‘It’s their legacy’ — but Kansas City’s Sacred Heart-Guadalupe church is crumbling | Opinion

The Our Lady of Guadalupe shrine stands tall through generations of Mexican families who immigrated to Kansas City. But with crumbling stairs, water damage and a peeling ceiling, the Sacred Heart-Guadalupe parish and community struggle to raise the funds necessary not only to repair the shrine, but to keep it as part of their West Side neighborhood.

The shrine is an important part of our region’s history, and those who can should consider donating money to protect what generations of Mexican-Catholic families have built.

Ramona Arroyo, the director of religious education at the parish, grew up in Kansas City. Her parents immigrated here in the 1920s, when Mexico was undergoing losses of the Mexican Revolution. Her father worked at one of the many meatpacking plants that filled Kansas City, and her mother at a pickle factory.

Arroyo said they brought their Mexican-Catholic faith here, to the city and community. As we stood outside the shrine, she told me how her parents came to this very church with her family and educated them on their faith.

The Catholic Diocese of Kansas City–St. Joseph oversees more than 90 parishes, including Sacred Heart-Guadalupe.

Arroyo pointed to a building behind the shrine, which was a school for the parish. Beside it, a white church house. Down the road, the former Our Lady of Guadalupe Center, which was split from the parish, and is now a social services center that still uses the name “Guadalupe.”

A couple streets over is the larger church of the parish, where I caught my first glimpse of the shrine at a distance. When I first arrived, the shrine’s cross rose above the treeline and was the only part I could see from the other church, giving me a sense that this community is resilient.

The neighborhood was built on the Mexican-American community of this parish. Now the parish consists of people from a variety of Latino countries, all building on the legacy of the immigrants that came to Kansas City with their faith.

As Arroyo guided me into the shrine, the stairs below us were caved in, cracking through the middle. The shrine’s facade has developed mold over the past couple of years and the interior is laced with water damage.

“It holds the heart of the Mexican people,” Arroyo told me. “We can’t let it go.”

And her goals don’t stop at the repairs that they have estimated will cost around $900,000. She hopes to reopen as a “standalone” parish, for any member of the Catholic faith or from the Mexican-American community.

“We’re trying to preserve the West Side community as much as we can, the little that we have left.” She said, looking at the blessed mother statue beside the shrine. “I’d hate to see it go.”

Susan Miller, the chair of the Friends of Our Lady of Guadalupe Committee, coordinated the capital campaign. The committee hopes to complete a three-part renovation for the interior and exterior of the shrine.

The walls have stained glass windows, painted with the story of the congregation’s faith. Rows of pews led me to the painting of Our Lady of Guadalupe, or the Virgin Mary, as she appeared to St. Juan Diego. Putting an emphasis on Our Lady of Guadalupe is something this church was first in Kansas City to do, although it is part of the Mexican Catholic faith.

“It’s their legacy. There’s so many families, or their moms and dads and grandmas and grandpas that fought to keep this open. We can’t let them down.” Arroyo said.

As a community, we should invest in the people who brought their cultures here. Kansas City was built into what it is because of immigrants and families like Arroyo’s and her community.

The Sacred Heart-Guadalupe parish is accepting donations for its Our Lady of Guadalupe shrine’s capital campaign, and we should all pitch in to help preserve a piece of our Kansas City history.

Divya Gupta is a Kansas City Star Opinion intern. She is a Leawood native and a journalism and economics student at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.