"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." Mt 22:37

Our 150 Year History

by Linda Ochs

Every living body has a heart, and the body of Christ is no different. St. Bridget, a mission church for 135 years and a parish for the past 18 years, first had the heartbeat of faith-filled Irish railroad workers looking for a Catholic church home.

In 1867 as the railroad made its way into Cass County following the Civil War, they made that happen. Catholic families began having Mass in homes once a month with priests coming from Independence or Holden. The founding families of the mission included the Brierly, Dwyer, Fitzgerald, Galvin, O’Connell, Worlen, Morrah and Marriott families.

Their hope grew when in 1868, Archbishop Peter Kenrick of the Archdiocese of St. Louis (in which Pleasant Hill was located) purchased the lot at South Jeffreys and Locust for $200 where a Catholic church was to be built. The church went up in 1870 and was dedicated to St. Bridget of Ireland in 1871 by Bishop John J. Hogan of the Diocese of St. Joseph (established in 1868) - 150 years ago this year. 

Some nine years later, their beloved church was lost in a fire.  Families were again without a church home and resumed meeting in homes. Determined to again have a place to worship and celebrate the sacraments, the congregation was able to rebuild the church in 1885 where the first church stood.  Bishop John J. Hogan, now the bishop of the Diocese of Kansas City (established in 1880) returned and dedicated the second church. This church was the mission’s home until 1999 – for 114 years. The building still stands today.

Diocesan priests served the mission mostly from parishes in Independence, Holden, or Lee’s Summit through 1905.  The Franciscans took over in 1905 and stayed until 1913 at which time the diocesan priests resumed caring for the people of St. Bridget. St. Bridget became a mission of Our Lady of Lourdes in Harrisonville in 1942.

The mission was dealt a blow in 1916 when the Missouri Pacific Railroad moved its roundhouse from Pleasant Hill to Nevada, Missouri. Many railroad workers and their families from the mission parish went with it. The number of families dwindled significantly.

The 1933 Renovation

During the first fifty years of the church’s existence, very few changes were made to the interior of the church other than new paint, paper, and minor repairs. Through the donation of “a friend,” records show, and under the guidance of Reverend James L. Wallace, a major renovation and remodeling took place in 1933.

Gas heating and electricity were installed. Stained glass windows were put in. The walls were painted, and new Stations of the Cross graced the walls.  Another coat of varnish was put on the pews. The woodwork inside was refinished in old ivory. The little altar, which was more than seventy-five years old, was rebuilt and equipped with new brass candlesticks, altar cards and missals.  The altar was draped with red velvet and two adoring angels, which are now in the current sanctuary. The sanctuary lamp was replated and refinished.

Every member of the small congregation made sacrifices to be part of this improvement, even though it was during the depression. The rededication of the church was held on December 17, 1933, by Father Wallace.

In 1939, an art student painted the fresco of Jesus’ Agony in the Garden on the wall above the altar. It is said that he painted while on his knees and his back. A stained-glass window of this same image is in the Marian Chapel in honor of Father Offutt.

The Gold Chalice

St. Bridget’s Church had a new chalice made in 1935. It was made of solid gold, about 15 inches high, fabricated in the East after permission by the Federal Treasury Department (because of The Gold Reserve Act, which restricted the ownership of gold.)

The chalice was used for the first time by Father James Wallace. The gold, contributed by members of St. Bridget’s Church, came from wedding rings, baby rings, necklaces, etc. and it also includes gold from a watch once used by Father Wallace’s grandmother.

The chalice was used at Mass at St. Bridget’s Church and was kept at the Marriott home, which was across the street from church.

The 1955 Renovation

There was another major renovation in 1955. A new floor was installed and covered with asphalt tile and the floor space under the altar was lowered. The heating system was remodeled, and restrooms were installed. The interior walls were given fresh plaster and the stairway to the balcony led up from the vestibule. Pews were secured from a church in Kansas City and installed in the church. Work was done on the exterior brick walls. It was then rededicated.

In April 1955, an Apostolic Benediction from His Holiness Pope St. Paul VI was bestowed upon Mary Marriott and Sophronia Frona Marriott for their 55 years of service to St. Bridget Mission. They lived across the street from the church and took care of it, including making sure the altar linens were adequately prepared for Mass. Mary Jo Saubers took over the care of the altar linens after the Marriott sisters no longer did.

Reverend Francis S. Mifcovic arrived in 1963 and guided the mission through the Mass changes following the Second Vatican Council.

Upgrades in the church continued in 1967 when new pews were installed as a gift of Minnie McAvoy. Carpet was laid in the church.

The 1987 Renovation and Parish Hall Construction

In 1987, a two-story parish hall was constructed, which included a kitchen and general-purpose area, followed by a complete renovation of the historic church. The remodeling of the church consisted of renovation of the interior and exterior, which included a heating/air-conditioning system. Increased seating capacity was added with pews that matched the existing ones. Both sets of pews were purchased from the same company. The all-brick exterior was sandblasted, tuck-pointed and weather-proofed to protect the brick from the elements. Off-street parking was added. Every member of the parish contributed materially and/or financially to allow completion of the project for a cost of $263,000 without any outstanding debt.

St. Bridget Church at that time was over 100 years old.

The Most Reverend John J. Sullivan of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph (established 1956) rededicated St. Bridget Church during Mass on Saturday, May 28, 1988. Reverend Michael Coleman, Diocesan Archivist and Vicar, concelebrated.  Father Coleman is the great-grandson of Dennis O’Connell, one of the builders of the first church. 

In 1993, Reverend Bradley Offutt was assigned to St. Bridget Church, which was his first assignment as a pastor. He would go on to oversee the construction of two churches: St. Bridget in Pleasant Hill and Our Lady of Lourdes in Harrisonville.


The Altar and Rosary Society has its roots back to 1896 when Reverend Frederick W. Hoverstadt organized it.  The first group had seventy members. The St. Joseph’s Men’s Society was established in 1907 by Father Irenaeus Lack, O.F.M. with forty members. The first parish council and women Eucharistic ministers were organized by Father  John Santner in the early 1990’s. The current Knights of Columbus council, St. Bridget Sons of Mercy Council, was established by Father Bradley Offutt in 2002. Historical records show that Father William Puetz started a Knights of Columbus organization in 1960 that included men of St. Bridget and Our Lady of Lourdes.

A New Church

With the growth of the town of Pleasant Hill, St. Bridget was outgrowing the little historic church. Father Brad  began discussions with Bishop Boland about the possibility of building a new church. There were many conversations with significant parties, and soon the parish had the green light to proceed.

July 19, 1998, was the groundbreaking for the new church at the present location.  Most Reverend Bishop Raymond J. Boland and Reverend Bradley Offutt presided over the ceremony. Bishop Boland, an Irishman himself, urged the parishioners to incorporate the St. Bridget’s cross into the design of the church.  And so they did! St. Bridget of Ireland is a co-patron of Ireland.

The real excitement began when Radmacher Construction Company began digging the church basement on January 27, 1999. The foundation for the 132’ x 73’ church was laid in March 1999.  The church would seat around 350 people and was designed to expand to seat 700 if needed.

The people of St. Bridget brought some of their physical history with them to their new church. All the statuary in the current church was in the old church, as was the wood crucifix that was made by the late John Storms, Sr., father of parishioner Joyce Anderson. The twenty-four carvings in bass wood that surround the crucifix were made by Ralph (Andy) and Joyce Anderson.  They represent Christian believers of every age and walk of life turned toward the redemption Jesus won for us on the cross. The Andersons also carved four St. Bridget crosses on the altar and symbols of the four evangelists on the ambo. Two large wood candlestands made by the son of William and Ann Seibolt also were moved to the new church.

Parishioner and local artist Mary Lou McLagan designed the south medallion window depicting the history of the parish. The north window illustrates the new church. The small medallion window of the Lamb of God that is placed above the front door is retained from the 1885 church.

The cost of the church was approximately $1,550,000 with the furnishings costing $212,818. Because of the liturgical primacy of the solid walnut altar, the ambo and presider’s chair, they were designated as the Ledwidge Family Memorial.  With the major donations and a successful capital campaign, by the time the church was dedicated, the debt was only $428,000.

St. Bridget Church celebrated a Mass of Dedication on December 4, 1999, with the Most Reverend Bishop J. Boland, Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph as Principal Celebrant. Reverend Bradley Offutt, Pastor, Reverend Donald Cleary, former pastor, and Reverend Monsignor Henry Bauer were concelebrants.

Generous Souls

A parish could not exist without the sacrificial giving of its members. The first twenty families managed to build a church for $2,500 only to see it go up in flames nine years later. In five years, they rebuilt. During the depression with only a few families in the mission, a donor stepped forward to finance a major renovation of the church. In 1967, Minnie McAvoy donated new pews. Every member of the parish contributed materially or financially to the remodeling of the church and building of the parish hall in 1988 so there was no debt when the project was completed. These are but a few examples of parishioners being generous for the sake of their church.

Longtime parishioner Mary Margaret Ledwidge donated the ten-acre site on which the current church and education building stand, and $50,000 towards construction before her death resulting from a serious automobile accident on May 21, 1997.  In her will, she left one-third of the residual value of her estate, which would amount to over $700,000 over the course of five years.

Not long after this, Gene and Dorothy Thompson made a very significant donation of $200,000 towards the new church.

Again, approaching a new century, parishioners gave selflessly towards the effort of their mission – this time, for a new church.

Parishioners Thomas and Robert Radmacher provided the excavation and utility/sewer hook-ups at no cost to the parish, a significant donation. The wonderful organ was provided by Nelson Gipson, at that time known as “an anonymous donor” for $33,000. Ed and Louise Radmacher provided the stained glass behind the altar. The south medallion window was given by longtime pillars of the parish, Wilber and Mary Jo Saubers, parents of current parishioner Henry Saubers. The north medallion window was donated by William and Ann Seibolt. 

And then there was Nelson. Everyone who saw Nelson Gipson behind the organ over the course of the fifty years he played at St. Bridget knew who he was. Few had the privilege of speaking to him. The talented, humble man came and went quietly. At the end of his life, the day before he passed away, he called a good friend and said he wanted to make a will, and he did.  Within twelve hours he passed to the Lord. St. Bridget would eventually receive about $550,000 by the time they received a cash gift and sold the property he left to the parish.

A New Parish

Bishop Boland established St. Bridget as a freestanding parish, effective July 1, 2003.  Reverend Joseph I. Cisetti was appointed the first resident pastor of the parish.

There was no priest’s residence in Pleasant Hill, so a rectory was purchased at $170,000 including furnishings.

The church basement was used for School of Religion classes, but it was not the ideal learning environment. In addition, the parish office was in a construction trailer. Father Joe saw the need for an Education Building with office space. With the bishop’s permission, the parish proceeded. Groundbreaking for the building was on October 1, 2006, by Father Joseph Cisetti and Deacon Gary Kappler with School of Religion children assisting. It was built at a cost of $1,400,000, nearly the same cost as the church. Construction costs had risen very much in the seven years between the construction of the two buildings. 

The building was dedicated on September 16, 2007, by Monsignor Robert Murphy, then the new pastor.

The last mortgage payment was sent to the diocese on August 15, 2017, on the Feast of the Assumption. It took 18 years to pay off the parish debt. To celebrate this milestone, a special Mass was offered on November 5, 2017, to burn the mortgage document.  Monsignor Robert Murphy was celebrant and Monsignor Bradley Offutt was  concelebrant.  Tim Long, the parish business manager, burned the mortgage document in church.

On July 1, 2018, Reverend Curt Vogel was assigned to the parish as well as St. Patrick’s in Holden. He was raised in Pleasant Hill and is now the pastor of his home parish.  He is the current pastor.

Parish Membership

The number of families in the mission went up and down over the years. It began with approximately twenty families. There were fifty-five families in the 1870’s and dwindled to twenty-two when the railroad roundhouse moved to Nevada in 1916. During the depression there were only a few families left, descendants of the earliest families. The mission began to grow and in the 1960’s was up to sixty families, with six descendants of the original families. Pleasant Hill saw growth in the 90’s, and so did St. Bridget. In 1999, the membership was recorded at a robust 145 families and even more in 2003 – over 250 families, which is about where membership is today. The census had gotten up to about 350 families, but a culling of the records of inactive families got it down to 250 who were active.


Several St. Bridget parishioners have received the Sacrament of Holy Orders. Reverend James Manley (1916) and Reverend Curt Vogel (2015) were ordained to the priesthood.  Reverend Mr. Gary Kappler was ordained to the diaconate (2006). Father Manley’s first Mass was in June 1916. Father Vogel’s first Mass was on May 24, 2015.


St. Bridget has had over thirty priests who walked with parishioners through many of their joys and sufferings.  They presided over countless baptisms, heard endless confessions, given many blessed first communions and officiated at marriages. They sat at the bedside of the sick and dying, offering the Anointing of the Sick. They presided over funerals.  They have hosted many bishops who have come to Pleasant Hill for Confirmations and dedications. A priest journeying with the community of Christ is a gift to parishioners that cannot be measured. Remembering all St. Bridget priests in prayer is the best gift parishioners can give in return.

Time, Talents, and Treasure

The heart of the body of Christ in the St. Bridget Catholic community continues to beat strongly after 150 years. The parish is a community rich in selflessness, generosity, and love, one that St. Bridget of Ireland would surely like.  Over the years, many parishioners have quietly given of their time and talents in the background and no one knew about their generosity. Whether people donated large amounts or “a widow’s mite”, it was their treasure. It was received with gratitude by the church and the Lord.

With continued prayer, sacraments, and joyful sharing of self, the parish heartbeat will continue. May the good people of St. Bridget always invite and welcome all to her sanctuary.


Good and gracious Father,

you generously sent your Son Jesus Christ as our Savior

and generously sent the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us in your ways.

We thank you for your generosity and love to our parish spanning three centuries.

Bless all those who have ever been part of Saint Bridget Parish and all those who ever will be.

Strengthen us in your love to live our faith more deeply and to build our future more fervently.

Teach us to move forward in faith as a generous people

who mirror the love and generosity you share with Christ your Son and the Holy Spirit,

One God forever and ever. Amen.

St. Bridget, Woman of Faith and Friend of the Poor,

Pray for us.

- Reverend Joseph I. Cisetti, Author

Forward in Faith Campaign, 2006

St. Bridget Pastor, 2003-2007


Roberta Klein, parish historian; Diocese of Kansas City - St. Joseph Archives; Archives of the Archdiocese of St. Louis; Historical Society of Cass County; Pleasant Hill Times; histories provided by many past parishioners.