St. Joseph Old Cathedral is a Roman Catholic church. The church parish belongs to the Oklahoma City Archdiocese. The cathedral is the oldest church in Oklahoma city, with its congregation being gathered as early as the day of the Oklahoma Land Rush, April 22nd, 1889. The cathedral was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.
Catholicism in the area of what now
is present day Oklahoma dates back to the time of Spanish and French
expeditions in the new world, the mid 1500s. Among other things, one of the
objectives on the European explorers was to evangelize the native tribes. This
small Catholic presence would grow just slightly until the first the first
permanent Catholic missionary in Indian Territory. In 1875 French Benediction
monks arrived in Potawatomi County to set up a monastery in order to escape
persecution in France. This monastery would later become St. Gregory’s in
present day Shawnee. The native tribes, again, were the focus of the Catholic
missionaries. However, the bulk of the early Catholic population in Oklahoma
would come from Caucasian immigrants. Italians, Germans, Polish, Irish, and Lebanese,
laborers and merchants alike were flocking to the Oklahoma City area around the
time of the Land Run.
The Land Run of 1889 was part of
the movement to seek new beginnings and fortunes in the west of America. As
some 4000 settlers raced to the Oklahoma station to set up homes and
businesses, they also set up churches. Many of the first services across all
denominations took place in tents or other primitive structures. The same was
the case for Rev. Nicolas Scallon, who arrived by train on April 22nd, 1889 to
the infant city. Upon his arrival he started to amass his congregation and
within two weeks of the land run, plans had been made to build a church.
The original Church was a small
wooden structure that was complete with cross and bell by August 2nd, 1889.
It was the first church built in Oklahoma City, done so by the congregation of 16
families. A short two years later the congregation had out grown its humble
church, and in 1901 the plans were drawn for a much bigger, brick building. It
was dedicated in 1904 by Oklahoma’s first bishop, Rev. Theophile Meerschaert,
and in 1905, Pope Pius X raised the Vicarate of the Oklahoma Territory to a
diocese. Making St. Joseph’s the first cathedral in Oklahoma. Over the next
several decades the Cathedral has seen many changes and renovations, the
largest coming after the Murrah building bombing in 1995. The damage was
extensive and the church was closed for two years.
Today, 130 years later, the church
is a part of the National Register of Historic Place, it still stands and holds
daily and weekend masses for its congregation. It goes by another name though,
St. Josephs Old Cathedral is how it is referred these days. A trip inside will
leave no doubt as to why it is call the Old Cathedral. From the
stained glass windows, to the chipped wooden pews, the Cathedral's dated look
is still beautiful.