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Bedlam in the pulpit

The football allegiances of two pastors at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church make it a house of worship divided
BY JOHN HELSLEY, Staff Writer, Modified: November 26, 2010 at 12:07 pm •  Published: November 26, 2010

/articleid/3518142/1/pictures/1269226">Photo - Father Dan Letourneau wears OSU gear and Father John Metzinger wears his OU gear at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic School in Edmond Friday, Nov. 19, 2010. Photo by Doug Hoke, The Oklahoman.
Father Dan Letourneau wears OSU gear and Father John Metzinger wears his OU gear at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic School in Edmond Friday, Nov. 19, 2010. Photo by Doug Hoke, The Oklahoman.

An at-ease moment of sorts, before breaking into the lessons of scripture.

“People just sort of expect it when you do it for a while,” said Father John. “Of course, you try not to show too much favoritism, or people say, ‘Why don't you talk about my team?'

“It's not a sports report. If you want a sports report, you read the paper. But just a little comment.”

The playfulness of the priests has started something.

Fans of all schools, Cowboys and Sooners, but also Longhorns and Aggies and Cornhuskers and others, wear their own school's logo shirts and outerwear following big wins, particularly wins over OU and OSU.

“What's also been fun here is the Friday morning mass,” said Father Dan. “Everybody, if they want to, wears their college shirts. There's a couple of OSU gals who always sit in the first row, right in front of the pulpit.

“I've decided to let Father John say the mass and I'll wear my shirt and sit with them. We try to do the wave.”

Said Father John: “A couple of weeks ago, I anticipated them and I brought my sunglasses. And just before I started to preach I said, ‘I came prepared.' So I put on my sunglasses so I wouldn't be blinded by the orange.”

It's even opened new lines of communication between parishioners and priests.

“Here, the fun part is to kind of skirmish with the OSU fans, especially this year,” said Father John. “They've been doing a little more sparring, a little more trash talking than usual, anticipating a victory.

“We'll see.”

Would a priest return trash talk?

“I wouldn't put it that way, of course,” said Father John, before laughing a bit, “but I make an occasional remark.”

This is the week for it.

And there's some thought, with the Cowboys favored in the game, that this is the year for an OSU breakthrough.

Father John: “It may be hard to contain him if it happens this year.”

Father Dan: “It's in the bible, ‘The Lord is my shepherd, He leads me to still waters.' Psalm 23. Not our bible, but… Should be on a t-shirt.”

Father Long has been a godsend to St. John's, not only in helping to serve a large parish, but in filling gaps in Saturday schedules, like when two certain teams may be taking the field.

Serving the people comes first, of course.

“I've had people come to confession,” said Father Dan, “and say, ‘Well, Father, they're up by seven.'”

Still, when time allows, the Bedlam priests get out to see their squads.

They've watched the Bedlam game together – once – driving to Stillwater for the 2008 game, a 61-41 Sooner win.

Neither has tickets for this week's game, but if a pair might happen to fall their way…

“I'll be up there in a second,” said Father Dan.

“Oh, yeah,” said Father John.

Father Dan figures he'll go anyway, to tailgate parishioners who favor orange and maybe luck into a ticket.

After all, for a change, the vibes are good concerning the Cowboys.

They've got a better record. They're ranked higher. The game is in Stillwater.

“People have said, ‘Boy, Father Dan is wearing his orange everywhere,'” said Father John. “I said, ‘Well, you have to understand, for OSU fans, this kind of year doesn't come along very often. We've had these years before, but for OSU fans, this is a big deal.'”

Smiles are exchanged across the table as he fires off one more subtle Bedlam jab. For both, clearly it's all in good fun.

When it comes to gifts, they frequently go for items of one another's favorite team.

Father John has given OSU jackets and sweatshirts; Father Dan has given books and framed pictures celebrating the Sooners.

“We enjoy it,” said Father John. “Father Dan and I, at least as far as I know, we get along pretty well.

“The reality is, while we both have our teams, and we're much happier when they win than when they lose, life does go on. It is just college football. But it's a lot of fun.”

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