The Saving of Most Precious Blood Parish
By Donna Sue Berry
The Latin Mass is a grassroots, growing phenomenon – and you can’t get much more ‘grassroots’ than Tulsa, Oklahoma. Fittingly, it is there that we find the amazing growth story of Most Precious Blood parish, as parishioners Jeff Smith, Monica Phibbs and David and Kim Homoney explain in this exclusive Regina Magazine interview.
It all started more than 20 years ago, when a group of Catholics asked that the Extraordinary Form of the Holy Mass be made available in the Diocese, and his Excellency Bishop Edward J Slattery granted their request. In 1995, the Parish of St. Peter began in Tulsa, and from its inception, priests from the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter staffed the quasi-parish.
Mass was first offered in the Chapel at Holy Family Cathedral in Tulsa, but after several years, they were graciously offered the use of the facilities at the Parish of St. Augustine by Bishop Slattery and the kind parishioners there. The parish grew and remained there until April 2013 when they obtained their own building. On October 28th, 2013 they were formally granted status as a full parish with the name of Most Precious Blood. Father William Define, FSSP is the current pastor.
REGINA: Tell us about your parish.
Jeff: We are blessed with a most supportive bishop, Edward Slattery, and our founding pastor was Father James Jackson, FSSP. Our Parish is unwaveringly loyal to the FSSP, its priests and its mission. We wanted to do two things: a) clarify our distinct identity from the other Latin Mass parish in the diocese, Sts. Peter and Paul – Tulsa, and b) perhaps evangelize to Protestants with the name ‘Most Precious Blood’. Father Define chose the name, and God has blessed us with growth and stability for so honoring His Son this way.
REGINA: We hear the parish has had ‘amazing’ growth.
Jeff: We are now averaging 150 to 200 communions each Sunday. We are adding parishioner families at the rate of two to three families per month. A lot of young people have been joining us, thanks to Father Define’s work with young adults. In addition, our many young families are having more and more children, which makes our average parishioner age decline every month. For example, we expect nine or ten new parishioners by June as our newly wedded couples are so open to life.
Kim & David: Our parish has been blessed with two babies so far this year, and we have seven more expectant mothers. We’re estimating at least 12 baptisms in 2016.
Jeff: Father celebrated six weddings in 2015, with more anticipated for 2016. We are Traditional Catholics but we are not of the ‘grumpy traditionalist type’ that one reads about so much. We are truly joyful in our traditional Catholicism. This is a huge credit to Father Define’s inclusiveness, his compassion and his passion for his apostolate.
REGINA: Rumor had it that at one time your parish had been slated to close, is that true?
Monica: We were told in 2012, around Thanksgiving, that regrettably it was to close in six months, and there was nothing we could do. We were devastated trying to imagine what we would do without our parish and FSSP priests. It seemed hopeless.
I remember my eldest daughter, Alex, said, “We’ll just pray for a miracle.” She was fifteen at the time and had said it so matter of factly, with a beautiful childlike faith. So we prayed the St. Andrew Christmas Novena. Also, our parish made a pilgrimage to the National Shrine of the Infant Jesus of Prague in Prague, Oklahoma with Father Van der Putten, who was our pastor at the time. He was able to offer the Traditional Latin Mass with the kind invitation of the Shrine director. God, our All-good and loving Father, brought the miracle about!
Kim & David: While the rumors of our potential demise were true, through the grace of God and with the support of both Bishop Slattery and the General Council and Superior General of the FSSP Fr. John Berg, not only were we able to acquire our own place and become a full parish — but we have become part of the growing Latin Mass tradition within the Diocese of Tulsa, which now has three locations for the traditional Latin Mass every Sunday!
REGINA: Do a lot of people travel to attend Mass?
Jeff: Yes. We have four registered families who come over from Arkansas each week, and we have regular attendees from Kansas, Missouri, and throughout Northeast Oklahoma– places like Okmulgee, Tahlequah, Muskogee, and Miami. Families in Hulbert and Wagoner, who live around the Our Lady of the Annunciation of Clear Creek Abbey, have registered with Most Precious Blood Parish. We are blessed with many visitors (family and friends of parishioners) who feel quite welcome thanks to our reverent Holy Mass and Father Define’s congeniality and genuine care for all who join us in worship.
Kim & David: We also have people coming from Bartlesville, Drumwright, and Skiatook. We had a man come a few weeks ago who was on a pilgrimage throughout the US, visiting Latin Mass parishes.
REGINA: Is there interest from non-Catholics; conversions or reversions to the Faith through the Latin Mass?
Jeff: Absolutely, yes. Father Define always has a convert that he is instructing. Most of our converts have been young adults in their 20’s and early 30’s.
Kim & David: My husband and I are reverts to the Catholic faith and reverted through the Novus Ordo. However, upon further study of the Catholic faith, we fully embraced the tradition and through the help and instruction of Fr. Angelo Van der Putten (now at the FSSP Apostolate in Nigeria) we became regular parishioners of Most Precious Blood. We moved from Lake Tenkiller to become very active in the parish with David serving on the Finance Council, the Building Committee, adding the website and IT infrastructure, and I became the parish secretary and secretary for the aforementioned committees.
REGINA: What kind of organizations, societies, or prayer groups do you have at Most Precious Blood?
Jeff: There are the St. Maria Goretti Guild for girls and young women, the Troops of St. George for boys, St. Joseph’s Men’s Group, Altar and Rosary Society, and the St. John Bosco servers, to name a few.
Monica: We have a Great Books club for women, reading the great classics of western literature. Also, we have the Martha and Mary Guild which organizes feast day celebrations, potlucks, and our parish movie night.
Kim & David: We are still small, so we clean our own parish and have a parishioner who coordinates everyone to volunteer every Saturday.
REGINA: Are there any special traditions at Most Precious Blood?
Jeff: We live the Traditional Latin Mass and the life that goes with it. We truly attempt to center our lives around the liturgical year – that is perhaps our most unique feature. Our second major characteristic is our unfailing support for the work of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter.
We are supporters of the Fraternity’s seminary in Denton, Nebraska, Our Lady of Guadalupe. We regularly host deacons and seminarians, and we hold at least two special collections to help fund seminarian educational expenses. A group of us annually attend the FSSP priestly ordinations in Nebraska.
SPECTACULAR NEW ALTAR AND ALTARPIECE: “Behind our altar is a reproduction of the same altarpiece found in the FSSP apostolate church in Rome. A parishioner arranged for this painting to be done by an artist in Amarillo, Texas,” said Jeff Smith. “ The intent is to remind us of our connection to the FSSP and its international mission as we worship God looking at the same painting that the Fraternity priests offer Holy Mass before in the personal parish church of the FSSP in the Holy City, the Church of the Most Holy Trinity of the Pilgrims.” (Editor’s Note: Trinita Dei Pellegrini is located a few steps from the Tiber near Piazza Farnese.)
IN AFRICA: “We support all FSSP missions’ work, especially their mission in Nigeria staffed by our former pastor, Fr. Angelo Van der Putten, FSSP, and the mission in Guadalajara, Mexico staffed by our Former deacon, now Father Daniel Heenan, FSSP,” said Jeff Smith. “Our parish is very connected to these missions, and we support them both financially and with parishioners traveling to assist when possible.” (L-R, Fr. Angelo Van der Putten, Ekedu, David Homoney, Peter-Mary, Paul, and Fr. Timothy O’Brien)
PROCESSIONS AT MOST PRECIOUS BLOOD: “We have a large devotion to First Fridays and First Saturdays, as requested by Our Lady of Fatima,” said Kim Homoney, “Also, we have recitation of the Rosary before Mass. We do processions at the major feasts such as Corpus Christi, and we do May Crowning.”
Monica: Every year, after the Easter Vigil Mass, we go out to eat breakfast together to celebrate! We have such a wonderful time celebrating Our Lord’s Resurrection in the early morning hours after the beautiful Solemn High Mass. Of course, we get inquisitive looks from others when they see our large group with a Priest or visiting seminarians in their cassocks, but we love it!
REGINA: Any conferences, classes, or missions planned for this year?
Kim & David: We have hosted conferences by Michael Voris of ChurchMilitant.com and Fr. Paul Nicholson, of the Diocese of London Ontario, Canada. Father Chad Ripperger has held conferences here, too. We have had a parishioner go to the Nigeria mission, and another young man from our parish is planning to leave in the spring to visit Guadalajara for a year to support the mission there.
Monica: We had two conferences by Mother Miriam of the Daughters of Mary, Mother of Israel’s Hope, and recently hosted Hugh Owen from the Kolbe Center.
REGINA: Any future building plans for Precious Blood?
Jeff: Yes, we are still in the process of turning what was a Protestant church building into a Catholic Church. Our first task was to build a rectory. Father Define spent the majority of our first year living in a parishioner’s RV we set up behind the parish hall. Then we began making permanent changes to the sanctuary, having it duly blessed by Bishop Slattery. We had a new altar built in Italy and have had it installed. Bishop Slattery consecrated it on July 1st, 2015, on our patronal feast – Most Precious Blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We are adding a new communion rail this month, and we have plans to redo the back of the church and entrance to better facilitate traditional Catholic worship. All of this will come in time as we raise funds.
Kim & David: When we started having Mass, we were using padded chairs left by the previous tenant. We then installed pews, and later we added kneelers. Our Stations of the Cross are about 100 years old, restored by a parishioner. We completely re-worked the Sanctuary from a Protestant carpeted stage with a large-sized baptismal tub to a Catholic, marble Sanctuary. We added an organ to complement our choir. We hope to eventually build a choir loft, raise the roof, add confessionals, etc. all for the purpose of beautifying the worship space for the glory of God.
REGINA: What does it mean to you to be a parishioner at Most Precious Blood?
Jeff: I converted to the Roman Catholic Faith at Easter 1993. I was blessed to discover the Fraternity of St. Peter and the Traditional Latin Mass in the summer of 2002, and it has changed my life. Catholic Tradition affirms everything a Christian must do to love and serve God. The first Fraternity priest I became acquainted with said something to me in 2002 I will never forget. It defines how I live my life. When I asked Fr. George Gabet why he chose the FSSP path, he told me that he had found something literally worth dying for. The beauty of the Traditional Latin Mass, particularly as celebrated by the FSSP in the Solemn High Mass is absolutely something I would give my life to preserve and protect out of love for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and His Holy Church. Having the Most Precious Blood Parish right here in Tulsa allows me to order my life by putting the practice of my faith first. We have the opportunity for daily Mass, Confession, all of the Sacraments in the traditional form, and very holy men – the FSSP priests and seminarians – to guide us on our path to God. It means everything in the world to me to be a part of the Parish of the Most Precious Blood.
Monica: The Traditional Catholic faith, in all its richness, truth, and beauty, is the center of our family. When I thought we were going to lose our Parish, access to the Mass and the sacraments in the Traditional Rite with our well – formed FSSP priests, I felt lost. My family started attending the parish about 14 years ago; it has been my compass.
David: I was raised a Catholic in a mixed household, with my mother and sister being Protestant and my father and I being Catholic. I was not raised in traditional Catholicism and did not know about the Traditional Latin Mass. After high school, sadly, I left the Faith and stayed away for around 15 years. A few years before coming back I took my wife, Kim, on a vacation to Germany and France, on what we called our “Church and Museum” tour. I remember a very distinct moment when entering the Dom (Cathedral) in Trier, the Cathedral there commissioned by Emperor Constantine. I entered the Cathedral and in my head heard, “Mein Gott ist hier” (‘My God is here’) which was odd as I don’t really speak German. I brushed this off but it always stuck with me. Later on a business trip to California, a car with a Catholic Radio bumper sticker kept parking near me, and I finally decided to tune in. I heard a talk by Fr. John Corapi and had never heard the Catholic faith so forcefully taught. This awakened the desire to start to learn more about my former faith. In doing so, I found two places that really and finally helped me learn my faith, airmaria.com and RealCatholicTV.com, now ChurchMilitant.com. These lead me, along with a huge amount of reading to conclude that God is real, Jesus Christ was God, that Christ founded a church and that church was Catholic, and that outside the church there is no salvation. Through the guidance of a diocesan priest, Fr. Brian Brooks, I took instruction and was brought back to the Church, receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation on Easter Vigil 2012, taking the Confirmation name of Lawrence, after the great Archdeacon of Rome who was martyred. At the same time, through much reading and study, I came to find the Traditional Latin Mass and its liturgical beauty, richness, 100% conformity to the immemorial teachings of Holy Mother Church, and its patrimony lead me to Most Precious Blood Parish.
Kim: I was baptized Catholic but never raised in the Faith. I was taught to believe in God, and we said grace before dinner, but that was about it.
At first, I attended Mass with my husband out of a desire to stay connected with him. In reality, I was one of those people who thought I didn’t need “formalized religion,” and that I could just talk to God from home. My husband informed me how very arrogant that idea was because God tells us how to worship Him, not the other way around.
So I embarked on this journey back to the Faith with my husband. I was also confirmed on Easter Vigil 2010. We were attending a Novus Ordo parish in Muskogee and we noticed what we considered to be odd behavior at Mass every Sunday. One family wore their football team’s jerseys, women were dressed very immodestly, and people other than the priest were giving out Communion in the hand.
David found the Latin Mass in Tulsa on the Internet and there we found exactly the reverence and everything else we’d been seeking. It’s been an interesting journey for me, and I find myself becoming more and more interested in learning about my faith.
In 2014 we brought my mother (now 79) with us. She is a cradle Catholic and had left the faith when things changed in the 1960’s. She was floored! This was how she remembered the Mass, how it “was supposed to be” from her childhood in a small Czech community in Texas. She then drove herself every Sunday from Tahlequah (two hours round trip) until she moved to Tulsa last summer to be closer to us and to her beloved parish, Most Precious Blood.
3029 South 57th West Avenue
Tulsa, OK 74107