"The Complete and Definitive History of the Traditional Latin Mass Movement of Eastern Oklahoma, 1970 - Present (2017)"
By Joseph Ostermeir, B.S., M.A.
Table of Contents:
3. The Early Days. SSPX.
4. The Community of St. Peter. FSSP.
5. FSSP grows. SSPX grows.
6. Clear Creek Monastery.
7. Bishop Slattery's Works of Restoration.
8. Most Precious Blood Parish. Diocesan Latin Mass--Fr. Davidson.
9. Current Situation.
10. Conclusion: Lessons from the Past, for the Future
The purpose of this little, self-published booklet, which I hope someone might print and distribute to Okie traditionalists and beyond, is to show how the Latin Mass and Catholic tradition have been maintained and handed down in Eastern Oklahoma for nearly the last 50 years by a relatively small number of priests, religious, and laity, with the encouragement of one particular diocesan bishop, and another missionary bishop from abroad. Hopefully, the reader will appreciate the unusual sacrifice that went into preserving the Mass of the Ages which they now have access to, and the lessons that can be learned from the past for preserving this same Catholic tradition in the future, for the Local Church.
By a stroke of Providence, I somehow happened to have had a good deal of experience in nearly every Latin Mass community across the state, making friends and getting to know the families and "elders" who helped found each community, and each community's history. I realized recently that I might be the only Okie traditionalist in a position to record the facts and narrate the stories of each of these communities, as part of one common Latin Mass movement. Hence his little, unofficial book. I've rubbed my chin how I ever ended up in that seemingly unique, but non-intended position. I guess its because I'm adventurous, love to travel about, and get to know different kinds of people. It just seems like everybody in every Oklahoma Latin Mass community has an experience that is more or less focused on their particular parish or
The facts and figures I present here come from my own experience, as well as countless conversations I have had with the predominant members in each community. If any information is incorrect,please let me know so I can edit it. For me here in Tulsa, my trad travels going westward were prompted by a college friend inviting me to the Oklahoma City FSSP chapel, and I probably made about 15-20 trips there to hang out and worship in the Old Rite. In Tulsa, I have worshipped at both the FSSP and SSPX churches, not because of "church-hopping," but because of particular circumstances and discernment in my own life.. When I was a teenager, I attended the "indult Mass" offered at St. Anne's parish in Broken Arrow.
Later in my young adulthood, vocational discernment led me to Clear Creek monastery, where I spent part of each week, for several months, discerning a religious vocation. During that period, I had been accepted for diocesan seminary, and was given permission to complete the first two years in philosophy, through a distance education Masters program in Catholic philosophy (primarily Thomism, as founded by Dr. Ralph McInerny out of Notre Dame), part of Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell, CT. After discerning I was called to Holy Matrimony, over an eight year period of God's Providence in my personal life, I became what the monks call a "Friend of the Monastery," a kind of distinction of being a semi-permanent visitor/helper. I must have visited
Clear Creek 30-40 times for Mass, Work Days, retreats, conferences, deer hunting, taking my Catholic dates to the monastery and then dinner at the nearby Amish, you name it--for a long stint it was like a second home.
I hope the reader will appreciate all the sacrifice and outright humiliations endured to hand down to them this sacred heritage they now enjoy. In this little history, the idea is to trace how the different works of Catholic tradition unfolded since the Revolution began after Vatican II, here in Eastern Oklahoma. I remember sitting with Tom Montgomerey (now 90 y.o.!) at his little cabin out at Clear Creek, sipping a beer, as he told me how the Revolution took a special stronghold in our Diocese in the 1970s.
This little history will show that while on one hand, just as there is division everywhere now in the Universal Church, so there is also understandable division in the Traditional Movement, that has its place at being addressed; yet, more importantly, on the other hand, in my opinion, this short story aims to show how traditional Catholics are and should be united under the bi-fold source of Church unity--i.e. unity under the Deposit of the Faith, as handed down in the form of Sacred Tradition, andunity under the divine, hierarchical structure of the Church founded by Our Lord Jesus Christ. As I write these notes down, I personally observe that the works and communities of Catholic tradition in Eastern Oklahoma are diminishing, which begs the question for how long will Catholics in this Diocese have access to the Latin Mass? Years? Decades? I believe we can learn from this little 50 year history here in the Heartland, lessons to be applied when planning and looking into the future of Catholic tradition in our Local Church.
After Vatican II, Pope Paul VI issued an experimental reform of the Roman rite that was called a radical departure from the traditional Roman rite, aka the Tridentine Latin Mass, which today is most often now called the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM). It was Archbishop Bugnini, the Grand Architect of the post-conciliar
liturgical reform, who is on record describing how the changes were in fact a radical, substantial change into an effectively "New Rite." In virtually every Diocese throughout the Universal Church, after the promulgated Missal of Paul VI, aka the Novus Ordo Missae (New Order of the Mass) or usually abbreviated the Novus Ordo, was distributed to all Roman rite priests, a decision had to be made. Go along with this experimental liturgy, in the name of obedience? Or, as some priests and laity asked, can we continue to celebrate the traditional Roman rite as it had developed for 2000 years, being finally codified by Pope St. Pius V after the Council of Trent.
The decision some priests made was to continue to avail themselves of the traditional Missal, based on the non-abrogated, still authoritative document of Pius V called "Quo Primum." And tradition-minded laity, who wanted to preserve their liturgical birthright, gathered together in groups around the altar of these priests offering the Mass of All Times. As a result in most cases, as is documented in the book "Priest, where is thy Mass?", the local bishop forbade use of the old missal and imposed the new missal under pain of disobedience with the warning that disobedience would result in suspension, that is suppressing the canonical right to publicly celebrate Mass and to administer the sacraments.
This was an extremely difficult choice that weighed heavily on the consciences of these priests and lay groups. Yet, they made the informed evaluation that canonically they did still have a right to the TLM and sacraments using the old Ritual.
In fact, Pope St. John Paul II formed a group of Cardinals in the late 1980s to examine this very question, with the majority deciding that in fact the TLM had not been officially suppressed by the Church; that it was still a public right for priests and the faithful.
Yet, it was not until 2009 that Pope Benedict XVI issued an official decision of the Church on this question, in his motu proprio Summorum Pontificum. In that document, the pope declared that the TLM had "never been abrogated," that it was still officially a form of the Roman rite and a right of all priests/laity to celebrate, not requiring any special permission.
Yet, rewind back to 1970, when the choice had to be made.
Essentially, priests were forbidden to celebrate the TLM, which later the Pope would judge they always had a right to celebrate. Therefore, according to simple, syllogistic logic, priests were illicitly forbidden to say the Mass of their ordination, and therefore their suspensions were considered by theologians to be null and void. So, here you have a priest faithful to the traditional Mass, falsely suspended and supressed by the diocese from Priestly ministry, yet still possessing the public right to say the traditional Mass, and administer the sacraments in a traditional way. According to simple rules of physics and social dynamics, the traditional Priest and the Lay Group attached to him, were forced out of the diocesan structure. It was not unlike the faithful during the time of the Arian Crisis, who had to go outside the walls of the city/diocese, to receive the unadulterated Faith from priests ordained by St. Athanasius, the Father of Orthodoxy. The rest is history. In the following pages I will do my best to record the different phases of the TLM movement within the Diocese of Tulsa, i.e. Eastern Oklahoma, from 1970 to the Present (2017).
Chapter 1. The Early Days. The Society of St. Pius X.
When the priests at the Augustinian monastery attached to Cascia Hall Preparatory School in Tulsa received the new missal,
one aged priest named Fr. Spellman, O.A., managed to continue saying a private TLM at a side altar in St. Rita's Chapel attached to the school. Hearing about this, a group of families attended this quiet Mass. They formed informal catechism groups to make sure their children were receiving an orthodox and traditional catechesis. One of the original founding families of this growing Group was that of Bob and Sally Bell, who owned and operated the historical Tulsa attraction Bell's Amusement park. Later, another founding family that joined this association was headed by Bill Ziegler, whose close relative would establish another historical part of Tulsa tradition in the diocese--Ziegler's Catholic Books and Gifts.
However, when Fr. Spellman was no longer able to celebrate the TLM, this stable group of faithful approached then Bishop Kelly to ask for a priest and permission to continue the TLM. The response was "No" and they received no continuing support for their liturgical needs/rights from the diocese. The next step was to invite priests to travel to Tulsa to offer the TLM, who had been illegally suspended in their own diocese for remaining faithful to the Mass of the Saints. In order to provide a reverent atmosphere for the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, the practical circumstances dictated creating an actual chapel, in the garage of one of the families, who were heroes in maintaining this group for decades. Yet, the group became too large, and the next logical choice was to rent a public space. In these early days, it would become a phenomenon of the traditional movement, to see this exact same pattern and transition, going from a "garage chapel," to a "hotel chapel" to a "real chapel."
I recall driving one weekend to visit a seminary in college, with Fr. Tim Davidson, and discussing this history. We found it somewhat humorous, the idea of a "hotel chapel." At the time
I misunderstood the image, imagining a priest and laity packed into an actual hotel room for Mass. Rather, the group rented out conference room space. This weekly event was a major chore for the core organizers, for many years. It meant going to a storeage facility, taking out all the materials needed for Mass, arriving early at the hotel to set up everything for Mass with chairs, and then later after Mass, to have to take everything down again, and before returing home, having to store the materials away in storeage.
It was a labor of love. Over time, the association needed a name, so it called itself St. John Fisher's Catholic Chapel. I think to better empathize with that labor of love, imagine doing it yourself year after year, decade after decade. Imagine the extra burden of the spiritual and psychological stigma placed on you by the diocese and other Catholic friends and family, for being the only Catholics to maintain the liturgical tradition of the Church in the diocese. And, recall that later Pope Benedict would determine that effectively during those years, these religiously persecuted or suppressed Catholics did in fact have the right to what they were preserving. Also, add to the psychological heaviness the fact that it often was difficult to bring in consistently a traditional priest.
During the 1970s, many different "independent" priests, i.e. those being deemed "independent" of their local ordinary, were an emerging movement. Some of these priests, such as the organization "The Catholic Traditionalist Movement" founded by Fr. Gomar DePauw back east, organized Mass circuits, reminiscent of the days that Catholic priests serving missionary territories of the
expanding US rode horseback from town to town, sometimes only being able to offer Mass in someone's living room a few times a year. So, objectively speaking, during this period of the traditional movement, a traditional priest was basically a luxury. When the TLM was unavailable, another conundrum pressed in on the consciences of our Okie trad forefathers.
Like today, or perhaps even worse back in the 70s and 80s, they faced the choice of going to a Mass which was virtually always said with irreverences, heterodox statements in sermons, the breaking of rubrics, and a banal, secularized atmosphere. Were they obligated to attend? Many determined with difficulty that they were not, and so honored Sundays by being what would be called "home alone." When a family has no stable, weekly Mass they can attend, the Church recommends religious practices to be performed
by the family together in the home--especially the reading of the Sunday missal and the rosary.
At this point, I can imagine some readers seriously waving their pointer finger at this in disapproval. But, what I want them to consider is that these families were not trying to be disobedient rebels. They were not. It is just that they kept being presented with very difficult choices, and considering the Church was by then in a state of Crisis, the prudent course of action to navigate those waters was not always clear; so naturally different chapels and groups made different decisions. A similar independent chapel in
Oklahoma City, that offered the TLM--St. Michael's Chapel--which became later under the direction of the Fraternity of St. Peter, undwerwent a "split," part of which identified as "sedevacantists," leaving to form their own sedevacantist house chapel. In Tulsa, this did not happen.
What did happen is that overseas, a bishop from France named Archbishop Lefebvre, who had served as a Missionary Bishop in Africa, who had been one of the few bishops assigned by Pope John XXIII to write the original documents of Vatican II, who also at the Council would serve as President of the International Coalition of Council Fathers (several hundred of the most traditional bishops), established a traditional seminary in Econe, Switzerland and the Fraternal Society of St. Pius X (FSSPX). The FSSPX are a Society of Apostolic Life, originally approved by the local bishop and the Vatican, devoted to training priests
according to the tradition of seminary training, and to provide traditional priests to faithful around the world requesting the TLM, after being denied it by their bishop.
And so in the later part of the 1970s, SSPX priests started visiting Tulsa. By 1982, the Chapel, now officially called St. John Fisher Chapel, had grown so much that they were able to build a small church in a rural, mobile home neighborhood in north Broken Arrow, in the vicinity of the Broken Arrow Reservoir. I myself recall going there one Sunday with my dad when I was about eight years old, and the memory that formed was a fond one. In my mind's eye, I can still remember sitting in the back pew admiring the traditional altar, statues, lingering clouds of incense in the air, and the modesty of the ladies wearing chapel veils. That was my first experience with the traditional Mass. This new church was built using two wide mobile homes. The struture looked very simple, A-framed, painted a plain white, with a small steeple erected in front. At first the altar was a moveable structure of pieces of ply wood, cut and nailed together, and painted gold with a small, woodern tabernacle fixed in the center.
But later, the church--now blessed by Archbishop Lefebvre as holy ground in 1982, as an actual valid Catholic sanctuary, and placed under the care of the Society--was able to obtain a very beautiful, small marble altar. It was very heavy, and had a centrally-placed tabernacle also made of marble. That only made the Sunday Mass experience more enriched, more edifying, and more honoring ofGod in worship. Towards the front of the chapel, there was a bathroom, a cry room, and a room that the mother's used for many years to catechize their children, under the
direction of the visiting SSPX chaplain.
Still, in the 1980s, the Latin Mass movement was still almost entirely independent of the local bishop. A tradition-minded bishop like Tulsa would later have with Bishop Edward Slattery,
was unheard of. The 1982 "indult Mass" was reserved for only a tiny number of Catholics in the world, especially those in England and Wales who requested it. So the real world experience of mothers and fathers, and children, trying to preserve the Latin Mass and their Faith, was literally a religious version of the Wild West.
Many, many religious issues had to be solved, when certain practices like confessions and marriages ordinarily require faculties from the local bishop. There was concern about the movement of "independent priests," because these were no longer just former diocesan priests expelled from their diocese, but they also began to include all sorts of categories of "traditional priest." Some were ordained in the sedevacantist "line of Bishop Thuc," a Catholic bishop from Vietnam who became a sedevacantist--denying the legitimacy of the conciliar popes and bishops.
Others were ordained by "Old Catholic" bishops, from the schismatic Old Catholic Church formed in the 1800s. So, it became a confusing and complicated endeavor to determine if said priest was properly ordained and seminary trained, and that they did not have schismatic or very irregular attitudes about the Church. Fortunately though, when the Society could not drive to Tulsa (one of the pioneer Society priests of the US District to serve Tulsa was Fr. Carl Pulvermacher, who was considered
a very holy priest, and zealous, travelling missionary to build up a Remnant network across the nation; he also founded the Angelus Press), an independent, formerly diocesan priest from Oklahoma
City, Fr. Graham Walters, was able to drive to Tulsa to provide Sunday Mass.
Fr. Walters liked to explain to people that the diocese had never actually done the official paperwork to suspend him, and that they were really just permanently ignoring him. So he was able to even more confidently continue the Mass in OKC, building a small, beautiful, Gothic, English-style chapel, and monastic-like rectory using inherited money. The chapel had tall stained glass windows, just across from Lake Heifner in a quiet neighborhood. I have attended Mass there at Queen of Angels Chapel, yet now Fr. Walters was able to become re-incardinated in the OKC diocese so that he could rightfully receive his pension. He is now retired to Idaho where he says Mass for a convent of Dominican teaching sisters. That church has now since been sold and is not being used as a Catholic church.
The four hour plus roundtrip drive each Sunday was not easy for Fr. Walters, having already served his group of faithful in OKC. But the impression of the Tulsa faithful over the years was that he stuck it out, and suffered the hard travel to bring regular Mass and sacraments. A convert from Protestantism, and an Okie, Fr. Walters fit right in. He had white hair, a white beard, and smallish frame, being a somewhat quiet and reserved man.
Final Location of St. John Fisher Chapel (SSPX-West Tulsa). Now Sold.
Ch. 4. The Community of St. Peter. FSSP.
In June of 1988, one single event would reshape the direction of the Latin Mass in the Tulsa diocese. It was the consecration of four bishops of the Society of St. Pius X, by Archbishop Lefebvre, to serve as auxillary bishops for the Society primarily to ordain traditional priests and administer confirmations. The Archbishop's sermon at that event is online, at Youtube, and I personally find it very moving. Yet, a fraction of the congregation at St. John Fisher Chapel (SSPX) were not comfortable with the consecrations, which carried with them the stigma of schism not only applied to +Lefebvre and the new bishops, but indirectly somehow to all the SSPX faithful. This was too much for some members. Some left and approached then Bishop Beltran, having in hand the new motu proprio of John Paul II called "Ecclesia Dei," that gave them the right to the TLM, or "indult," IF the local bishop would approve. + Beltran did approve, and asked Fr. Norbert Karava, OFM, a Capuchin Franciscan Friar Priest, and pastor of their order's parish of St. Anne's in Broken Arrow, to offer the "indult Latin Mass" at his church, Sunday afternoons after the main morning Masses.
I recall attending Fr. Norbert's Latin Mass as a teenager. He did not seem to take a serious interest in it at the time, and I don't recall any of the Masses being High Masses with Gregorian chant. I can only imagine the inner unease these laity felt needing to separate from the Society chapel, and then place themselves under a Priest who showed little interest. In my opinion, Fr. Norbert was probably given that job because he was known to be very traditional and devout in the way he said the Novus Ordo, and he
was known to be very conservative and orthodox. This new community, calling itself the Community of St. Peter, one of the original families being the Manuel and Kellie Marquez family, was then transferred to the basement chapel at Holy Family Cathedral, where an aged, Polish priest affectionately called Msgr. Mark, very willingly offered the ancient and venerable Roman rite.
At this point, I believe, Bishop Edward Slattery, newly ordained bishop for Tulsa, hailing from Chicago, took a personal interest in
preserving the Tridentine Mass with this Community. It took sometime before he decided to ask the Fraternity of St. Peter to send a priest to Tulsa to offer the TLM, FSSP being a new congregation of traditionalist priests founded by former priests of the SSPX after the 1988 Consecration of Bishops. At some point Bishop Slattery, it was perceived, became a big fan of the work of the Fraternity. I remember being in college serving Mass for Bishop Slattery at the cathedral, and one Sunday after Mass changing in the sacristy, suddenly another group of altar boys came up the stairs from the basement chapel, and at that point
I first learned about the Community of St. Peter, and the Fraternity. Having gotten to know the good Bishop, at that time I did not perceive that he yet had a "traditional bent," or personal interest in either saying himself he TLM, or a more "reform of the reform" style Novus Ordo. As I will discuss later, I saw that evolution take place over several years, I think from the dual influence of the FSSP, and Clear Creek monastery which he founded.
Ch.5 The FSSP Grows. The SSPX Grows.
By the mid 1990s, the Community of St. Peter was placed under the Fraternity. One of the pioneer members of the FSSP in their US District, was the famous Fr. James Jackson, known for his education under Dr. John Senior at the Integrated Humanities Program at Kansas University. He was a "Senior-ista" as others would affectionally call former students and followers of the thought of John Senior (he wrote "The Death of Christian Culture," and "The Restoration of Christian Culture"). Fr. Jackson was a charismatic leader and had his own (approved) "Mass circuit," between the new Parish of St. Peter (PSP) in Tulsa, and St. Michael's Chapel in OKC. The PSP was canonically
a "quasi-parish" because the group was not yet large enough or stable enough to be granted their own church, so they shared a church with St. Augustine's in impoverished north Tulsa, which had a predominantly Black congregation. Many members of the PSP perceived this location as a way of "quarantining the traditionalists" away from the more developed urban centers of Tulsa.
By 2000, they community was growing, with two Sunday Masses, a 10am High Mass, and 1pm Low Mass. Somewhere in between, was the Novus Ordo Mass for the Black parishioners. Interestingly, in all my time worshipping there, I cannot recall one of the Black parishioners making a habit of coming to the Latin Mass, which made an impression on me being new to a Latin Mass community (though I did attend a TLM on occasion when I lived out of state for a year). I always admired their members for really dressing up for Mass and being reverent, but there was one sticking point for some of the hard-core traditionalists. When you walk into the church, to your right there are icons hanging on the wall, and one of them is an icon of Martin Luther King, Jr. with a halo. Above the side altars at the front of the nave, were statues of St. Augustine and Blessed Katerina. Another issue for those who wanted their own church--incidentally Bishop Slattery's plan--was the free-standing altar used for both the TLM and NO, that both Masses were said on the same altar, that the TLM altar materials always had to be set up and later taken down. There was also the question of walking up to the communion rail, possibly walking all over small pieces of the Blessed Sacrament distributed in the hand earlier at the modern Mass.
From that time, until they finally got their own church in 2012, it was an ongoing discussion within the parish, with occasional meetings with the bishop, about building or buying their own church. I recall one of those meetings, when Bishop Slattery made a profound statement about the Novus Ordo Mass, paraphrasing here from distant memory: "The problem with the way the New Mass is typically celebrated is that it is horizontal and focused on the people, whereas the Church's tradition of liturgy always celebrates the Mass in a vertical way, centered on God." Yet in my experience, in my opinion, there always did seem to be two different minds or groups within the parish. There were the hard-core trads who wanted to get out of that church, and to obtain a new church as soon as possible. They were the kind to openly talk critically in the parking lot about Vatican II or the New Mass; whereas the second group seemed to be content or even prefer sharing a church with a Novus Ordo community, as if it is better not to separate themselves off from mainstream, diocesan parishes. This second group I think were not critical about Vatican II or the New Mass so much, or taking a "traditionalist" line of thought and action, but more "conservative" line, for lack of a better word. Yet during the early 2000s, the parish continued to grow, under the pastorship of Frs. Gabet, Ferguson, Fryer, Orlowski, and Byrne. When Frs. Van der Putten and then Define would come, this community that had started in Broken Arrow in 1988 would become split and enter a new phase.
Meanwhile, during the 1990s, St. John Fisher's in Broken Arrow outgrew its small church, and providentially was able to switch, with no exchange of money, with a much larger Protestant church in a west Tulsa/Sand Springs neighborhood, their smaller congregation needing to downsize taking over the double-wide mobile home chapel. The faithful took many months of hard labor and money to convert the nave and sanctuary as much
as is possible into a proper Catholic church. Stained glass windows were installed, confessionals built, a large marble baptistry was in the back, a wide high altar was made from wood, and the sanctuary had large statues of Our Lord, Our Lady, St. Joseph, and St. Theresa of Avila (I believe). A large, velvet bishops chair sat on the left, for when an SSPX auxiliary should visit to administer confirmations.
The parish hall had a full kitchen and a stage used for plays, and at one time the membership reached 150, with several homeschooling families. Catechism classes were held in basement classrooms. The main pastors were Fr. Katzaroff, a monastic-like priest, who came every Sunday for many years; then Fr. Novak, a very charismatic and zealous pastor who tried to grow the parish; then three young priests, first Fr. Arabadjis, then Fr. Themann, and
lastly Fr. McBride. During the 2000s, the parish gradually shrank to 40-50 regulars at best. Some families decided to go to the Fraternity. Others moved to be near SSPX priories with weekly/daily Mass and a school. Just four hours north of Tulsa is St. Mary's, Kansas, home to 3000+ traditional Catholics of the parish and town, with an elementary school through college.
Ch. 6. Clear Creek monastery.
I recall running into the fampous Kirk Kramer around 1997 or so, who was one of the "movers and shakers" volunteers to help bring the monks from Fontgombeaut Benedictine Monastery (Latin Mass) in France, to a thousand, wooded acres near Hulbert, OK out east closer to Tahlequah. Kramer is a journalist and was a member of the informal men's group called The Rooster Cogburn Society, mostly of men who go to the Latin Mass, who got together for dinner and to talk religion. The monks chose to come to the Tulsa Diocese in 1999 because of the cheap land, but also because of Bishop Slattery.
+ Slattery had gradually become more and more traditional, visiting Fontgombeaut several times for personal interest, as well as later to facilitate the move, and learning to say the TLM for confirmations at the Parish of St. Peter. At first the monks lived in little temporary cabins and converted a barn into a chapel. Up the hill was the huge cabin built by (I believe) the Costello family, who sold the land to the monks, used as a refectory and for offices. Gardens, vineyards, and a small farm were started. Before long, they built a carpentry wood shop to make furrniture and hand-crafted religious goods. They also made large, round cylindars of homemade cheese, from their milk cows, which I believe they still sell today. A gift shop with traditional Catholic books also brought in revenue.
In those early pioneering days, they were able to make a temporary monastery (now used by the Clear Creek Benedictine Sisters) with prefab buildings, but eventually started building a medieval style, Romanesque monastery at a higher elevation. An architect from Notre Dame designed it, and a Tulsa construction company took the job. Also, families from all over the country started to move to Clear Creek, to live near the monks for their liturgy and spirituality. The founding monks, especially the Americans Fr. Anderson (now Abbot), Fr. Bethel, Fr. Brown, and Fr. Shapiro, had a vision of a monastic community including neighboring lay Catholics to organically form, perhaps, an actual Catholic hamelot or village. Their inspiration was their mentor teacher from Kansas University, none other than John Senior.
Before long, several large, homeschooling families had settled in. A main issue was their need for a full, sacramental parish life which the monks were not able to give being fully cloistered and purely contemplative. Bishop Slattery tried a couple projects, one to start a parish out at the monastery, which did not bear fruit, and the other to postition a Latin Mass-offering priest in the Wagoner parish, a half hour away. Over time, the direction families would take for a parish life would be to drive to Tulsa and attend the new Fraternity church. A few visited the SSPX church. Several of the families formed companies in the area, one being a Catholic publishing company. Other men for work either have to commute, or can work from home.
Early on, Benedictine Sisters associated with the FSSP settled in near the monastery, and bought a house just across the gravel road from the entrance to monastery land. Over time, they became officially Clear Creek nuns, formally attached to the monastery, which is now a full Abbey. An Abbey is ruled over by an Abbot, who in many respects exercises the function of bishop delegated to him by the Church.
Ch. 7. Bishop Slattery's Works of Traditional Restoration.
I do not know exactly what transformed the good bishop into such a traditionalist, but by the mid 2000s he was building up a verifiable Latin Mass/traditional restoration movement across the diocese. How much he was supported by the Presbyteral Council and the clergy is another question. So far he had established the Fraternity, Clear Creek monks, and Clear Creek sisters. He started a liturgical institute, and a program to spread Gregorian chant throughout his parishes. Young men he ordained showed outward signs of a shared love of our Catholic tradition, one that I can think of who started saying the TLM. And he brought in Fr. Kirby, OSB, a Benedictine monk and world expert on Gregorian chant, to start a TLM Benedictine monastery closer to the city, with a focus on Eucharistic Adoration. For a few years, Fr. Kirby and a few postulants occupied a house in Midtown, where their daily Mass/chapel was open to the public. I recall attending a couple times, and for the first time seeing Mother Miriam, a newly professed nun. Mother Miriam, a convert from Judaism, had been a well known speaker on EWTN tv/radio, before receiving training in monastic life, then unsuccessfully attempting to start a traditional convent in Europe. Her vision was a community of sisters actively
evangelizing parishes and neighborhoods, dressed in the full, traditional habit. She attempted again a foundation with Bishop Slattery.
During this same period, a senior priest of the diocese, who devoted 20+ years to Hispanic ministry, started to say the TLM. It was Fr. Tim Davidson who I mentioned knowing when he was Vocations Director. He related to a group of us how he had been close friends with Fr. Jackson, FSSP when he came to Tulsa. I remember the story of how they went on a ski trip together, and in their hotel room before hitting the slopes, each said his Mass at a side table facing "ad orientem." I understand that Fr. Dadvidson was greatly influenced by the Fraternity to turn towards Tradition. At his newer parish assignment of Sts. Peter and Paul, he had already started his own projects of traditional restoration: communion on the tongue kneeling at the communion rail, chant, and facing ad orientem.
It did create a strained dynamic in the parish between now three groups: the English Novus Ordo crowd, the Spanish Novus Ordo for the Hispanic community, and the new, mostly white Latin Mass community. Knowing the bishop had his back, Fr. Davidson kept building up Tradition in his parish, with a beautiful Adoration chapel, a live Stations of the Cross, and very frequent traditional devotions. And it was Mother Miriam and her Sisters (I believe now somewhere between 6-8, and wearing a kind of habit), who lived in a house down the street they used for a convent, who attended Father's daily Latin Mass. And meanwhile, still to this day, Mother Miriam's original daily podcasts answering callers' questions, now converted into a radio show, are aired daily throughout Oklahoma on St. Michael's Radio. And Bishop Slattery kept busy with more traditional restorations: a monastic style new Catholic Charities complex, with a very traditional chapel that has weekly TLMS, mostly offered by the Fraternity.
While Bishop Slattery did (and I guess still probably does) say private TLMs in his chapel, he started up what I would call a "Latin Novus Ordo" for the main Sunday Mass at the Cathedral, facing ad orientem, to the liturgical East. Those Masses had Latin, Gregorian chant, and Sacred Polyphony. From time to time, he would invite the Fraternity to say a Tridentine High Mass at the cathedral, often assisting with Msgrs. Brankin and Gier also assisting. These two priests seem to have helped out a lot at Bishop Slattery's traditional liturgies. So, by the mid 2000s it seems, + Slattery had the reputation of being one of the most traditional bishops in the world. He became known for his Traditional Restorations across his diocese. He would ordain Fraternity priests at their seminary church in Nebraska, and famously was the celebrant for a special High Mass at the National Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington D.C.
Another project he took on was to establish for the first time in history an Order of Priests devoted to spiritual warfare and performing exorcisms, helping Fr. Chad Ripperger get started in the diocese around 2011. Fr. Ripperger brought in two new priests to his community, and they performed exorcisms full-time, having a kind of monastic property and buildings far removed in the country-side north of Tulsa. And the priests only said the Latin Mass. In 2015 Bishop Slattery officially and publicly erected the Doloran Fathers as a Society of Apostolic Life, of Diocesan rite, which means that any future bishop cannot easily remove them from the diocese. However, the Vatican discovered a canonical defect in the paperwork, and around that time a new Vatican process was required to establish a new Order, the paperwork having to be processed and vetted by them first, whereas traditionally any diocesan bishop has the authority to establish an Order in his diocese.
It must have been a painful experience, not knowing if he could remedy the defect before his retirement. I do believe it is public knowledge that Bishop Slattery was preparing to sign the new, edited documents to permanently erect the traditional Doloran Fathers before Fr. Konderla of College Station, Texas was named by Pope Francis as Bishop-Elect of Tulsa. So, according to canon law, any attempt of + Slattery to properly finalize this Order (which he had spent five years establishing) would be null and avoid. As of his retirement, the Doloran Fathers had not been fully, permanently erected in Tulsa; and neither had Mother Miriam's Daughters of Mary, Mother of Israel's Hope. I am sure I am forgetting more examples.
So this is a list of the good Bishop's Traditional Works: FSSP to Tulsa, Clear Creek monks, Clear Creek sisters, encouraged especially the young priests to turn to our Catholic tradition, encouraged Fr. D's TLM community, established a new church for the FSSP (Most Precious Blood Parish), Sunday Latin Novus Ordo Masses/community, Sunday Vespers at the cathedral, Doloran Father's, and Mother Miriam's Community.
Ch. 8 Most Precious Blood Parish. Latin Mass at Sts. Peter and Paul Parish.
Somewhere between 2005-2010, changes started to happen in the Parish of St. Peter, where differences between the two frames of mind about having their own church (as discussed earlier) began to crystalize. I do believe it is public information and fair to discuss there was a certain division taking place. Parish meetings and discussions did not solve the differences. After Fr. Bryne left Tulsa (he was a very beloved pastor, and had a great sense of humor), the Fraternity sent Fr. Angelo Van der Putten, who was formerly a priest with the Society of St. Pius X. Fr. V is known for his apostolic zeal, formidable sermons, and Energizer-bunnny-like momentum to create and finish projects. For example, due to some expertise he had with building, he was called to the Nebraska semninary to help direct finishing Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary Chapel. He is a force to be reckoned with.
At present, he is a missionary priest in African almost single-handedly leading the building of a traditional parish and community. But recall that at the point when Fr. V came to Tulsa, the chapel was already divided between, for lack of better terms, the hard-core trads and the conservatives who were content having the TLM at a Novus Ordo parish. One attempt at an autonomous location on Father's part was to explore buying the old Our Lady of Sorrows convent in Broken Arrow next to Franciscan Villa assisted living, and he attempted to recruit Sisters from France to come to Tulsa to start a school, with the convent church being shared by the parish. I won't go into all the details, but in the end a split occured. A part of the congregation left for Fr. Davidson's TLM, while the others at the last minute managed to pull off finding a buying a church (a former Protestant church in the countryside west of downtown Tulsa, near Chandler Park) which was converted as best as could be done into a proper, traditional Catholic church. It was maybe a miracle, since up to that point, because of this division, the bishop was considering closing the parish, and for the Fraternity to go on to another apostolate.
At the same time, an almost parish-within-a-parish, or community within a parish, came together around Fr. Davidson's Latin Mass. The Latin Mass community at Sts. Peter and Paul will share homeschooling resources, potlucks, and All Saints Day parties. However, just a few months ago Father decided to spend time back with family in his home state, and he is close to retirement age.
Ch. 9 Current situation.
After 47 years as a Latin Mass community, 37 of which were under the SSPX, St. John Fisher's Chapel was just recently dissolved as a Tulsa Mission. The church was sold, with all assets and property going to the Society. The 40+ remaining members are all considering where they will go for Mass. The reason given for the shut-down is that the US District is growing, and the priests are stretched thin. Their pastor recommended considering the FSSP parish in Tulsa for their sacramental needs.
Meanwhile Most Precious Blood Parish (FSSP) is thriving and growing, right now with over 200 members, many families with children, a woman's chant choir, a thriving men's group, adoration, rosaries, and daily Mass.
And at Sts. Peter and Paul, a new priest from Central American has learned the TLM and says it on Sundays, but not on weekdays due to low attendance. Fr. Elmer is also busy learning to speak English. Fr. Frank Parinello fills in, helping with the TLM.
The Doloran Fathers were removed from the Diocese without specific reasons, shortly after the ordination/installation of Tulsa' new bishop, Bishop Konderla, a year ago last summer. Mother Miriam's religious community has also been told they need to find a different diocese. At the cathedral, the Sunday Latin, ad orientem Novus Ordo Mass has ended, as well as regular Sunday Vespers.
Ch. 10. The Future.
After looking at our history, I offer a few opinions about the future. It seems at present there is no future for an SSPX chapel in Tulsa, or one pastored by a traditional priest independent of the bishop. From my vantage point, I think that Sts. Peter and Paul probably may not have Sunday TLMs for much longer. The one, solid choice for a TLM parish community is Most Precious Blood, where the pastor and laity are very traditional, devout and united. My sense is all are welcome, and that the focus is not on the Fraternity itself, as much as the parish life and the Holy
Sacrifice of the Mass.
Looking back on the last 47 years of traditional Catholic preservation in Eastern Oklahoma, I think we can learn a few lessons, and apply them to plans for the future.
One, to strengthen our devotion to our Catholic tradition, and the TLM, I believe it is imperative to better appreciate the roots of our Eastern Oklahoma Latin Mass movement and those who came before us, especially: the Founders of the SSPX Chapel, the Founders of the FSSP Parish, Archbishop Lefebvre/SSPX, and His Excellency, our beloved Bishop Emeritus Edward Slattery.
Two, we have to stick together! We must take charge, be willing to suffer physically and psychologically, to keep rising above our differences. If we are to survive in the future, we can recognize and deal with our differences, but in the end make those secondary to being traditional Catholics, and helping
to preserve Catholic Tradition in our Local Church, for ourselves and our posterity.
Three, we need to seek out and support Tulsa priests who are willing to say the TLM. If Bishop Slattery was such a driving force, we can still seek him out for support, counsel, and direction. He can be our de facto Bishop Emeritus "sponsor," if he will, to help prevent more diminishment of Tradition in the diocese as long as he is here and alive. I do believe as the Church Revolution keeps getting worse and worse, we may see that one day no Traditional Latin Masses (1962) are allowed in Tulsa (or most places). Before that happens, we can mobilize and unite, so there is less reason to bring it to and end.
Consider how even Bishop Slattery himself, with his own prudential reasons, almost shutdown the FSSP parish in Tulsa! That one stronghold that is left could, in theory, one day come to an end. To me, a solution is to unite like the first Christians did in the catacombs, but in informal ways. Okie Traditionalist blogs, forums, podcasts, informal meetups. We need to survive and defeat the enemy (the apostacy that has entered the Church).
Use social media and grassroots communications to grow Most Precious Blood to the point they can afford to build a new, bigger, fully traditional church. And again support all diocesan priests saying the TLM. Give them resources and support.
Reach out to Bishop Konderla, increase trust, and share more and more the traditional Liturgy with him. Think of Bishop Slattery, how at first as a bishop he showed little interest in the TLM or traditional restorations. The new bishop will likely be here a long time until he retires. At least let's show him enough respect that he will be our friend, but also pray for him that he will discover for himself our ancient and venerable Roman rite of the Mass.
We have so much to be thankful to Bishop Slattery for, for his legacy, so we can work to try and preserve that very legacy he left us, staying focused and positive on all the great sources of traditional Catholicism that remaim across our Local Church.
Christ the King, have mercy on us.
Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us.
St. Pius X, pray for us.
St. Padre Pio, pray for us.
To submit any corrections, additional information, or questions, please email Joe (me) at JosephOstermeir@gmail.com
Onward and upward!