Parish History

By Richard A. Strouhal, Parish Historian

Midwest City came into being in 1942 as a necessary neighbor to Tinker Field. During the war years, the small number of Catholics living in the area were served by the Tinker Chapel and by Sacred Heart Church in Capitol Hill. To accommodate the growing Catholic population in Eastern Oklahoma County after the war ended, Bishop Eugene McGuinness established St. Philip Neri Parish in March 1946 and appointed Father John T. Murray as Pastor.

The first Mass was celebrated in a Jarman Junior High School classroom on September 22 with forty-two people participating. As the numbers grew, Mass was moved to the auditorium where it was celebrated for the next ten months. In March 1947 the present site was purchased for $1,067. With help from Bishop McGuinness, the Catholic Church Extension Society, and a loan of $7,000, the first church was built at a cost of $14,250. The first Mass was celebrated there on August 3, 1947 and the building was used for worship over the next nine months. Because the city and parish were growing so rapidly, a surplus Navy chapel (pictured above) was purchased from Norman Navy Base, which accommodated the increasing number of worshipers over the next six years. The church became the rectory, and in subsequent years was enlarged to house the Felician Sisters who so graciously taught our children for thirty-four years. In 1975 it was added to again to provide space for parish offices and living quarters for our priests. After forty-five years of noble and varied service it was moved off the property to make room for the new church in 1991.

The post-war baby boom continued, necessitating a succession of building programs of a more permanent nature. The first building, erected in 1954, provided us with eight classrooms for our parochial school and a large auditorium to accommodate Mass and the other sacraments (which became a gymnasium). The first addition of classrooms to the school in 1957 and a second addition of more classrooms plus a cafeteria/parish hall in 1962 followed this. The former Navy chapel, which had served our church and school so well since 1948, had to be demolished to make room for the last addition.

Through the years many people have known St. Philip Neri as their spiritual home. At one time we were known to some as the 'gypsy' parish because of the continuous turnover of military and civilian people through Tinker AFB. By the mid-eighties, however, the vast majority of our parish members were people who lived in the Midwest City area on a more or less permanent basis. Plans for the church and new facilities were begun in 1987.

Archbishop Salatka dedicated the present church on November 13, 1992.