Morning Sun
  • PATRICK'S PEOPLE: Fr. Tom Stroot to retire from Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church

  • After 23 years as pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes  Catholic Church, Fr. Thomas Stroot is moving on.

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  • After 23 years as pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, Fr. Thomas Stroot is moving on.
    Fr. Stroot will be honored with a “Celebration of Service” at 5:30 p.m. today in the St. Mary’s Colgan Fieldhouse for all who want to bid him farewell.
    But the beloved priest, who guided the parish through an unprecedented period of growth, explained that he’s not really going very far.
    First, he said, he asked Bishop Michael Jackels for retirement status. and this was granted.
    “The bishop later said to me that he was short on priests and didn’t want to make a priest who had been ordained for one year a pastor,” Fr. Stroot said. “Then he asked me if I would be administrator for Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Frontenac. I start there on June 20.”
    On the same day, Fr. Mike Baldwin, now pastor of St. Vincent dePaul Catholic Church in Andover will assume his duties as new pastor at Our Lady of Lourdes.
    Fr. Stroot was born in Wichita, but grew up in a farm at Colwich. He said that his farm background has influenced his faith.
    “My roots are kind of in nature, and many times when I talk I relate this to the Scriptures,“ Fr. Stroot said. “My faith is underscored with the beauty of creation and nature, always focused on Jesus.”
    He entered Saint Meinrad Seminary in Indiana in the 1960s along with two of his Colwich classmates. He was the only one of the three to finish his studies and become a priest, and was ordained on May 30, 1970. Following that, he served seven years as an associate pastor at Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Wichita.
    “I first came to Our Lady of Lourdes in 1977 as associate priest to Fr. Edward Steinberger and was here until 1981,” Fr. Stroot said. “Then I was chaplain at St. Pius X Newman Center from 1981 to 1984.”
    After that he left Pittsburg, serving as family life director for the Diocese of Wichita from 1985 to 1989, and also pastoring St. James Catholic Church at Augusta. In 1989 he began his tenure as pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes.
    “Bishop Eugene Gerber needed someone as pastor in Pittsburg, and he related to me that I knew Pittsburg and the people, and he thought it would be a good assignment for me and for them,” Fr. Stroot said. “He told me to come down, take care of the people, pastor the people and take care of the schools.”
    One of his first actions was to lead a fundraising effort to renovate the church.
    “In 1991 we renovated the church, and that was the best thing we ever did,” Fr. Stroot said. “At that time we were also concerned about the future of the schools. After much discussion and thought I came to conclude that we needed a quality school or we should not have a Catholic school. If we were simply going to maintain, we would lose ground, but if we went for broke and tried to provide the best Catholic education and formation we could, God would bless our efforts and we would be successful.”
    Page 2 of 2 - He believes that this was a turning point both for the parish and for him.
    “I feel that the parishioners took ownership of the parish and the schools,” he said. “They had a vested interest.”
    Under his leadership, St. Mary’s Activity Center was built in 1991, a 14,000 square foot addition was made to St. Mary’s Colgan High School and the SMC auditorium had a much-needed renovation. A commons area was added to the high school in 2008.
    In 2004 a new 12,000 square foot building was opened at the corner of 10th and Locust, housing the Religious Gifts Store, Goodwill Store, a weight training room and mechanical shop. The new St. Mary’s Colgan Elementary School opened in 2006, and St. Mary’s Colgan Fieldhouse was built north of the new school.
    In 2010 Fr. Stroot and the associate pastors moved into a new rectory.
    “We are very blessed to have such great facilities and a beautiful campus, through the great generosity of many benefactors and the parishioners,” Fr. Stroot said.
    But, he said, he never envisioned himself as a builder.
    “My intention was never to be known as a big builder, even though that is what happened,” the pastor said. “My heart is more with the people and ministry, and the building aspect is secondary. The church and the Eucharist are the focal point and always should be. It is important for us to remember that we are a parish that happens to have a school, not a private school that happens to be on parish grounds. One of the many missions of the parish is to provide a Catholic education and formation for all the young people whose parents desire that for them.”
    He cherishes the fact that, of his 41 years as a priest, 29 1/2 of them have been spent in Pittsburg, with three years at the Newman Center and 26 1/2 at Our Lady of Lourdes.
    “The blessing any priest has is to be able to journey with the people,” Fr. Stroot said. “Life is a journey, and we journey together, and eventually we get to heaven.”

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