Catholicism had its beginnings in Oklahoma over one-hundred years ago. We were still an Indian territory when the first parish in the diocese was established in Atoka in 1872. The Lord's Church spread and grew through the predominantly Protestant Bible belt, and ultimately resulted in a parish residence in Antlers. Both the church and rectory in Antlers were later destroyed by a tornado and Hugo was chosen as the new parish residence with Antlers and Idabel becoming missions.
The mission priests visited Idabel to hear confessions and say Mass once a month and the first Mass was held in the home of Mrs. Mary Dugan with Father James Traut officiating. One of the first Catholic babies, James Bushers, Jr., was also baptized in the home of Mrs. Dugan. Catholics were viewed as a curiosity by the more established Baptists and Methodists and it required a great amount of courage and fortitude to remain strong in Roman Catholicity. The Lord was surely pouring out His Holy Spirit among these of His people. In spite of the many obstacles, the faithful moved onward. The children must be taught -- and the first catechetical instruction was through a correspondence course. Later, through the help of volunteers and the good nuns of the diocese, the CCD Program grew into the presently existing weekly classes -- indeed, a tribute to the efforts of many.
When the parish residence was moved to Idabel, the need for a church became apparent. The architectural services of Ross Dugan, Jr. were engaged and the plans were drawn -- the work begun. A $10,000 donation was made by the Catholic Extension Society toward the building fund and the balance was acquired through the generosity of the parishioners. The modern brick structure was completed late in 1949 and the first Mass was said at Midnight on the Eve of Christmas in 1949. The building was dedicated on January 29, 1950 by the Most Reverend Bishop Eugene Joseph McGuinness. The Lord received His first child from St. Francis de Sales in July, 1950 when infant Denise Bushers was baptized. The Glenmary priests assumed the responsibility of St. Frances Parish in 1957 and the first Glenmary priests arrived and set up residences in both Plunketville and Idabel. The small room east of the church -- with the help of a hot plate and folding cot became home for these Missionaries.
Soon the parishioners began to plan the building of a rectory and once again called upon Mr. Ross Dugan, Jr. to draw the plans. The beautiful rectory was completed in 1963 -- a proud tribute to the munificent faithful. While the parish continued to expand, the Lord in His goodness bestowed a vocational calling on one of the parish children. Father Vincent McGouldrick gave instructions in the Roman Catholic faith to a teenage boy who later became the Reverend Father Joseph Propps. Fr. Propps was a convert to the faith -- the first from Broken Bow -- and was ultimately a recipient of the Sacrament of Holy Orders on August 19, 1967 at St. Charles in Oklahoma City. Fr. Propps celebrated his first Mass in St. Francis Church on August 27, 1967. The now present altar, sedelia, lectern and base of the Tabernacle in the Sanctuary -- all constructed of solid ash hard-wood --were installed by Pastor Father Francis Schenk. These were presented to the Church by Mrs. Mary Dugan in memory of her husband, Ross Dugan. The property adjacent to the rectory was purchased in 1972 and the largest house existing thereon was entirely restored, painted, re-roofed, etc. and now serves as a classroom facility for the educational program, bingo, dances for teenagers, and weekly gatherings of Boy Scouts in the community. The first Parish Council established to be a governing body and to assist the pastor in the functional aspects of Church life was established in 1971 under the ministry of Father George Hutchison -- another tribute to the progressive thinking faithful.
More history to come as we update our site.