Society of St. Pius X – Tulsa, Oklahoma

Posted by Joseph Ostermeir, the Okie Traditionalist, on Monday, August 28, 2017

Society of St. Pius X – Tulsa, Oklahoma

Society of St. Pius X – Tulsa.  Its current status, history, and hopes for the future. Why traditional Catholics of the Tulsa area should visit and benefit from Archbishop Lefebvre’s Priestly Society. Arguably as a paternal, centralizing force of the Traditional Movement, in the past and for the future.  Because of its impending Accord with the Vatican, and entrance into the diocesan structures.   This is the subject of the latest installment of yours truely, The Okie Traditionalist.
Preface:  much of the information presented here comes from senior founders of the Society’s Tulsa apostolate at different occasions at coffee and doughnuts, potlucks, and diners.

Right now a priest from St Mary’s, Kansas makes the arduous 10 hour Mass circuit drive to Oklahoma City and then to Tulsa to offer the unadulterated Roman rite of the Mass.  On the 2nd and 4th Sundays, at 3pm, preceeded by confession and rosary, the unambiguous Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is offered at Fitzgerald’s Funeral Home on Bolder Avenue just a few blocks from the Cathedral.  Yes, a funeral home, and yes just blocks from the Diocesan See.  The rented chapel looks like a beautiful, traditional Catholic church.  Afterwards, the faithful go for dinner with Father to discuss the Faith, society, and daily life.  Plans for a new church and hopes for growth, to include Mass every Sunday, remain.


Its 1969.  The new Mass is released and celebrated beyond even the intentions of the Council Fathers. Wanting to pass on their birthright–Catholic tradition–to their children, several families gathered together around the side altar in St. Rita’s Chapel at Cascia Hall Preparatory School, where an aged priest–Fr. Spellman, OA, who incidentally once was the Superior General of the Order of St. Augustine–still offered the traditional Mass.  Catechism groups were formed, and the group coalesced into a quasi-parish of sorts, that would remain so to the present day.

One of the core families to found and finance the Society Tulsa Mission was/still is, the Bell Family, who owner and operated the historic Bells Amusement Park. Another was the Ziegler family closely related to the owners of Ziegler’s Catholic Goods store.

After Fr. Spellman stopped saying the traditional Mass, in order to preserve Catholic tradition for their children, the parents were forced to go beyond the ordinary norms of canon law, and invite Society and independent priests to come to Tulsa.  A chapel was built in a family’s garage.  Eventually the group outgrew the garage chapel, and for some years rented hotel conference rooms for the Mass.  It was hard work to organize, to set up and take down, still under ostracization from the diocese.  They were left to fend for themselves.
Around 1980 the congegation still grew larger, so they purchased land in Broken Arrow and built a chapel using two mobile homes, with a small steeple.  I remember once attending this chapel when I was 7 or 8, and being impressed by the incense and ladies wearing chapel veils.  The Archbishop landed in Tulsa in 1982 and blessed this little place of worship.
Its now 1995.  The chapel is packed, and a fortunate opportunity presented itself.  A Protestant church in a west Tulsa neighborhood needed to downsize, so the two churches were switched without any $ exchange, except the need to Catholicize as much as possible the new, large church.  Before long the new location attracted at one time as many as 150 souls, with several homeschooling families organizing catechism classes, talent shows, and more elaborate liturgies.  I myself have perused through the chapel’s photo album chronicaling the pioneering years of this new phase of growth for the Society of St. Pius X-Tulsa.
I say SSPX-Tulsa, and not just the name of the chapel–St. John Fisher’s– because as the “sainted Archbishop” (so called by Pope Benedict XVI) intended in the Society’s Statutes which he wrote, the faithful are to be informally included in and under this Society of Apostolic Life, as “associate members.”  So the Tulsa chapel was not simply a group of traditionalists served by priests ordained by the Archbishop, but was a part of the international family of the Society that remains so today.
At some point the line on the graph turned steadily but slowly downward.  Why?  Some families moved to the practically traditional Catholic town of St. Mary’s, KS, providentially just a few hours north. Some were more comfortable with the canonical regularity of the Fraternity apostolate, which was attracting new members with the active support of the new Tulsa bishop, the very tradition-minded Bishop Edward Slattery.
Its now 2015.  The cost of repairing and maintaining the old church exceeds the smaller congregation, forced to sell the church to a nearby public school, and to rent space temporarily until a new church is built.  It is a sad turn of events, with a large Question Mark remaining for the future.
Hopes for the future:
Typically, the Society will keep sending priests even if the group becomes tiny.  And many in the group are young enough, that in the worst case scenario, it would probably not be shut down for decades if ever. I understand the money from the sale of the old church remains in savings.  And the Society will usually help financially to build a new church.  Many opportunities present themselves–relatively cheap Protestant churches for sale that can be converted, buying land and building smartly, etc.
Why you should visit.  Why we should support the survival of SSPX-Tulsa.
Yes St Peter and Paul still, for now, has a Sunday TLM, and the Fraternity now has it’s own church and an active parish life.  But here me out.
1. The SSPX is the main group to have maintained Catholic tradition.  Without ++Lefebvre, arguably there would be no more Latin Mass or a Traditional Movement.
2.  The FSSP and SSPX are like siamese twins separated surgically in 1988. They can reunite, if not under a Prelature, then through cooperation.  The two brothers can forgive and forget–though I admit that will take some time–but they really are very close to being the same entity.
3.  I’ve argued that an SSPX Prelature is practically a done deal, and would be a unifying force for trads who pray for Pope Francis at Mass.  The opportunities are boundless.
4.  There are boundless rich resources to be benefited from by associating your family, even if just partly, with the Archbishop’s Society–the clear, frank advise and counsel of the Society pastor, newsletters, websites, the Angelus Press, retreat centers, conferences, pilgrimages, summer camps, and on and on.
5.  There would be no Fraternity or diocesan TLM if it wasn’t for the SSPX.  This is generally the case across the board, world-wide, but I can demonstrate (albeit imperfectly) how the approved Tulsa TLMs, even the existence of Clear Creek monastery/convent, would not exist if it weren’t for the Society.
a) The pioneering founders of the Fraternity apostolate in Tulsa were original members of the Society chapel in Tulsa.  Trads who simply were not comfortable with the 88 consecrations.  Even it’s first pastor Fr. Jackson had much sympathy for the Society.
b) Fr. Tim Davison at one time was close friends with Fr. Jackson, FSSP learning directly about the Latin Mass from him, which he would later embrace.

c) The founding monks of Clear Creek in part chose to settle in the Tulsa Diocese because of the tradition-minded Bishop Slattery, whose retained love of the old Mass, and support of the Fraternity, arguably would not have been so public if it weren’t for the influence of the Society in pioneering and leading the Traditional Movement.

It makes you wonder, if it weren’t for those first few traditional families who first gathered around that side altar at Cascia Hall, would there be a Latin Mass community in Eastern Oklahoma like we have today?

I hope this latest blog post from my little niche of the blogosphere has moved you to consider one day visiting the Society of St. Pius X-Tulsa Chapel.  And looking into the future of Catholic tradition within eastern Oklahoma, I hope you can see how the presence of Society priests–just down the street from the Cathedral no less–might be one unifier for openly, unabashed traditional Roman Catholics.
Get AQ Email Updates

Leave a Reply