listing Home Price ( $75,000
  • Diocese of Steubenville
  • Bishop Jeffrey Monforton
  • Arch/Bishop Retirement Year: 2038
  • Sunday TLMs available with ~30 minutes: 1

Steubenville, Ohio used to be called “Little Chicago.” It has over 200 years of rich history that tells many stories but today I would call it one of the best kept secrets and a Catholic gem of the United States. Franciscan University has been a stronghold and backbone of the community for many years offering stellar education and learning holding fast to the true and powerful Catholic faith. Because of the university, Steubenville is also home to some of the best theologians of Catholicism, such as Scott Hahn, John Bergsma, and Michael Sirilla.

Steubenville has multiple parishes to choose from depending on whether you are looking for something a little more contemporary in worship style or traditional. St. Peter’s parish offers the traditional Latin Mass. Each parish has its own community but I believe what makes Steubenville unique is that community is not hindered by four walls but flourishes and grows. 

From October through May downtown offers a wonderful event named First Friday. This event offers anywhere from various foods, beverages, and local businesses selling items. First Friday on Fourth has truly revitalized the downtown area and brought back to life a town that once was dying. It has been amazing to see! The same family that was behind that creation also offers a store in town catered to everything Catholic. Whatever you may need you can be sure to find. 

Steubenville offers multiple homeschool groups with events for families all the time. If you love big Catholic families, Steubenville will not disappoint. Big or small families are welcome! Catholic Central is the local private school affiliated with the diocese. The school now offers the nationally recognized and successful Chesterton program in high school as well as multiple sports programs for boys and girls. 

Steubenville’s cost of living has always been significantly lower than the vast majority of the country, which helps in raising a large Catholic family. You can usually find affordable housing that will fit your needs. Other prime examples of the Catholic community are men’s and women’s groups, children’s groups that offer faith based events. There are so many more other examples of why Steubenville Ohio is a great place to raise a Catholic family that I could go on and on. I believe in Steubenville you will find the “diamond in the rough” when it comes to Catholic communities and truly witness the Holy Spirit working in His people.

Bonus: St. Mary’s, Kansas

  • 2020 Population: 2,745
  • Median Listing Home Price ( $230,000
  • Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas
  • Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann
  • Arch/Bishop Retirement Year: 2024
  • Sunday TLMs available with ~30 minutes: 3 (FSSP); 4 (SSPX)

Editor’s Note: St. Mary’s, Kansas is a unique entry and so is included outside the main ten cities. It is the home of The Immaculata Church and St. Mary’s Academy & College, which are run by the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X (SSPX).The Society’s irregular canonical status is the cause of much debate and concern in the Catholic world, but the town of St. Mary’s is included due to its heavily Catholic population.

St. Mary’s Academy was what brought my parents here years ago. It was one, if not the main, reason many first came here and why many stay. An affordable and thoroughly K-12 Catholic liberal arts education is no small thing, and it continues to grow and improve every year. (This is to say nothing about St. Mary’s College, in the process of re-expanding to a four-year program, which is sadly outside the scope of this article). Twelve priests ensure a complete and vibrant sacramental and liturgical life, including daily Mass and the Divine Office, Rogation Days, processions, etc. Some priests also teach, as do the two Brothers and nine Sisters of the SSPX who live here. 

A few notes: thousands of people attend the chapel, so it’s easy to get lost in the crowd. But it’s also a great support system with a generous and charitable spirit. It was originally a Jesuit college and seminary, and the campus has beautiful old buildings. The area has a rich Catholic history dating from the Jesuit days and still has a significant Catholic presence. It’s not an intentional community; this exists because of decades of sacrifices and organic growth. Yes, it’s Kansas; some love that, some don’t. The Flint Hills are close and beautiful. The politics are generally conservative, the job market is better and more varied than most small towns, and we’re close enough to big cities for those kinds of convenience. There are many traditional Catholics with businesses; others involved in local politics; professionals, laborers, and artisans. We have a Shakespeare festival, a big celebration for the feast of Christ the King, and other parochial and civic celebrations that make for a vibrant and busy town; a historic downtown that becomes more charming every year with great locally-owned shops; a grotto on campus where Our Lady may have appeared to one of the Pottawatomi girls the Jesuits were evangelizing. Still, again, I’m running out of space! 

I would be remiss not to conclude with the Immaculata, the new church just consecrated here last month. Beyond the obvious, the sheer size of it, and the way Our Lady adorns the cupola and directs her loving gaze over the town, there is the mysterious reality of its presence. How did this come to be in a small town in northeast Kansas? Humanly speaking, none of this should be here: imagine walking among the ruins of a Catholic institution abandoned by the Jesuits a decade prior in 1978 and telling people it would be the home of the largest Catholic church in Kansas in 2023. Whatever else its flaws may be, this is an authentic Catholic community. People strive to help each other save their souls under Her mantle in this place.

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