By 11:40 a.m. on any given Sunday, she already is out the door.
Her five cats open an eye or flick a tail as she goes.
Mass begins at noon. If it's not raining and she feels good, Margarita Martinez crosses the street, her beige cane in hand, to the Riverside neighborhood church she has attended for 87 years.
“My faith is very important to me,” she said. “Being a Catholic has helped me, especially if I pray to the saints, especially Our Lady. We have a lot of devotion to Our Lady, the mother of God.”
Martinez, 94, joined Little Flower Church, the oldest Hispanic parish in Oklahoma City, in 1926.
Services began in the original chapel in 1922. Five years later, the larger, current Little Flower sanctuary opened at 1125 S Walker Ave.
By the numbers
Between 2000 and 2010, Oklahoma
Who are they?
The census defines Hispanic or Latino
Source: U.S. Census Bureau
For Martinez and more than 4,000 other worshippers, the church plays a central role in daily life.
Ask members of the Latino community in the area about the church, and they'll call it a touchstone of culture and community for Oklahoma City's booming Hispanic population
Mention Martinez and you will hear how she's the epitome of tradition and continuity in the church.
Jesus Lugo, 21, has grown up in the church and known Martinez all his life.
“In the Latino culture, we're bigger groups that are more close-knit than the general American ideal of what families are like,” said Lugo, the church's evening secretary. “Everybody knows everybody …. and if you're involved in the parish, you know Margarita.”
Church members look toward the altar in the Little Flower Church before Sunday Mass. It is the oldest Hispanic parish in Oklahoma City. Photo by K.T. KING, The Oklahoman
The Rev. Raul Reyes said his parishioners integrate Hispanic traditions into their new lives in Oklahoma City.
Most in his congregation speak Spanish and listen to music in Spanish. He has never been at a church where so many youths offer their confessions in Spanish.
“They are very strong in their culture,” Reyes said. “Latinos have a very strong sense of family, and their faith is something else.”
Many in the church view Martinez as their own grandmother. If they see her walking home after Mass, they greet her in Spanish and escort her across the street.
Martinez was born in Utah, the daughter of Mexican immigrants. Her devout Catholic family moved to Oklahoma City when she was 2.