Oklahoma’s First Church
President Benjamin Harrison designated April 22, 1889, as the day of the Homestead Run. Three million acres of western land were opened for settlement, thus marking the birth of what is now known as “Oklahoma.” Although Catholic and Protestant churches existed in the territory before this event, the Catholic Parish of St. John the Baptist was the first church of any denomination built after the famous land run, thereby claiming the distinction as “Oklahoma’s” first church.
St. John the Baptist Church, which was a one room building with a bell tower with a capacity of 150 people, was located at First and Boulevard. It was completed on the feast day of St. John the Baptist, June 24th, 1889. The Catholic population at that time was four families.
In 1900, a new church building was built to accommodate a growing congregation. It was located at the site of the original building which was sold, moved to the business section of town, and used as a barbershop.
Many Different priests directed the parish in its beginning. Of special note were Fr. Scallan who offered the first Mass in 1889, Fr. Pouey who purchased the first rectory in 1908, and Fr. Dannis who served as pastor from 1909 to 1924 and directed many improvements including the installation of electric lights and natural gas.
In 1936, a fire destroyed the belfry and roof of the church, necessitating a complete renovation of the building.
The parish was moved to its present site at Ninth and South Littler in 1955, the centennial year of the Diocese of Oklahoma City and Tulsa. Facilities included an old house, which served as the rectory, a feed store that converted into a parish hall and a new church building.
In 1973, the Diocese of Oklahoma was split and St. John Parish became a part of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City. As the congregation grew, additional changes were needed. The Parish Hall was replaced by the Annex, which is now part of the Learning Center. A new rectory was completed in 1973 and a large-scale church was finished in 1977.
Our facilities include a beautiful church completed in 1982, under the leadership of Fr. Sam Leven, and a 20,000-square-foot, two-story Learning Center completed in 1986. In 1990, the Learning Center became home to St. Elizabeth Ann Seton School, under the leadership of Fr. John Petuskey, and offers pre-kindergarten through eighth grade. Dedicated in June of 1994 by Archbishop Beltran, the 28,750 square-foot Parish Center, on the west side of the church, was completed and houses a large kitchen, commons area, nursery, meeting space, and offices for the clergy and staff.
By the turn of the millennium, the parish had grown and, under Fr. John Metzinger, a major expansion of the church was completed in 2006 and now seats over 1250 people. The following year, 2007, an expansion of the school added a gymnasium, new youth center, science lab, music room, art room, elective classrooms, and a teacher’s workroom.
Today, yet more renovations of the church are underway to meet our growing parish, with Fr. Ray Ackerman leading the efforts.