History of Kapaun Mt. Carmel Catholic High School

 

Kapaun Mt. Carmel Catholic High School has a long and rich history that began in 1886 when the prairie plains were wide open and the city of Wichita was only a few years old.  Our roots began as a small girls’ Catholic academy called All Hallows Academy.

The school was commissioned by Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (we know them as the BVMs), of Dubuque, Iowa, at the request of Fr. M. J. Casey.  Fr. Casey named the school after his boy’s school in Ireland. The cornerstone was laid in 1886 and the first students began their studies in 1887. All Hallows Academy was primarily a boarding school that occupied a three-classroom structure built on fifteen acres near Douglas and St. Paul with 21 pupils west of the Arkansas River.

As the story goes, upon opening the school, our first principal, Sister Mary Veronica, BVM, planted several trees at the entrance.  Overnight, the ever present winds of the Kansas prairie blew the trees out of the ground. The next day, Sister Mary Veronica replanted the trees only to have them blown over again.  On the third day, in an act of Trinitarian conquest, Sister Mary Veronica planted the trees a third time, boldly proclaiming that we were establishing roots here no matter what. The next morning, the trees remained erect, and the school took root.  Sister Mary Veronica’s dedication to the survival of those trees was but a foreshadowing of the dedication it would take to shepherd our school to the present day.

In 1900, Bishop John Hennessey requested the name of All Hallows Academy be changed because of the negative connotation associated with the purely secular holiday of Halloween.  The BVMs chose the name Mount Carmel Academy (MCA), after their Mother House in Dubuque, Iowa.

Over the decades, the campus grew to include 56 acres, additional dorms and educational buildings were added, student enrollment increased, and boarding and day school options were offered.  Mount Carmel Academy provided young ladies, from kindergarten to high school, with one of the finest educations available in the state of Kansas.

In 1956, under the order of Bishop Mark Carroll, and in conjunction with the Society of Jesus of St. Louis, (we know them as the Jesuits), an all-boys high school opened on the east side of Wichita at Central and Woodlawn.  It was named Chaplain Kapaun Memorial High School (CKM) after Father Emil Kapaun (pronounced "KAY pehn"), a priest of the Diocese of Wichita. Fr. Kapaun was a U.S. Army Chaplain, known for his service, faithfulness and bravery, who died in the hands of his captors, as a prisoner of war in a North Korean camp.  

It was during this time, the Crusader mascot was first introduced.

In 1961, MCA moved from its West Douglas location to East Central after a donation of land and the promise of a new campus.  MCA became a high school only and no longer offered boarding. A centerpiece of the school was the mosaic titled “Our Lady of Kansas,” which was located in the foyer of the school, also known as the “round.”  It was designed and constructed by Sr. Mary Fleurette Blameuser, BVM. It remains a prominent and impressive feature to this day.

In 1971, under pressure to reduce debts, Bishop David M. Maloney announced the consolidation of Chaplain Kapaun Memorial and Mount Carmel Academy, forming Kapaun Mt. Carmel Catholic High School. The boys joined the girls at the east Central campus. KMC became a co-educational school that operates under the auspices of the Catholic Diocese of Wichita. The newly formed school opened with 671 students. The KMC Crest, Crusader mascot, and the colors of blue and white were adopted. The school steadily grew serving more than 10 parishes. To accommodate more students and indoor sports, the G-Hall (building) was added.

In 1992, the Diocese of Wichita parishes expanded the United Catholic Stewardship model for educational funding to include the Catholic high schools.  Since then, Kapaun Mt. Carmel has had three funding sources- parish tithing, fees and the Annual Fund. Today it’s known as the Crusader Annual Fund, but the purpose hasn’t changed.  It’s our school’s only major annual fundraiser to fund immediate needs, long term projects, and extraordinary needs of the school. To our knowledge, we are the only diocese in the country with this stewardship model to offer our student a tuition free Catholic high school education experience.

In 1999, KMC updated its facilities following a comprehensive Facilities Master Plan.  Phase 1 of that plan was completed in 2002 with the opening of the science and technology wing, the first significant construction project on campus since 1972.  In 2007, Phase 2 was completed, the cornerstone of which is the student commons. Phase 3, which included the construction of the Coach Herm and Jackie Bachrodt Athletic Complex as well as the replacement of the outdoor running track, was completed in 2011.  Phases 4 and 5 have yet to be to completed but include a new chapel, administrative offices and additional classrooms.  In the 2017-18 academic year, the KMC community celebrated the school’s 130th anniversary.

Kapaun Mt. Carmel’s legacy has endured due primarily to our foundational belief of permeating the academic program with Catholic virtue so as to instill Catholic values and intellectual curiosity in our students.  More than 130 years of existence, we remain true to this belief under our mission, to be “dedicated to the education and formation of the total person in the image of Jesus Christ.” We thank God for his many blessings, and we continue to pray for the students, parents, families, faculty, staff and alumni of Kapaun Mt. Carmel Catholic High School. Go Crusaders!