Catholic Charities opens new mission in Stillwater

Published by Eastern Oklahoma Catholic Magazine
Written by: Catholic Charities

Speaking at a Vatican conference in late 2018 on what to do with churches that are no longer used for worship, Pope Francis said that those buildings can be, “witnesses to the faith of the community that produced them in the past and for this reason, they are in their own way instruments of evangelization.”

Stillwater is in Payne County, the fourth poorest county in Oklahoma and a natural location for the newest Catholic Charities of Eastern Oklahoma’s outreach mission. St. Francis Xavier dedicated their new church in March of 2018, leaving the original church vacant. Taking the pope’s words to heart, Father Brian O’Brien, pastor of St. Francis Xavier, offered the old church as home of the new outreach mission.“We couldn’t be happier about this facility and we can’t thank Father O’Brien enough,” said Michelle Slovak, operations manager at Catholic Charities Stillwater.

Remodeling work began in the basement of the former church last May. In what was a large open space, there now are two classrooms, a nursery, a lounge, and a reception area. The building was blessed and dedicated on Aug. 28. However, construction has delayed the first day of school to early September. To start, High School Equivalency classes were offered in both English and Spanish with plans to add classes in How to Computer Skills. Life Skills classes are planned for the future as part of Catholic Charities efforts to help their clients further their education.“We don’t know if they want to go on to college, junior college or a vocational school but, whatever the case, we’re here to give them a hand up. Our goal is to get them ready for the workforce,” said Michelle. The need is great. Michelle said that she has had numerous requests for help while the building remodels was underway.“We, of course, put signs up while the work was going on. There wasn’t a week that has gone by where at least two or three people stopped in to ask for assistance,” she said.