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History

St. Monica Catholic Church
“History in the Making”


Bishop Francis Clement Kelley was the second Bishop appointed to the State of Oklahoma June 1924. Bishop Kelley was Canadian and during his tenure, he would set in motion the establishment of Catholic Churches for African Americans in segregated Oklahoma. One would be built in North Tulsa where the community was continuing to rebuild their homes and businesses destroyed during the Race Massacre in 1921. In 1925, Bishop Kelley directed two priests from Holy Family Cathedral to begin work in the black community of Tulsa.  Father James McNamee and Father James Rooney were priests serving Holy Family.  Both men would visit the community to evaluate the plight of the black community.

In 1920 there had been an oil boom in Oklahoma that saw the migration of “African Americans Catholics from southern Louisiana with French surnames flocked to the area” for farm land or work the oil fields, coal, lead, and zinc mines. African American Catholics drifted away from the faith when they moved to Oklahoma where there were no Catholic churches for them.
On February 28, 1926 Father Rooney met with twenty-five Catholics at Holy Family rectory who were eager to spread the gospel among the blacks of North Tulsa.  A mission society was formed with Father Rooney as spiritual director. The members went through training before starting to evangelize. They rang door bells and began talking about the Catholic faith to anyone who would listen. Catechism classes were started for the future converts to the faith.
A delegation from the community called on Bishop Kelley to establish a church and school. Father Rooney was appointed the first pastor and mass was held in various buildings in the Greenwood area. The new church was given the name St. Pius V but was later changed to St. Monica. Holy Ghost sisters would run the school and in 1928, Holy Ghost priest would staff the church. Father James McGuire would be the first Holy Ghost priest to take over from Father Rooney. In 1930, Father Daniel P. Bradley was appointed to serve St. Monica Parish. Because of segregation and separate but equal in the school system, the Holy Ghost sisters were replaced by the Sisters of the Holy Family from Louisiana in 1939.  
In 1936, the church and rectory buildings were completed. The first mass was said by Father Bradley August 23, 1936 and the church was dedicated by Bishop Kelley September 27, 1936. The new church boast a Tudor Gothic edifice of red brick exterior with twenty-two stain glass windows, a  terrazzo floor, Ozark Tavernell marble communion rail with three marble altars one large and two smaller side altars of St. Genevieve rose marble, large hand wrought sanctuary lamp of brass from Italy. There were two shrines, one to St. Jude, Saint of the Impossible, and the other to the Poor Souls. The steeple was 90 feet above the street adorned with deep blue neon cross. Electric chimes were added to the tower that intoned the angelus. The cost of building the church was $60,000 and it was debt free when dedicated. The parish was reported to have a membership of 1100 when dedicated. .
After the church was completed, Father Bradley wanted a place for additional recreation to prevent juvenile delinquency for the young people who gravitated to the church. A hall was completed on Christmas Eve in 1941. The church and hall were built principally by parishioners with Father Bradley directing the construction. The new school and convent were built in 1943 and 1944 respectively and dedicated October 7, 1945 by Bishop Eugene J. McGuinness.
Father Bradley moved to California in 1954. The school was closed in 1966 and the Holy Family nuns moved to other schools in Tulsa or returned to Louisiana. The school and convent were eventually sold by the Diocese of Tulsa to the City of Tulsa. St. Monica has a very lengthy history that difficult to condense but for centennial there will be a complete and detailed history of the church available to the parishioners.


 
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