The Madison Avenue jingle “You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby!” is an apt slogan for St. Anne’s Parish. This slogan describes not only the growth of the parish, but even the distance which the buildings themselves traveled as they were moved from one location to another.
1973 marks the 25th anniversary of the Capuchin Fathers and Brothers in Broken Arrow. Certainly this is an appropriate time to put the history of the parish down on paper for posterity.
Away We Go
The very beginning of St. Anne’s history lies not in Broken Arrow, but in Kiefer, Oklahoma. A small wooden frame church was built in that oil boom town. One of the altar boys who served in it was Victor Reed, who later became the Bishop of the Diocese. But the oil wells soon went dry, and the little white church was left almost deserted. So in 1932, Bishop Kelley had it moved to Jenks, at 101st Street and Yale Avenue.
The plan to develop a parish at Jenks never materialized either, and the little white church was picked up and moved again, this time in 1936, to Broken Arrow. It was cut into sections, moved ten miles, re-assembled, and given a vestibule and stone facing on its present site on South 9th Street (Lynn Lane) at East Dallas. The parish in 1936 consisted of fifteen parishioners.
Prior to 1936, the spiritual needs of the people were tended occasionally by the priests from Tulsa. One of them, Msgr. Heiring, recalled how he traveled “across the prairie” from Tulsa to Broken Arrow. The Middletons came to Broken Arrow in 1903 in a pony-drawn surry with a fringe on top, and offered their home for Divine Services for the three Catholic families. Today, this first Catholic sanctuary houses the Broken Arrow Ledger.
In 1936, Fr. Griffin serviced the Catholic community of Broken Arrow from Tulsa and conducted religious education classes with the help of Mrs. Morrow, in the Connery home. The same Fr. Griffin was appointed pastor after the church building was brought to Broken Arrow in 1936. Parishioners at Holy Family in Tulsa were especially generous in supporting the new parish by holding a turkey dinner and bazaar and in coming to Broken Arrow for picnics and cake and ice cream parties.
Two acres of farmland, outside of the city limits, were donated to the church by the Connery family. Fr. Robert recalls that as late as 1954, there were no homes at all east of S. 3rd St. Cattle grazed where the church now stands. But a diminutive and poor parish couldn’t afford to refuse a gift.
The move of the church building from Jenks to Broken Arrow was paid for by a contribution of $2,500 from the Catholic Extension Society, as a memorial to Mrs. Anna Maloney. She requested that the church to be helped by her be named in honor of St. Anne. Hence the name of this parish. The cornerstone was laid by Bishop Kelley in 1937. In 1938, the Knights of Columbus in Tulsa contributed to the support of the parish with their money and especially by their work. Also, the Youth Group of the Diocese helped by working for the parish.
Apart from the church, Fr. Griffin’s total assets consisted of one empty field. So he bought a four-room ramshackle frame farmhouse for $200 to serve as his rectory. He had it moved to the church property and located it next to the church, under the native elm tree which still stands immediately to the south of the little church.
In the beginning, the parish limits included Broken Arrow and extended southeast to Haskell and Porter, to the southwest to Bixby, Leonard, Liberty Mounds and Jenks, to the east to Coweta, and to the north as far as Catoosa and Collinsville. The first entry in the baptismal ledger was Emil Voleskey, on December 5, 1936.
The parish was poor, but the rectory was squalid. It had no indoor plumbing. An outhouse was well hidden in the high weeds 150 yards away. The only omens Father Griffin saw in all of this were bad, so he joined the army as a chaplain in 1939, and the parish reverted to its mission status, covered again by the diocesan clergy in Tulsa. Father McNamee came to Broken Arrow once a month.
The spirit of ecumenism was quite unknown in those days. Bigotry was rampant. The Felician nuns, who taught at St. Anne’s School, noted on page 1 of their Chronicle: “The beginnings were very difficult, because Broken Arrow was the center of the fanatical KKK. Publicly, no Catholic was known or tolerated.” The Broken Arrow Ledger unashamedly ran articles which viciously attacked the church. Some teenagers today still recount how their friends were not allowed to play with them because they were “papists.” All of this was another factor which contributed to Fr. Griffin’s disenchantment with the parish and led to his almost immediate resignation as pastor.
It was not until the presidency of John F. Kennedy in 1960 that this tide changed. Today, there is still widespread ignorance of what the Catholic Faith is all about, but religious discrimination or hostility is almost unheard of. In fact, the tide of discrimination has changed so radically that in 1967 Fr. Robert was elected as the Secretary-Treasurer of the Ministerial Alliance. When Fr. John Schug came to Broken Arrow, he was elected by the Ministers to succeed Fr. Robert.
A New Dawn
The status of St. Anne’s as a mission of Holy Family in Tulsa was maintained until 1948. Then it was entrusted to the Capuchin Order, in the person of Fr. Alexius Lechanski. This Polish-born Capuchin had been a prisoner in the Nazi concentration camp at Dachau during World War II. After the war, he and his fellow Capuchins were not able to return to Poland because of that country’s occupation by the Communists. Therefore, the General Superiors in Rome asked him to come to the United States with a view to expanding the Capuchin Order in the southwest. Subsequently, this commission was restricted to the State of Oklahoma.
When Fr. Alexius arrived in the U.S. in 1948, he visited St. John’s Capuchin Friary, on 31st Street, in New York City. There, he met two men. One was Bishop Apollinaris Baumgartner, the Capuchin Bishop of Guam. The other was Bishop Eugene J. McGuinness, a close friend of Bishop Baumgartner. Bishop McGuinness was the Bishop of the Diocese of Oklahoma City-Tulsa. He pressed Fr. Alexius to accept one of the three parishes: St. Anne’s, in Broken Arrow, or Our Lady of Sorrows, in Chandler, or St. Mark’s in Pryor. At the recommendation of the late Msgr. Fletcher, Fr. Alexius accepted St. Anne’s and assumed the role of pastor in Autumn, 1948.
This was not the first invitation extended to the Capuchins to come to Oklahoma. In 1935, Bishop Kelley invited the Provincial of the St. Augustine Province to accept a foundation here. But the Provincial judged that parish life in Oklahoma at that time was not compatible with the Capuchin-Franciscan way of life.
Although Fr. Alexius was pastor, he decided to have his residence at Christ the King Rectory, in Tulsa. He chose that because Fr. Griffin’s itinerant rectory was, as he labeled it, “a ramshackle haunted house.” He came weekends to Broken Arrow for Mass. Finally, in December 1948, he moved to Broken Arrow.
A word on the Capuchin Order would be appropriate here. The Capuchins are a branch of the Franciscan Order. With their headquarters in Rome these 16,000 priests and Brothers form the fifth largest Order in the world. They were established in 1525 as a reform of the Franciscan Order, to restore the original strict observance of the Rule of St. Francis of Assisi, written in 1209.
Nineteen Capuchin priests and Brothers have been declared saints or Blessed. A Capuchin priest, St. Lawrence of Brindidi, was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope John XXIII.
In the Capuchin Order there are 996 Provinces, or territorial jurisdictions, around the world. In the U.S., there are seven Capuchin Provinces from coast to coast, including the Providence of St. Stanislaus, which staffs St. Anne’s. A dozen more Capuchin priests and Brothers of this Province work among the Polish-speaking people of New Jersey and New York. The motherhouse of the Province is
in Warsaw, Poland.
In 1949, four Capuchins joined Fr. Alexius in Broken Arrow: Fr. Hyacinth Dabrowski, his brother Fr. Robert Dabrowski, Fr. Wenceslaus Karas, and Fr. Raphael Nienaltowski. In the course of the years they were joined or replaced by Fr. Patrick Joseph Wdowiak, Fr. Bonaventure Stadnik, Fr. John Salwowski, Fr. Zachary Ruszhowski, Br. Joseph Dudziec, Br. Stanley Kolowski, Fr. Pius Janowski, Fr. Sigmund Klimowicz, Fr. Gregory Gongol, Fr. Benedict Drozdowski, Fr. Francis Majewski, Br. Anthony Romaniuk, Fr. James Meszaros, Fr. John Schug, Br. Richard Van Tine and Br. Michael Roselle.
Aerial View 1949
During World War II, all of them, except the last four mentioned above, were imprisoned in the Nazi concentration camps of Dachau or Auschwitz. They witnessed the extermination of six million Jews, which is commonly known. Not so commonly known is the torture and starvation of 2,798 Catholic priests, who were also the target of Nazi bestiality. It is significant that the Capuchins were liberated from Dachau by the 45th Division of General Patton’s U.S. 7th Army, comprised of men from Oklahoma.
The corporate contribution made to St. Anne’s by this nucleus of immigrant Capuchins staggers the imagination. This contribution can be measured, to a small degree, in terms of money, but only God and the few remaining charter members of the parish can attest to their zeal, their spirituality, and their perennial optimism. It is to their credit before God and man that they could maintain such a spirit in spite of what they had gone through in the concentration camps.
In terms of dollars, parish records show that in 1939 the assessed valuation of the property was $4,500. Today it is $665,000. Of this figure, well over $270,000 was contributed by the Capuchins.
How did that small band of immigrant priests and Brothers put that much money together? Fr. Robert simply says: “We lived sparingly.” He might have said that these Capuchins built and repaired and cleaned the buildings. They tended the grounds and drove the school bus. Their self imposed diet was not much better than that of Dachau, except in quantity. They deprived themselves of legitimate creature comforts and first lived in Fr. Griffin’s “haunted house.” From there they moved into a rat-infested barn. From there they moved into another ramshackle house which had no heat, where they lived for two years. They built buildings, they lifted loads, they graded roads, all without the help of any mechanical equipment. To say “we lived sparingly” indeed is the understatement of the year.
All the while, they maintained a full program of parish services and organized parish societies, receiving no salary or stipend. The priests raised money by carrying a crushing schedule of preaching assignments outside of St. Anne Parish. They conducted novenas and missions and preached retreats and gave conferences to nuns.
They worked from Oklahoma to Canada, and from Texas to New York, sending their stipends to their first love, St. Anne’s Parish. Fr. Raphael preached from Ponca City to Dallas and Fort Worth. Fr. Hyacinth traveled as far as Camden, N.J. Fr. Robert conducted “The Ave Maria” radio program over station WLIB, in New York.
Another source of income was the indemnity checks which they received from the German government for having been used as guinea pigs during the war. The Capuchins turned over all this money, too, for the development of the parish, with no strings attached. We may say that the parish was built with the price of their blood.
Before the Dallas - Fort Worth Diocese was divided, Bishop Gorman pressed the Oklahoma Capuchins to accept a foundation in his diocese. But they refused. Their first and only loyalty was to St. Anne’s. But let us return to our chronicle.
When Fr. Alexius arrived in Broken Arrow in the fall of 1948, he found parish facilities which included a run-down, simple little church building on two acres of unkept land, and a rectory without plumbing, without electricity, and without windows, all hidden under a huge tree. “The birds of heaven lived not only in the tree outside of the house,” remarked Fr. Robert. “They even nested behind the altar in the church.”
To begin his work, Fr. Alexius asked for and immediately obtained the vigorous response of the Knights of Columbus in Tulsa, and the Youth Activity Group of the Diocese. They and many other friends in Tulsa donated and installed a stove in the rectory and made the necessary physical repairs to the rectory and the church, and the five Capuchins move into their new home.
While this work was going on, the Capuchins set about restoring the church to its dignity as a place of worship and the grounds as a place of beauty.
Fr. Alexius continued as superior of the Capuchin community and pastor of the parish until August 1950. Then Fr. Robert was appointed by Rome until August 1950. Then Fr. Robert was appointed by Rome as the superior of all the Polish Capuchins in the United States. This obligation, plus the radio and parish work to which was committed on the east coast, prevented him from accepting the appointment as pastor immediately. Therefore, upon his request, Fr. Alexius continued on at St. Anne’s as acting pastor until Christmas 1950. Fr. Alexius in turn was succeeded by Fr. Raphael, who was acting pastor from January 1951 until his transfer to New Jersey in May 1953.
St. Anne School
From the beginning, the Capuchins outlined a master plan for the future development of the parish. First on the agenda was the constitution of a school, to safeguard and promote the Faith in this State of the Bible belt where Catholics are outnumbered twenty to one.
Plans for the construction of the school were drawn up by a local architect, Mr. Olston, in 1951. In 1952, Fr. Robert purchased seven acres of land from the Connery family, and the Fathers and Brothers themselves began the construction of a four-room grade school. This original grade school now houses our kindergarten, pre-school and day nursery, library, and kitchenette.
For this construction, the parishioners pledged $10,000, and the Capuchins pledged $40,000. However, the parishioners paid only $5,000 of their pledge, including a $1,000 grant from the J.E. Mabee Foundation, so the Capuchins assumed their balance of $5,000, in addition to their own $40,000 share. These funds furnished by the Capuchins were specified by Bishop McGuinness as an interest-free loan from the Capuchins to the parish, to be repaid in the future.
In the fall of 1952, Fr. John Salwowski, Capuchin, came from Poland, having just completed his studies in Rome and research assignments in UNRRA camps. In May 1953, he was appointed pastor. He was succeeded by Fr. Hyacinth Dabrowski. Fr. Hyacinth was reluctant to leave New Jersey “for the isolation of the wilderness of Oklahoma,” but his prejudice quickly disappeared when he experienced the warm and immediate welcome by the parishioners.
With the furnishings and equipment paid for by the Capuchins, the total cost of the school came to about $60,000. The doors opened in September 1954, with 28 pupils, 11 of whom were non-Catholics. School was taught by two Felician Sisters. There were five grades, plus Kindergarten. By January, the grade school enrollment had increased to 33. The total Catholic population of the parish in 1954, including children and adults, was 180.
The Felician Sisters have always had a tender spot in their hearts for the Capuchins, having been founded in 1855 by a Capuchin in Poland. When they were expelled from Poland by the Czar, they came to America in 1874 and established their international headquarters in Ponca City, Oklahoma, in 1948.
Fr. Robert was instrumental in obtaining their services, through his meetings in Ponca City with the Superior General, Mother Felicitas. In spite of the severe demands on their personnel, the Felician Sisters accepted the offer of the Capuchin Fathers.
Between 1954 and 1956, there were no living quarters for the Sisters on the premises. They stayed at St. Mary’s convent, in Tulsa. They commuted daily in the Ford bought by the Capuchins for $1,200, and they picked up the school children en route to Broken Arrow. Each Sister received a salary of $50 a month.
As humble as the facilities of the parish were in its embryo days, everyone always thought of ways to be of service to the entire Tulsa area. In September 1954, because St. Mary’s School in Tulsa was not yet completed, Fr. Hyacinth offered the pastor, Fr. Frederick Beckerle, the use of two classrooms at St. Anne’s. For more than two months a bus was chartered for the children and their teachers, the Felician Sisters, and they commuted daily to Broken Arrow, a distance of fourteen miles.
Both newcomers and old-timers alike may appreciate the impressions of the Felician Sisters from this era, which they recorded in their Chronicle:
“Bouncing over country roads en route to and from St. Anne’s, the teachers observed a country side devoid of scenic interest. Broken Arrow was a small town sprawled out in a low flat country with a rather dull unvaried appearance. The Felician teachers found few Catholics in the vicinity of their school, perhaps because in former days Broken Arrow had been the scene of frequent Ku Klux Klan activities.
A four-room school of contemporary design, built in 1954 on a treeless prairie provided a pleasant setting for the education of St. Anne’s children and the teachers, who had come from Ponca City to work with them. Near the school stood the quaint church of St. Anne -- seating capacity 96 -- starkly reminiscent of the struggling mission days of Oklahoma.”
The lifeline of the school was the bus transportation system. Fr. Alexius, Fr. Robert, and Br. Stanley kept this lifeline open, by purchasing several vehicles in the course of the years at a total of over $5,000. The Capuchins also drove the buses, running a round trip of 92 miles every day, traveling as far as Catoosa to the north and Jenks to the south.
In 1955, the beginning of the school’s second year, the enrollment increased to 52 students. Sr. Victima taught grades 1-2, plus kindergarten. Sr. Lydia taught Grades 3-4-5-6-7. The cafeteria was opened also in 1955.
The third Sister (Sr. Gerard) was added to the school faculty in August 1952. That year began on September 4, with 72 students, and grade 8 was added. At the end of the year, St. Anne’s graduated its first students from grade 8, and presented diplomas to one girl and two boys.
Buildings Again On The Move
The commitment of the Capuchin Fathers and Brothers to the parish, through their purchases of land and construction of a school, proved that the parish was alive and healthy.
In early 1955, Fr. Hyacinth, acting in Fr. Robert’s name, bought the rest of the Connery farm, a tract of eleven acres, for $25,000, to the northeast of the original property. On this property, were two buildings, a home and a barn with an apartment in it. The Connery sons wanted to sell only a part of the property, but Fr. Hyacinth told them: “Either you sell everything, or we Capuchins will relocate the parish in another part of Broken Arrow, because in the future we will be forced to buy the same property for an enormous sum.” They sold the entire eleven acres.
In April 1956, Fr. Robert came to Broken Arrow to assume his role actively as pastor. Following what seems to be the tradition of having “buildings on the move in a parish on the move” he moved the garage built by Fr. Alexius and attached it to the east end of the little church. Before attaching the garage, however, he built a sacristy as a connection between the garage and the little church. In the garage he furnished two private rooms, a little chapel and a bath. The resulting apartment became the Sisters’ convent.
The Chronicle kept by the Felician Sisters gives us a peek into their facilities and their spirit. “Sr. Lydia marvelously transformed a hall of learning into comfy living quarters -- a dormitory, a refectory, a kitchen, and a colossally modern shower room with something not even Angela Hall can claim -- a Sears and Roebuck portable bathtub.
The new thrust in parish improvements also occasioned the renovation of the interior of the little church. With the help of Brother Joseph Dudziec, who was builder, carpenter, electrician and bricklayer, Fr. Robert replaced the old celeton walls of the church which were falling down. From Italy he imported a marble altar, with a mosaic front panel, the first mosaic, we believe, in Broken Arrow. They laid a new floor, reinforced the rafters and walls, rebuilt the ceiling and roof, and replaced the windows.
On the east wall of the sanctuary, Fr. Patrick painted a panoramic scene of the Crucifixion. This 15’ x 15’ picture is executed in oil in a combination of mural and canvas painting. The materials for the renovation of the convent and chapel cost about $10,000. The physical work was the Capuchins’ labor of love.
In August 1956, the Capuchins moved from Fr. Griffin’s haunted house into the apartment in the Connery barn. There they lived in the rat-infested apartment, for several months. They could not move into the home on the same property because the Vogt family lived there at the time. Fr. Griffin’s home was taken over by the Felician Sisters as their convent.
In the late fall of 1956, Fr. Robert bought the remaining ten acres from Mr. Phillips, which stood adjacent to the Connery property, at a cost of $18,000. This property extended along S. 9th Street. The purchase included a home, which Fr. Robert and his cohorts fixed up for $500. They bought a gas range, a refrigerator, and some furniture, but the home had no adequate heat. The rooms were small, and the whole building was infested with rats. The Capuchins moved into this home, and there they lived for two years. On many a cold Oklahoma night, they woke up to see frost on their blankets. Or they might not have slept at all, kept awake at night by the rats gnawing and crunching on the floors.
When Fr. Myles, from the St. Augustine Province, visited them, he commented: “I don’t know how you can bear these living conditions for so many years. It is the height of poverty.” Fr. Robert answered him: “Father, I have more joy here than in any house of your province. Here I am free. Here I can work. Here I can have initiative. Here our spirit can be more creative than in any other house of the Order.
Two more major projects remained to bring the parish to its present status. One was the trade of four and one-half acres with the Vogt family in exchange for ten acres to the southwest of the church. This deal enabled the Capuchins to square off their property along S. 9th Street as far as 81st Street. Subsequently, the Vogts sold a parcel of this land to the builder of Lynn Dale Apartments and another parcel to Quick Trip, both on S. 9th Street.
The remaining major contribution of the Capuchins to the parish was the construction of a new rectory. In 1959, their new home was designed by Fr. Robert, and Murray-Jones-Murray were chosen as architects. At the time they were not big names, but later they were to achieve their glory by being selected as architects for the Tulsa International Airport and the Tulsa Civic Center. The Capuchins moved into their new home in June 1960.
Their new home has a present evaluation of approximately $130,000, including the property, the building itself, and the furnishings. The entire expense of this operation was borne by the Capuchins. The construction of such a building was a spectacular move which showed the whole city of Broken Arrow not only that St. Anne’s Parish was willing and anxious to grow with the City rather than be separationist and obstructionist, as many feared; but also it was an emphatic Amen of the Capuchin Fathers and Brothers, showing that they were here to stay.
The home of the Capuchins has ten 10’ x 10’ plain unadorned closet less rooms, with a clothes pole, a few shelves, and a sink. The rooms are bright and have an artistically matched color scheme. These rooms can be used as bedrooms, or they can serve a dual purpose of small private studies. One room has been set aside for possible development into an infirmary. The other rooms of the house include a kitchen, dining room library (which doubles for a community room), a laundry, tailor shop, lavatory and shower, a mechanical room and a guest room.
The rooms on the north side of the building are another contribution of the Capuchins to the operation of the parish: a foyer, two conference rooms, two offices, a work room, and a lavatory.
The hub of every Capuchin house is the chapel. St. Anne’s friary has a chapel-in-the-round, beautiful in its simplicity, with a skylight which floods the chapel with natural sunlight, and with a sanctuary light indicative of an Eternal Flame of the abiding Presence of God.
Fr. Robert Dawbrowski and Fr. Shug
As small as the Capuchin community is, they gather in the Chapel every morning, noon and evening for prayers in common and the chanting of the Divine Office, meditation, and for Mass on Thursday morning, when the Blessed Sacrament is renewed on the altar. Also, the chapel is used when a place of religious decorum is needed by parishioners without the notoriety of a more public place, e.g. when a marriage is convalidated.
An American flag proudly flies in front of the Capuchin Friary every day from the 40-foot flagpole erected in 1968 by Fr. Robert. The pole, together with the construction of a protective brick wall along S. 9th Street, were paid for by the Capuchins in the amount of over $4,000. The American flag testifies to the pride of the Polish Capuchins in their acquired U.S. citizenship.
The design and the size of a Capuchin residence of this magnitude shows the foresight of Fr. Robert, its planner. He envisions the expansion of the Capuchin Order, not only in Broken Arrow as the parish develops, but throughout the entire state. Possibly St. Anne’s will serve in the future as a springboard for personnel engaged in apostolic activities in the Greater Tulsa area. Possibly St. Anne’s will become a motherhouse, the first among a host of Capuchin bases throughout the State and indeed throughout the entire southwest, with Capuchin priests and Brothers engaged in work which has led them to be dubbed “The Marines of the Church.”
When the Capuchins moved into their new home in 1960, the original Phillips house in which they were living was taken over by the kindergarten until 1967. Then it was sold for $200 and moved to Coweta.
During the 1959-1960 school year, Fr. Robert expanded and improved the kindergarten. With the addition of an eighth grade in the school, another room became necessary, so the kindergarten was move to the former Phillips house. The physical work in the conversion of that house into a kindergarten was done by Bill Little and Br. Stanley and Fr. Robert, at a cost of $450 for materials, paid for by the parish. No remuneration was taken for the labor.
Sr. Laurentana was the principal and teacher of grades 6-7-8. Sr. Symphorosa was organist and taught Grades 3-4-5, and Sr. Victima taught grades 1-2. Miss Felicia Miron began her tenure as kindergarten teacher in full day sessions and remained as teacher until 1972. Enrollment in the grade school stood at 91. Books for the library were purchased gradually. When Title II funds became available from the federal government, a professional librarian, Br. Angelo, was invited to organize it. Again Fr. Robert stepped in with the necessary funds ($950) for furniture and accessories.
St. Anne's School
During the 1964-65 school year, grades 7-8 had to be eliminated. Part of the reason was financial, and part was personnel. Many parents objected to the overburdening of the Sisters who had to teach three grades each. With the elimination of grades 7-8, their burden was reduced to double grades only, with Sr. Deofilia teaching grades 5-6, and functioning as principal. Sr. Carmella taught grades 3-4, Sr. Clementia taught grades 1-2. Enrollment in the school stood at 113, including the children in the kindergarten taught by Miss Miron.
In 1966 a nursery and day-care center was opened in the kindergarten building. Although it used the name of St. Anne, it was privately operated by Mrs. Frank Youngblood. It was later operated by Mrs. Treva McVay and Mrs. Paul Harsen, it cared for 25 children.
In the autumn of 1964, a building program was discussed by Fr. Wenceslaus and his parishioners. There were 389 parishioners at the time, but the little church could seat only 80. A building committee was established to make plans for the construction of a parish hall and grammar school. They surveyed their current and future financial resources. At the time the parish was operating on a $21,000 budget. They discussed their plans with Bishop Reed, the Diocesan Building Commission, at the Tulsa Metropolitan Planning Commission, and an independent engineering firm. The consensus of all parties to this study was to “Go” on the project.
In the fall of 1964, the parishioners present at the meeting voted to accept the recommendation of the building commission. This was to be the first building project or major financial commitment made by the parishioners themselves. The parish was beginning to come of age.
Aerial View 1963
The plans for this new construction proceeded without any special incident until December 28, 1964, when a fire gutted the convent. We have the details from the Chronicle of the Felician Sisters:
“December 28, 1964. This was an eventful day here at St. Anne’s. At about 4:00 p.m., Sr. M. Deofilia was praying in the chapel, when all of a sudden she thought she had a vision through the chapel window, as the colored window showed unusual changing colors. Sister opened the window, and lo and behold, the convent was on fire. She called excitedly to Sr. M. Carmella, who was in the church sacristy, that the house was on fire and ran to call the fire department. Three fire trucks came very quickly and controlled the fire, as much as possible, in spite of a strong wind that afternoon. Much damage was done to the building, but little or none to the Sisters’ personal things or to other convent equipment. Many of the parishioners came to help, to offer lodging and food.”
The Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother immediately extended their hospitality to the Felician Sisters, inviting them to live at their Motherhouse on Lynn Lane and 51st Street. Although the insurance company awarded the parish $1,700 for the fire, Fr. Wenceslaus and the building committee decided to add a new convent to their original plan.
During this time, Fr. Robert was in New York. When he returned to Broken Arrow, he recommended that the building program be restricted to a parish hall, to the exclusion of a new school. He was not convinced that the Greater Tulsa Area would develop as quickly as the committee anticipated. But when he met with Bishop Reed, in February 1965, along with Fr. Wencaslaus, the Bishop insisted that the new school and convent be included. He said: “Father, we must go ahead and make this plan work, because statistics prove that Broken Arrow is developing. In the beginning it will be hard, but we must meet the challenge. In a few years it will be no problem to finance the project.” Fr. Robert asked the Bishop: “Will you help if we cannot finance the project Bishop replied: “Yes, I will.”
For the record, it might be of interest to note the building committee reckoned on the future development of Broken Arrow. They projected the following population figures:
An estimated 3% of the population was Catholic. This figure was judged to be conservative. But based on it, the committee calculated the following figures for Catholic families:
1965 - 132 families
1970 - 153 families
1975 - 225 families
1980 - 350 families
On December 13, 1964, twenty-seven men of the parish met at St. Anne’s School. After filling in their own intention cards, they set out to contact the other families of the parish. They received a cordial reception, and they returned with a total pledge of $8,280, representing participation by 78% of the parishioners.
Ground was broken on Feb. 28, 1965, and the new school began to rise. It included six classrooms, a faculty lounge, and an administration office.
As theretofore, the Felician Sisters staffed the school, with each Sister teaching double grades. Sr. Deofilia was principal and taught Grades 5-6. Sr. Carmella taught Grades 3-4, Sr. Michaeline taught Grades 1-2. Again, Miss Miron taught kindergarten. Enrollment increased to 121, including kindergarten children. The new cafeteria began operation in the parish hall, serving hot meals to the children.
The new school was dedicated by Bishop Reed on April, 1966. After blessing the buildings, he confirmed 40 children.
In 1965 Fr. Robert rounded off the building program by a personal contribution of $14,500 for a new garage and workshop.
New Blood On The Parish Staff
In May 1969, the first American-born priest for the Province of St. Stanislaus was ordained. He was Fr. James Meszaros, from South Amboy, N.J. Immediately after his ordination; he was assigned to St. Anne’s as Associate Pastor. He remained until June 1971, when he was transferred to a parish in New Jersey.
In September 1969 another Capuchin priest joined the parish staff. He is Fr. John Schug, from Yonkers, N.Y. When Fr. Robert first came to the U.S., Fr. John, a seminarian at the time, coached him in English. In 1969 Fr. John transferred from York Province to this numerically small parish, with a view to lending a helping hand.
The story of the parish would not be complete without reference to an incident involving a little non-Catholic Black and Indian girl. In 1957, she was enrolled in St. Anne’s kindergarten. In her class was a boy, the only Catholic among eleven other non-Catholic children. The boy’s father, a non-Catholic, influenced by his own up-bringing in Alabama, vehemently objected to the school accepting the girl’s ‘enrollment. “This is a private school,” he protested to Fr. Robert, “and we can accept or turn away anyone we wish.”
The boy’s father tried to promote a boycott of the school by the parents of the other children, but they gave him a cold reception. “The answer of those non-Catholic parents,” commented Fr. Robert, “was more Christian than that of some Catholics I know.”
Undaunted, the man continued to wage his segregation battle and succeeded in persuading a delegation of parishioners to demand that Fr. Robert expel the girl from the school. “Either she goes or we go.”
Fr. Robert answered them: “I have never met a Negro until I came to America. I learned about them only in school. But for me to discriminate against them would be inhuman. My human feelings my natural human ethics, demand that I must respect every human being. To refuse to accept anyone would be inhuman and degrading for me. Even if I were not a Christian, I could never exclude another human being from our parish or our school.”
Perhaps haunted by the specter of Dachau, he continued: I am a Christian. My conscience compels me to have this attitude because all men were created equal. The Bible, especially the New Testament, demands that we must love all people, regardless of the color of their skin, and not only to tolerate them. Love means more than toleration. Therefore, if I turn away that man’s child from the school, if I refuse to teach her catechism and then baptize her as I was asked, it would be a crime, really, against that little girl, and a revolt against Christ himself. In other words, I would be committing a serious moral crime, a mortal sin.”
In recalling the incident, Fr. Robert said: “They had no answer to that. They could only say: Sorry, we were brought up another way, and our way is different from yours.”
Seeing their consternation, Fr. Robert seized the initiative and “If all our parishioners revolt and leave the congregation, and only that little girl remains with us, that one girl would be the one, true, Catholic Church in Broken Arrow -- she and I. The Pharisees can leave. That is the only way it can be.” The girl stayed. The delegation went home.
But the man who kicked up the interracial dust did not let the matter drop. Using the “good services” of an influential friend, he denounced Fr. Robert to his brother, Fr. Hyacinth. Distorting the facts for his own purposes, he told Fr. Hyacinth:
“Fr. Robert has been asked to keep a Negro in our school. He is causing the disintegration of the parish. He has accepted a Negro, one Black child. Why? Why is he stirring up the feelings and the anger of the whole parish?”
Fr. Hyacinth answered in his Voltairian style: “Well, if what you say is true. Fr. Robert’s action will be divisive for awhile. I don’t know if I would have the courage to do that. But what-ever way Fr. Robert acted, he acted as a Christian, and I can’t say anything against that.” The case was closed.
We may add to this chapter a footnote on a proposal which was put to our Parish Council (and to all the Parish Councils of the Tulsa Area) requesting that we help solve the integration and educational problems of North Tulsa by busing our students to school in Tulsa and busing Black children to our school.
In response, both our School Board and the Parish Council unanimously agreed to maintain St. Anne’s as an integrated school and to welcome as many Black children as we are able.
The parish was split in 1980, and the Church of St. Benedict was formed. It was decided at that time that St. Anne’s school would be sponsored by both St. Benedict’s and St. Anne’s parishes; therefore, the name was changed to All Saints School. Fr. Casimir Milewski became pastor of St. Anne’s in 1980, and he presided over the construction of a new church building. Bishop Beltran dedicated the new church on December 10, 1982. The current sanctuary with its large stained glass windows was completed in 1983.
In 1987, in honor of the parish’s fiftieth anniversary, Fr. Norbert Karava, pastor from 1986-1995, had a bell tower constructed where the old church once stood. The bells themselves were cast in Mexico. Fr. Norbert was also responsible for the installation of the fountain located in front of the parish hall. He is currently serving as a Chaplin with the U.S. Navy in Afghanistan.
The parish said goodbye to the Capuchins in 1996 and the Bishop began to assign pastors. Fr. Robert and Fr. Wenceslas remained in residence at the friary, however, until their deaths in 1996 and 1994 respectively. Fr. Maurice O’Connell was chosen as the new pastor but died after only one year in office.
The church maintained its international connections in 1996, with the appointment of Fr. Dovan Nguyen, a former Vietnamese refugee. Under the direction of Fr. Dovan, the Prime Timers of the parish initiated the construction of The Via Dolorosa, which is an outdoor Stations of the Cross. This group of seniors supplied the labor for this project, which had been a dream of Fr. Wenceslaus Karas, pastor from 1963 to 1964. In 2000, Fr. Dovan had a new rectory constructed just east of the old friary.
In July of 2004, Fr. Michael Dodd was assigned as pastor of St. Anne’s. In 2005 he was also named pastor of All Saints Catholic School. During Fr. Dodd’s pastorate, several areas of parish life have been restructured, including our care for the poor by the Saint Anne’s Ministry of Compassion, the RCIA program, the religious education and youth programs, the parish council, and the inception of our group for young adults. Fr. Dodd has also overseen several large renovation projects. The Parish Hall was remodeled in 2007, and St Francis Hall in 2008, at which time the parish offices were moved from the old friary to the newly renovated St. Francis Hall. In between the two new buildings, a beautiful patio garden was put in, using personalized bricks purchased by parishioners. In 2009, the old friary was renamed Dabrowski Hall after Capuchin, Fr. Robert Dabrowski. Also in 2009, an additional school building was completed at All Saints School, funded by the majority contribution of St. Benedict parish as well as by St. Anne’s, with the very generous assistance of St. Bernard parish.
January 1, 2012 brought Rev. Mark Estillore, a Philippino priest visiting the diocese. He joyfully pastored and administered the St. Anne's community until the Fall of 2013 when he returned to his home in the Philippines.
On October 1, 2013, Father Gary Kastl began as pastor.
1937-1938 - Rev. Joseph Griffin
1938-1948 - No resident pastor. Tended from Tulsa.
1948-1950 - Rev. Alexius Lechanski, Capuchin
1951-1953 - Rev. Raphael Nienaltowski, Capuchin
1953-1954 - Rev. John Salwowski, Capuchin
1954-1956 - Rev. Hyacinth Dabrowski, Capuchin
1956-1962 - Rev. Robert Dabrowski, Capuchin
1963-1964 - Rev. Wenceslas Karas, Capuchin
1965-1973 - Rev. Robert Dabrowski, Capuchin
1973-1975 - Rev. John Schug, Capuchin
1975-1980 - Rev. Robert Dabrowski, Capuchin
1980-1985 - Rev. Casimir Milewski, Capuchin
1986-1995 - Rev. Nobert M. Karava, Capuchin
1995-1996 - Rev. Maurice O’Connell
1997-2004 - Rev. Dovan Nguyen
2004-2011 - Rev. Michael Dodd
2012-2013 - Rev. Mark Estillore
2013-2017 - Rev. Gary Kastl
2017-Current - Rev. Matt Gerlach
Deacon Paul Honer - Assigned St. Anne's 1980-1983 (Could not find ordination date)
Deacon Gary Walsh - Ordained March 31, 1984, Assigned St. Anne's 1984-1986; also 1997-1998
Deacon John Crescitelli - Ordained May 3, 1991, Assigned St. Anne's 1995-1999
Deacon Ken Schumacher - Ordained April 30, 1999, Assigned St. Anne's 2008-2012
Deacon Tom Moyes - Ordained June 12, 2011, Assigned St. Anne 2011