It was on November 14th, 1893, that the first mass was celebrated in the town of Enid, Oklahoma. Fr. Joseph Beck presided and the celebration took place in the home of Hugh Jordan with 17 faithful catholics present. The altar was a square piano that was closed and set up for the mass. (This piano still exists and can be seen in the Leven Center). This was the beginning of a long history of Catholic life and development in this Northwest part of Oklahoma and the city of Enid.
In 1899, Fr. Gustave Depreitere, a nephew to Bishop Meerschaert, the first bishop of Oklahoma, purchased lots in a field on the west side of town and build Enid’s first Catholic Church. It was a frame structure with a steeple and was dedicated by Bishop Meershaert on May 1, 1900. In 1904 St. Joseph’s Academy was built and a long history of Catholic education began in Enid. The Sisters of Divine Providence from San Antonio, Texas came to be teachers of the new school that encompassed all twelve grades.
In 1920 Fr. Renier Sevens became the second pastor of St. Francis Xavier parish and immediately he began plans to build a new Church. The parish was growing fast and the needs were great. A new Gothic style Church was built and dedicated on April 22, 1922. In these years the church became subjected to criticism and scrutiny under the efforts of the Ku Klux Klan. On one occasion the Klan burned a cross near the Church. The Knights of Columbus organized an all night vigil keeping watch outside the church and rectory making sure there was no danger to the building or the pastor. This memory is still vivid in the minds of many who heard these stories from their parents and family members. It is a strong testament to the love our parishioners have for this church.
The parish experienced a great time of prosperity in the years to follow. A catholic high school was establish, Memorial High, where there are many graduates still living to this day and remember their time with great joy. We had St. Mary’s hospital. After being administered for years by the diocese, and the many nuns and laity that supported the mission, the diocese handed St. Mary’s over to a secular company. The decision to keep the title, St. Mary’s Hospital, was made by the city of Enid and people still receive excellent care to this day. In 1968 Memorial High School closed and in 1975, after 71 years, St. Joseph’s closed its doors as well. It was a time in the United States when many Catholic schools and institutions where closing due to a lack of financial support and a vocational shortage.
In recent years St. Francis Xavier parish has seen rise in life and ministry. Under the guidance of wonderful pastors and dedicated members of the parish, we started a soup kitchen called “Our Daily Bread”. This ministry is open 5 days a week and serves the poor and needy in Enid. It is a true ecumenical ministry where volunteers from all over town come to give of their time and talents. In 2000, the parish focused its efforts once again to Catholic Education and reopened St. Joseph’s Catholic School. The parish school once again began educating young people and we currently have grades Pre-K through 5th grade in the building. This is a great achievement for the parish. Not many catholic churches can boast of the reality of reopening the doors to Catholic Education in their towns. We give thanks to God for this reality.
In all our years we give thanks to God and know that this parish will continue to strive for holiness of life and be a strong presence in the town of Enid, Oklahoma. There is much more to this story and as we look to the past to see where we came from, we also strive toward the future, still making history and hoping that God will help us see His will every day. Thank you Lord for this parish and for our Catholic faith.