St. Isidore’s Catholic Student Center from its earliest humble roots has always echoed the motto, “Faith and Friendship”. This was the motto given to us from our Newman Club, which was founded in 1912 by 36 Catholic Kansas State students. In 1913, Father A.J. Luckey was charged with pastoring the community which would become our sister church in Manhattan, Seven Dolors Parish. While serving the parishes of Manhattan, Ogden, and McDowell Creek, Father Luckey was instrumental in guiding our Newman Club. We are eternally grateful for his pastoral guidance in our most tender years. Kansas State’s Newman Club became officially affiliated with the National Association of Newman Clubs in 1915. Men of our Newman Club lived in a house on 521 North 11 street; this was the first headquarters for the organization. In 1920, members of our Newman Club donated the Resurrection stained glass window found in Seven Dolors Catholic Church in Manhattan, KS.
Our Club met in various locations until our current location was purchased. Seven Dolors Church was instrumental in maintaining the Catholic faith of our students. Seven Dolors, and Fr. Luckey opened their parish basement for discussion and events for the Newman Club. Fr. Luckey guided our young club until his retirement in 1954. Fr. E.J. Weisenberg S.J. was installed as a faculty member at St. Mary’s College in 1933 and became the primary contact for the college students. Fr. Weisenberg lectured at the club, and was extremely successful at maintaining and bolstering the number of Catholics in the Newman Club. Msgr. W. Merchant was key to the expansion of the Newman club when he was sent to pastor Seven Dolors in 1954. Msgr. Merchant constantly pursued avenues to give the Catholic Students of Kansas state a proper space for worship and education. Msgr. Merchant took this seriously, and purchased our first building on 711 Denison Avenue for the purpose of religious, educational, and social growth for our Catholic Students. The land was 150 ft. deep and 70 ft. wide.
Our first building was a simple house, which was converted into a student center and chapel. Bishop Freking installed Fr. Carl Kramer to be the first official chaplain to the Catholics at Kansas State on July 18, 1958. In September of 1958, Bishop Frederick W. Freking blessed the St. Robert Bellarmine Student Center, and the small St. Isidore Chapel which only comfortably sat 40 students. Financial responsibility for maintaining the center fell to the Diocese of Salina. A choir was also started by Ernest English and John Pitchford in 1958. Although this Center was a blessing, it became increasingly obvious that a larger facility was needed. In 1960, about 900 students weekly used the Center and 50 Catholic professors on Kansas State’s campus were teaching and instructing at the Bellarmine Center. The basement and chapel of Seven Dolors Parish still needed to be used by our students because the Bellarmine Center was not large enough. After the constant prayer of our students, and the encouragement of Msgr. Merchant, Fr. Kramer, and Fr. Weisenberg, a building plan was proposed, and a Diocesan wide collection was taken on September 24, 1961 in an effort to raise funds for the construction of our current building.
A building contract was agreed upon, and on March 18, 1962 Bishop Freking broke ground and it was announced that the Student Center’s Patron would be St. Robert Bellarmine. Our Newman Club was finally given a sufficient space on Sunday April 28, 1963. Bishop Freking blessed the St. Robert Bellarmine Student Center, and the St. Isidore Chapel. The Chapel could hold 475 people. A large wooden cross, which was hand carved in Italy, was placed above the altar. Prior to the Vatican II councils, two side altars were also present in the Chapel. The Library, now used as the Side Chapel, was dedicated to Fr. E.J. Weisenberg S.J. for over 30 years of service to the club. A majority of the devotional appointments in our Chapel were donated by loving parishioners, members of the Salina Diocese, and others who believed in the ministry of the Student Center. Click here to see list of items, and the individuals we continue to honor who generously donated to the mission of our Church.
Fr. Kramer continued to pastor the Center until 1976. His contributions and efforts laid the foundation for the current success of St. Isidore’s. The ministry of St. Isidore’s continued to thrive under the direction of Fr. Daniel Sheetz (1976-1983) and Fr. Norbert Dlabal (1983-1991). Fr. Keith Weber served St. Isidore’s for 19 years, from 1991-1995, and from 1997-2012. Fr. Bradley Sterrett served for two years (1995-1997). Fr. Weber had a significant impact upon our Student Center. His contributions are memorialized on the plaque when entering the new wing, added in 2008, which has been dedicated as the Father Weber Education Wing. This new wing contains one small conference rooms, three offices, and a large meeting room. Fr. Jarett Konrade was charged with the ministry of St. Isidore’s from 2012-2015. The St. Isidore Chapel was given a cosmetic renovation in 2013 under the guidance of Fr. Jarett. The chapel was repainted and a new tile floor was installed.
Our Student Center is currently being shepherded by our Pastor, Fr. Gale Hammerschmidt and our Associate Pastor, Fr. Ryan McCandless.