In 1833, a French missionary, Father Benedict Roux, arrived with instructions to form a permanent parish. At 11th and Broadway, the community built a log cabin church in 1835 and named it St. John Francis Regis.
Father Bernard Donnelly was a circuit-riding priest. From 1845 until his death in 1880, Donnelly tirelessly served the local Catholic people. He initiated the building of a permanent brick church on the site in 1857. Donnelly recruited 300 Irish day laborers to cut away the bluffs, level the ground and establish a brickworks. The brickyard produced building material for the church that Donnelly consecrated Immaculate Conception.
As the population grew, dioceses formed in St. Joseph in 1868 and in Kansas City in 1880. When Bishop John Joseph Hogan arrived in 1880, he selected Donnelly’s church to become the Cathedral. Some 10,000 people witnessed the laying of the cornerstone in 1882.
Ready for services on Trinity Sunday, 1883, the walls were not yet plastered, and temporary windows hurriedly were set into place. Newspapers reported that over 3,000 people attended the services that began at 10:30 a.m. and continued uninterrupted until 3 p.m. Because the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception was built on the highest ground in the city, at 250 feet above street level — the cupola quickly became a civic landmark.
In 1895, the growing community added a carillon of eleven bells. Crafted in 1912 by local artisans, the Cathedral’s stained glass windows depict scenes from the life of Christ and other biblical themes.
Bishop Edwin V. O’Hara authorized a renovation in 1955. The interior remodeling simplified the Cathedral’s interior. After 74 years of weathering the elements, the Cathedral’s copper dome began to deteriorate. Bishop John P. Cody created a Kansas City landmark when he finished the dome, cross, and cupola with gold leaf in 1960.
The diocesan capital campaign, Gift of Faith, provided funds to improve the Cathedral at the close of the century. With thanksgiving to Our Lord and the people of God of our diocese, we dedicated the restored and renovated Cathedral on Saturday, February 22, 2003.