The Catholic Faith in Muskogee
Where and how to start the story of the Catholic Faith in Muskogee? It’s involved. There is Father William Ketchum way back in Ft. Gibson and Indian Territory and a parish of 14,000 square miles and most of Eastern Oklahoma. The Church of the Assumption, our first parish, was started and built in Muskogee, first in Indian Territory (1891) and then again in the State of Oklahoma (1911). Complicated best describes how the parish of the Sacred Heart started in 1921, given the misunderstandings among the pastors and Bishop Meerschart. By 1950, its new Church, Rectory and Convent were ready for more than 40 years of service to the Catholic community. Complicated is the how and why of the parish of St. Augustine (1939), set aside to serve Muskogee’s African-American Catholics in another time that accepted segregation as a given. This was closed in 1969 as integration brought all of Muskogee’s Catholics together.
In 1981, “Catholic Ministries of Muskogee” brought together co-pastors Fathers Gregory A. Gier and Herman Foken and parish liturgies and ministries of education, pastoral councils, youth and service to the poor.
In August 1992, “St Joseph” became the new title of a single combined parish in a modern, beautiful sanctuary, commons and classrooms on a shared campus with St. Joseph School. A Parish Hall and Offices with more classrooms was added in 2007. A stand-alone Catholic Charities Center and Infant Supply Closet (2004) keep a presence on Muskogee’s Westside.
In 1976, Muskogee Catholics were joined by several dozen refugee families from Vietnam who resettled in our area. In the late 1980s, an increasing number of immigrants from Mexico led to a monthly bi-lingual English-Spanish Mass, which by the 1990s grew to a weekly Mass in Spanish and all the sacraments and cultural celebrations and now forms an integral part of our community.
Catholic education in Muskogee is as complicated as parish life. It meanders through Assumption School (1890-1896); Nazareth Institute and Academy for Girls (1896-1932); Sacred Heart Grade School (1921-1968); St. Joseph Preparatory School (1903-1955); St. Joseph Grade School (1964-present) which absorbed Sacred Heart School in 1968 and was for a while Muskogee Christian Learning Center. St. Joseph School is now an integral ministry of St. Joseph Church, serving students of all faiths, Pre-K-8th Grade.
Our story as a Catholic parish is complicated with more than a usual share of twists and turns, but above all and mostly resilient—a lot like Muskogee itself.
Church of the Assumption (540 S. 3rd) was returned to secular use in 1992 and sold to Muskogee Head Start; Sacred Heart Church, Residence and Convent (2310 W Broadway) was returned to secular use and sold to Monarch, a residence for recovery from alcohol and drugs; the former St. Augustine Church (5th-Denison) was sold, eventually torn down and built over as part of Arrowhead Mall.