EDMOND — Kathleen O’Meara Marks gets misty-eyed when she thinks of her 125-year connection to St. John the Baptist Catholic Church.
Marks, 73, said her family has attended the prominent church since it was founded in 1889 — with one of her maternal great-grandfathers traveling by train to Oklahoma Territory and the other one coming by covered wagon, both joining the Catholic parish.
Six generations of Marks’ family, including she and her daughter and grandchildren, have been linked to the historic church.
“Knowing that my family was here all those years ago just makes me feel good,” Marks said Thursday.
The vibrant history of Marks’ family, so intertwined with that of St. John’s, rose to the surface recently as the church prepares to celebrate its 125th anniversary.
The anniversary will be celebrated during a parishwide picnic Saturday at the church, and at an Anniversary Mass and Dinner on Tuesday, said Virginia Peters, a longtime parish member, church historian and anniversary committee chairman.
Peters said the church had fairly humble beginnings, starting with the families of four Catholic men who helped build the congregation’s first house of worship.
She and the Rev. Ray Ackerman, the church’s pastor, said the parish has flourished over the past 125 years to become the largest Catholic church in the state, with 3,180 families representing more than 10,000 parishioners.
Leading by faith
Peters said the parish’s first church building, on the southwest corner of First and Boulevard, had the distinction of being the first house of worship built in Oklahoma Territory. She said the small, one-room frame building with a bell tower and three windows on each side seated 150 people and cost $500 to build.
Peters, 79, said the building project was under the direction of the Rev. Nicholas F. Scallan, a priest who had previously served at a mission near Tucson, Ariz. The first Mass was held in the church on June 24, 1889, just 63 days after the Land Run.
Peters said the small church building quickly became the focal point of an ecumenical partnership.
She said the Catholic congregation met one Sunday a month in the building because its priest traveled to other parts of the territory. She said the congregation allowed the local Methodists, Presbyterian and Christian Church congregations to each meet in the building on the other three Sundays.
Peters wrote an extensive history of the church for its centennial. She wrote that although anti-Catholic bigotry reached its highest level in Oklahoma after World War I, such religious prejudice did not appear prevalent in Edmond.
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