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Parishioners, Neighbors Oppose Diocese Plans For Former St. Francis School

An attempt by the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph to circumvent three rejections from the City Plan Commission met strong citizen opposition in a Kansas City Council committee hearing Wednesday.

Members of the St. Francis Xavier Church and neighbors objected to the plan to build a 237-bedroom “Catholic-oriented living experience” for college students at the site of the former St. Francis School at 53rd Street and Troost Avenue.  Objections included parking problems, population density, design and the basic premise itself.

Many who testified portrayed former Bishop Robert Finn and the diocese hierarchy as arrogant and unwilling to consider other options, including repurposing the present building as a community center or for some other service-oriented purpose. 

Committee Chair Ed Ford, a Catholic, noted the apparent disregard for the opinions of members of the parish.

At one point, the Rev. Adam Johnson, a diocese representative, was stammering when he opined, “ I haven't even heard even one parishioner of St. Francis Xavier testify today that they think this is a good thing. You know, if this was my parish, I would find what you are doing extremely offensive.”

Ford said he knew he needed to function as a council committee chair, not as a member of the involved denomination. He wants to meet with parishioners, neighbors and diocese officials in the next three weeks and seek some compromise.

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