Our History

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100 years and counting...

A year after Tulsa’s formal incorporation in 1898, Holy Family Parish was established by the apostolic vicar of Indian Territory, Bishop Theophile Meerschaert. In the mid 1890s, Bishop Meerschaert had sought the aid of Mother Mary Katherine Drexel, of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament for Indians and Colored People, to build a Catholic school. She was an heiress to a Philadelphia banking fortune and dedicated her life and fortune to the welfare of Native Americans and African Americans. Saint Katherine Drexel holds a place of honor today in our Mary, Queen of Peace Chapel. Her stained glass window is one of five to recognize prominent Catholic women, saints and beatified. Holy Family church was built in conjunction with St. Teresa’s Institute for Creek Indian Girls in the original location between Third and Fourth Streets and Elgin and Frankfort, and was dedicated September 10, 1899.

In 1901, oil was discovered in the Tulsa area, which attracted oilmen from the east coast, many of whom were Irish Catholic. Through the leadership of Reverend John G. Heiring, Holy Family opened its second church in 1914 at its current location at Eighth and Boulder. By then, Tulsa’s population was close to fifteen thousand, of which almost four thousand were members of Holy Family. Father Heiring petitioned Bishop Meerschaert several times about dividing the church. In February of 1917, Father Heiring received approval to search for a location on which to found another parish. He purchased a square block which included a two-story house on the corner of Sixteenth and Rockford. It had belonged to a Catholic and real estate executive, Joseph Friend.  Before the house was complete, Joseph died and his wife, Julia passed eight years later. They had nine children, who, after trying to keep up the property, eventually sold it.  On behalf of the Bishop, Heiring purchased the land and fully furnished home for seventeen thousand dollars and established the second parish in Tulsa.

Bishop Meerschaert chose Father Charles Prosper Standaert, a Belgium native, to be the founding pastor. Sacred Heart Parish was formally established on July 2, 1917. Father Standaert moved in and set up a chapel in one part of the home to offer daily mass, however, parishioners continued going to Holy Family for Sunday Mass. Construction of a two-story red brick Romanesque church began within a couple of months. It included a school with six classrooms in the basement and was located next to the house which is where the parish office is now. On Sunday, March 17, 1918, Sacred Heart celebrated its first Mass.

In February 1924, within six days of each other, both Bishop Meerschaert and Fr. Standaert passed away. A successor was named in June and in November, Bishop Francis Clement Kelley made his first trip to Tulsa. In the meantime, Father John Davlin, recently named pastor at Immaculate Conception, had also been assigned to Sacred Heart in the absence of a pastor.

While at Sacred Heart, Davlin ended the system of annual pew rent and started the envelope system for collections. He also added a Sunday evening service, reported as well attended, and preached to the children at morning daily Mass. Finances improved and the need for additional classroom space was funded.

With the increase of members, came the need for larger church facilities. Bishop Kelley admired the work of Francis Barry Byrne, former partner of Frank Lloyd Wright. Byrne had recently completed St. Thomas the Apostle in Chicago and was near completion on a church in Wisconsin. European influence in design brought forth the Art Deco style which Byrne embraced in his plans presented to the parish. The $300,000 project evolved over time. Faced with decisions on placement of the church on the property without destroying existing facilities, and keeping in mind Kelley had planned for the parish to be the home of the bishop, Byrne suggested adding the rectory to the back of the church, allowing the old church to be used for the school.

In May 1927, less than seventeen months after Pope Pius XI created a new feast for the liturgical calendar, “Church of The Christ King” appeared on the letterhead of correspondence from Msgr. James F. McGuire, now pastor, to Bishop Kelley. This is the first evidence of the name change and it is believed that our parish of Christ the King was the first church in the world to be so dedicated.

Although still not complete and having been in use for several months, Christ the King was formally dedicated three years and one day after groundbreaking on May 13, 1928. The church was designed to be wider than long and the sanctuary is triangular and positioned deep into the congregational seating. The altar is carved limestone and Emil Frei, Inc., designed the mosaic of Christ which is empanelled behind it. Tulsa architect Bruce Goff designed the mosaics at the two side altars. The stained glass windows designed by Alfonso Iannelli and produced by the Temple Art Glass Company of Chicago, are described in Liturgical Arts Magazine as ranking “among the best to be found in the United States.” These windows depict Kings who are canonized saints on the North side and those on the South are two kings of the Old Testament and the three Magi. Each king is portrayed offering his crown in homage to our King of kings.

 In the 1920’s, Christ the King Church was considered innovative and, to some, radical. A combination of Gothic, Byzantine and Art Deco architecture, the 550-person capacity church was a dream come true for Bishop Kelley, who envisioned Christ the King being both modern and authentic to Catholic worship.

Although this history is not a full account, we would be remiss not to mention Monsignor Daniel C. Fletcher. He is the longest tenured pastor at Christ the King, serving from December 1934 to his retirement in 1962. Upon arrival, Fletcher oversaw the completion of a new convent. In 1942, he celebrated his twenty-fifth ordination anniversary and was named a domestic prelate with the title Right Reverend Monsignor. He twice witnessed the division of the parish for the creation of Church of the Madalene and Church of St. Mary, and was instrumental in the idea of a regional Catholic High School. Bishop Kelley High School opened in 1960. At the time of his retirement, he had performed 717 baptisms and presided over 434 marriage ceremonies.

Vision ‘89: Since almost sixty years had passed since Christ the King’s last construction project and thirty-five years since the purchase of Fletcher Hall, it was apparent the facilities were in need of major improvements.  Under the leadership of Pastor Father Gregory Gier (1983-1996) and the Vision ’89 Committee, the parishioners of Christ the King made a significant commitment to upgrade the church and school facilities. On May 13, 1990, ground was broken on the building of a gymnasium, school library, cafeteria, and new Fletcher Hall. The old Fletcher Hall was razed to make room for a new playground, and the old blacktop playground became the site of the new gymnasium, auditorium, cafeteria, and school offices. Dedicated on April 18, 1991, the new parish center was designed to maintain the existing architectural integrity, yet meet the needs of a growing and vibrant parish for decades to come.

Legacy 2005: The dream of another major expansion to the parish of Christ the King became reality during Pastor Father Nguyen Tam’s tenure (2000-2011).  It included the addition of the Mary, Queen of Peace Chapel, construction of the new Marquette Early Childhood Development Center, and improvements to the boiler room for the benefit of the King’s Crew youth group.  Dedicated on November 27, 2007, the chapel complements the kings in the main church, as it is dedicated to Mary, our Queen. Five women, saints and beatified, are honored in the stained glass windows encompassing the altar.  Designed and engineered by parishioner Greg Ward and Cyntergy AEC, the chapel blends seamlessly with the original architecture. The shape of the chapel’s foundation, as well as the points and angles throughout, resembles a crown.

Over the last few years the parish has focused on the development of discipleship ministries to offer opportunities for parishioners to enter into a more personal encounter with the Lord. This includes the development of the parish Prayer Breakfasts, Mission Trips, Summer Spirituality Series, Speaker Series, Adult Faith Enrichment, and becoming a FOCUS Missionary pilot parish. In December 2014 the parish began its Centennial Campaign to create a porte-cochere entrance and to establish an adult faith enrichment center with renovation of Fletcher Hall.

Today the Parish of Christ the King flourishes through the generosity of our parishioners, dedication of our Clergy and staff and most of all, the blessings of “Our King and Queen” to whom our parish is dedicated.