Wednesday, October 5, 2016

First Catholics in Oklahoma

The Five Civilized Tribes had been settled in Oklahoma territory.  Some of the most socio-economically challenged American settlers came to my state to take advantage of the free, albeit rugged land.  The soil was not very rich for crops, but enough to grow alfalfa and hay, with some nice patches for ranching.  Most were Baptists or of similar Evangelical persuasion.

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And so the Catholic Church, as it has always done, ventured onto new soil to evangelize and spread the true Religion.  I'm throwing out some details I recall from Fr. James White's book that covers a lot about of Okie Catholic history. Since this is a blog, and not an academic journal, I'm not being very exact with my factoids, but with the gist of the story about the original Catholics here in the Heartland.

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The first mission church was run by Benedictine monks in the central part of the state, until their monastery burned to the ground and they had to rebuild a bit to the south. Schools for Indians were opened.  Of the first missionaries, there were a couple very young Beligum priests (brothers) in their mid 20s who ran a "Mass circuit" on horseback.  Imagine the courage and ingenuity these two must have had to help spread the Church from town to town, while braving the hazards and elements of nature.

Since there were so few Catholics, naturally Mass for a while could not be said in an official church.  Imagine all the Okie towns where a Catholic church would be built, how for many years they had to be served by Mass circuit priests saying Mass in people's homes.   Even if Mass had to be said under a tree, what mattered was the Mass, the sacraments, the teachings of the Church, and pastors guiding souls.

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And so it is today in the Catholic Church of Oklahoma.  The environment and people are still rough as ever--add to that the modernism in the mainstream Church--but in that simple, roughness the ground is fertile enough for a humble turning (or re-turning) to the Apostolic Faith.

Like the first Okie Frontier Catholics, a remnant of traditional Catholics in this state endeavor, by their example of fidelity to the Church's perennial tradition, to help regrow the Local Church.  Priests committed to Tradition reaching out in extraordinary ways, making do with their limited resources and support.  Faced with an adverse environment, they spread the true Mass and Faith.

The early days of Church history in Oklahoma read as an inspiring trial.  The Faith of our Okie Fathers can inspire us Okie Trads to carry on, helping to "restore all things to Christ."  One Latin Mass parish, chapel, monastery, convent, priory, etc at a time!

Happy Wednesday my Online Friends, and Fellow Okie Trads!  Just 2 more days 'til the weekend!

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