13 Feb The Parish in Oklahoma’s Oil Fields
Five Year Old St. Damien of Molokai is ‘Full to the Brim’ with Catholics
Text and Photos By Donna Sue Berry
Thriving Catholic parishes can be found in the most unlikely places – including smack dab in the middle of an Oklahoma oil field.
The first Catholic clergy to set foot in what would become Oklahoma were Benedictine Monks from the Pierre-qui-Vire monastery in France. In October 1875, these hardy Frenchmen settled in Atoka, Indian Territory, to establish the Sacred Heart Abbey, a mission church and school. The Sisters of Mercy from Ireland would soon arrive to work alongside these monks at this pioneering mission.
In 1889, President Benjamin Harrison designated April 22nd as the day for the ‘Homestead Run’ where three million acres of western land would open up for settlement, eventually creating “Oklahoma”.
Two months after the famous land run, the Catholic Church of Saint John the Baptist was completed in the town of Edmond on the Feast of Saint John the Baptist, June 24th. It was Oklahoma’s first church, the first Catholic Church in Edmond and it was solemnly consecrated with a Traditional Latin Mass. Edmond’s second Catholic church, St Monica’s was consecrated in 1992.
How the Latin Mass Came to the Oil Fields
Fast forward 121 years to October 1st, 2010, and Edmond would again experience the consecration of a new Catholic Church, Saint Damien of Molokai, with a Traditional Latin Mass. Served by priests of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP), the parish is set out on the prairie in the midst of Oklahoma’s famed oilfields.
It was in 1993 when priests of the Fraternity began serving Catholics in the Oklahoma City area, commuting weekly at first as a Sundays-only mission from the Latin Mass community in Topeka, Kansas and then later from St. Peter in Tulsa. But as interest in the Extraordinary Rite grew, a small community began to gather around the Mass at a chapel in Oklahoma City.
The Most Reverend Eusebius J. Beltran, Archbishop of Oklahoma City and the FSSP superiors all saw the need to build a larger parish complex to accommodate this growth. Property was found and purchased in Edmond, and on All Souls Day, November 2nd, 2009, Father Howard Remski, FSSP, said Mass and ground was broken to build the new church.
Archbishop Beltran gave his support and blessing by naming the future Church ‘St. Damien of Molokai.’ (Damien de Veuster was canonized a saint in Rome early in 2009 by Pope Benedict XVI.)
Fully Organized and Working in the New Parish Hall
With the parish hall completed and dedicated, it serves as the temporary church until funds can be raised to build the more beautiful church proper. There are classrooms and a fully functional kitchen and space in the hall to hold dinners and other events. Plans are to have the church completed within ten years.
WITH THE PARISH HALL COMPLETED AND DEDICATED, it serves as the temporary church until funds can be raised to build the more beautiful church proper.
CATECHISM CLASSES, ALTAR SOCIETY, CHOIR, AND THE HOSPITALITY COMMITTEE help to serve the needs of the parishioners of Saint Damien’s.
FIRST COMMUNION AND CONFIRMATION CLASSES ARE FULL TO THE BRIM this spring, and there are a number of vocations to the priesthood and the religious life which have arisen from parish families.
In the interim, Saint Damien’s is a fully organized and working Catholic parish with Fr. Joseph Portzer, FSSP, pastor and his assistant pastor, Fr. Robert Dow, FSSP. First Communion and Confirmation classes are full to the brim with children preparing for the Sacraments this spring, and there are a number of vocations to the priesthood and the religious life which have arisen from parish families. Catechism classes, Altar Society, Choir, and the Hospitality Committee help to serve the needs of the parishioners.
‘Raising the next generation well’
FEDERATION OF NORTH AMERICAN EXPLORERS: Edmond’s ‘Morning Star FNE’ debuted at St. Damien of Molokai in May of 2014 with an astounding 35 members, and is currently at 47.
One new addition to Saint Damien’s is the Federation of North American Explorers (FNE). According to parishioner Evy Brown, “The purpose of the Federation of North-American Explorers is to save souls. The FNE is a formation movement helping children to live out their Catholic faith through hands-on experiences and to serve with passion. The adult leadership is made up purely of volunteers who seek to serve the youth. Morning Star FNE debuted at St. Damien of Molokai in May of 2014 with an astounding 35 members, and is currently at 47.”
Two organizations which meet at the church, though not a parish activities per se, are the St. John Bosco Institute and the St. Patrick Homeschool Association.
When asked about his parish, Fr. Joseph Portzer responded, “St. Damien’s is a unique place. Most of the parishioners come from Edmond or Oklahoma City, but it is located in the country. So many good things are happening here with various groups springing up in the parish. The laity want to live their Catholic faith and raise the next generation well, and so we have many things for young people to do, and that gets their parents involved as well. My overall goal is to keep Jesus Christ at the center of parish life and make sure each activity helps us to live our calling to follow Him. It is a very enjoyable parish to work.”
For more information contact:
St Damien of Molokai
8455 NW 234th Street
Edmond, OK 73013