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Holy Family Cathedral » Featured » The Diary of our First Pastor: Rev. Charles Van Hulse

The Diary of our First Pastor: Rev. Charles Van Hulse


by Rev. Charles Van Hulse
Pastor of Holy Family Church

About 7 years ago (which would be about 1890) Reverend Father W. Ketcham had been appointed pastor of Muskogee and the surrounding country.  He found that in the little town of Tulsa, about 65 miles west of Muskogee, there were also a few Catholics.  He visited the place from time to time, saying Mass in a house and seeing that the place likely would some day become a thriving town, he obtained, with the assistance of Rt. Rev. Bishop Meerschaert, from Mr. Perryman, at that time Chief of the tribe of Creek Indians, the permission to build a Catholic church in Tulsa.  But the permission to build a church did not bring it there and so Father Ketcham and his successor, Father G. Depreitere, who visited Tulsa monthly from Oct. 1895 until Nov. 1897, continued to say Mass in a private dwelling house and as the congregation was very small, one room usually was large enough to contain the worshippers.

Van Hulse brothers.pngFrom Nov. 1897, Tulsa was visited monthly by Rev. Charles Van Hulse, who, like his predecessors, was obliged to hold services in a private residence.

The Catholic people, though, began to speak about building a church.  In the beginning of 1899 a subscription was opened and the success was beyond expectations of both priest and people.  At the head of the list was Mr. & Mrs. L. Appleby, with a subscription of $500.00, followed by Mr. P. Coyle, with $150.00, Mr. & Mrs. Hoots, with $100.00 and Mr. & Mrs. Boyd, with $50.00.  The Rt. Rev. Bishop Meerschaert also contributed $100.00.  Then several other donations of $25.00, $10.00, $5.00, etc. given by other Catholics and by business men of Tulsa.  In all, about $1,400.00 was collected.

Rev. Father Ketcham, several years before, had bought a lot on which to build a church, but as it was rather small, Rev. Charles Van Hulse exchanged it for a whole block, a little farther from the business part of town.

During the month of May, the contract was let for the building of a church that would cost about $1,500.00.  That church was dedicated on Sunday, Sept. 10th, 1899.  It is 60 feet long and 30 wide.  A room of 10 ft. by 10 ft. is attached to it, serving as a sacristy and there it is also that the priest, Rev. Charles Van Hulse, made his home. The altar in the church is only temporary, put up by the priest, until a better one can be procured.

Mother Katharine DrexelAfter about two months, owing to the donations of friends and relatives in Belgium, Europe, and giving his own money to the last cent, the priest succeeded in paying the debt of the church and in procuring suitable seats for it.  In the meantime, also, a school building had been started.  Rev. Mother Catherine [sic] Drexel and Rt. Rev. Bishop Meerschaert were the great benefactors who enabled the priest to put up a building as school and dwelling for the Sister-Teachers.

Three Sisters of Mount Carmel, from New Orleans, La. Were engaged to come to teach.  Unfortunately, the school was not finished and from the 11th day of Sept. 1899 until the first Monday in October, the Sisters taught in the church.  Then, finally, they were about to move into the other building.

Although great efforts had been made by some bigots in Tulsa to prevent children from coming to that Catholic school, the number of enrolled pupils was above 80 and the whole year there was an average of 65 pupils, about 20 of whom were Catholics.

The school closed its first session on the 28th of May, 1900, with an entertainment given by the pupils and which showed clearly the progress they had made under the care and instructions of the sisters.  One of the great good results also of the church and school both, was the First Communion of a class of 12 children on Easter Sunday, 1900.  The Catholic congregation in Tulsa now numbered between fifty and sixty members.

A great many improvements, of course, are still needed for the church.  As for the school building, although it is too small and not finished inside and notwithstanding the sacrifices that the priest has made, the whole year and his efforts to obtain more help, there is a debt on it yet of $750.00.  May God inspire some wealthy person to enable us to cancel that debt and make some, at least of the most necessary improvements.  Deo Gracias.

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