Leaving BK and Moving to Stillwater- A Little Q and A!

As I head into my last week at Bishop Kelley and the transition to Stillwater comes closer, I’ve been asked a number of questions about what the next few weeks look like.
 
What’s the situation in Stillwater?
EXCITING! There are two Catholic churches in Stillwater. St. John University Parish (led by Fr. Kerry Wakulich as Pastor and Fr. Lawrence Nwachukwu as Associate Pastor) and St. Francis Xavier, where I’ll be. Fr. Ken Harder is currently the pastor at SFX. He’s coming to Tulsa to work in the diocesan marriage tribunal. He’s been very hospitable to me during the transition.
 
Several years ago, the people of St. Francis Xavier, with the approval of the diocese, moved forward with a plan to build a new church. The new St. Francis Xavier will be located on 20 acres at the corner of Country Club and McElroy west of Stillwater. The church will be completed in March 2018.
 
When the new church is finished, the missions of both Stillwater Catholic churches will be brought into greater focus. St. John University Parish will focus on the Oklahoma State University population. St. Francis Xavier will be the parish for the rest of the people of Stillwater.
 
Where is Stillwater?
Stillwater, OK is about 70 miles west of Tulsa. It’s located in Payne County. It has a population of about 50,000. Most notably, it’s home to Oklahoma State University (Go Pokes!)
 
When is your last day at Bishop Kelley?
My last day at BK will be Wednesday, December 20th.
 
When are you moving to Stillwater? When do you start at Saint Francis Xavier?
I will be moving to Stillwater on January 11th. My assignment officially begins on January 13th so my first weekend at Saint Francis Xavier will be the weekend of January 13-14th.
 
What’s the Confession and Mass schedule at St. Francis Xavier?
Confessions are on Saturdays from 3-4:30 and on Wednesday evenings from 5:30-6:30 and by appointment.
 
Weekend Masses are Saturday at 5pm and Sunday morning at 8 and 10 and Sunday afternoon at 1pm in Spanish.
 
Daily Mass is Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday at 8am and Fridays at 12:10. There is Mass on the first Saturday of the month at 9am.
 
You speak Spanish?
Yes. I studied Spanish 6-12th grade and again while in seminary. I spent the summer fo 2005 in Guadalajara taking classes and living with the Medina family (parents of Frs. David and Leonardo Medina). My Spanish definitely needs work but I’ll be celebrating Mass, preaching, hearing Confessions and doing all the other work of a parish priest in Spanish.
 
What will you be doing between finishing at BK and moving to Stillwater?
A few things. I’ll go see my family in Houston for a week including Christmas Mass at my home parish (11am at St. Martha’s!). I have a wedding in Mexico the first week of January and I’ll spend time packing and getting things organized for the move west.
 
Where will you live?
For the first 18-24 months, I’ll live at the current Saint Francis Xavier rectory at 8th and Hester in Stillwater. It’s about two blocks from the current church which is located on 6th Street.
 
We are in the process of designing a rectory that will be built at the new Saint Francis Xavier campus at Country Club and McElroy west of Stillwater. It will house all of the priests assigned to the Stillwater Catholic Community. We’re building it to house four priests anticipating growth in the community and thus the need for more priests.
 
Will you live alone with other priests?
Alone initially until the new rectory is finished sometime in 2019.
 
Where will your office be?
Unknown. When I move in mid-January, I’ll be officing either at the current Saint Francis office on 6th Street or possibly at St. John the Evangelist. One of the best things about the new building will be that the entire SFX staff will be in one place. They are currently in three separate buildings.
 
What will happen to the current St. Francis Xavier church and property?
Unknown. Once I get there, I plan to work with the staff, parish pastoral council and the people of the parish to figure out what is best for the parish.
 
What are your first priorities when you get to Stillwater?
First I want to get to know the people. With a parish of what will be about 900 households that will take some time so I ask for everyone’s patience. I also look forward to getting know the larger Stillwater and Payne County communities and the other church leaders in the area.
 
We have some exciting things already in the works including a Lenten parish mission. I already have four weddings on the books for this summer and early Fall. The staff at SFX is tremendous and we’ve already begun to work together on several projects. It’s my hope that the people of St. Francis Xavier will get to know our patron saint. He was an awesome evangelist and missionary.
 
What is your new mailing address?
Until March 2018
Rev. Brian O’Brien
416 W. 7th St.
Stillwater, OK 74074
 
What is your new email?
My new email will be frobrien@sfxstillwater.org
 
Can I follow St. Francis Xavier on social media?
YES! We’re on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram
 
Are you excited?
YES! Leaving Bishop Kelley this week will be very hard. I love it here. I love the people I work with. I love the students. I love the campus. But I’ve had several months to get ready and start to get acclimated and start meeting people in Stillwater and I am excited to get there.
 
What questions did I miss?
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An excellent, short explanation of the President-Principal model of school governance

With Bishop Kelley High School’s new principal Jim Franz now on the job, the question has come up, “What’s the difference between a president and a principal?” I addressed it in a previous blog post, but just found something better.

Here’s the best, succinct explanation of the difference between a president and a principal. It comes from the Archdiocese of Indianapolis and Mr. G. Joseph Peters.

God bless!

Fr. O’Brien

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Is School Starting Earlier This Year? No.

It’s a question that comes up every year: “Is school starting earlier this year?” The short answer, at least for Bishop Kelley High School, is “no.” Our first day of school in 2017 is August 15th. Here’s how that compares to first days of school over the last 15 years:

 

2016 8/16

2015 8/12

2014 8/13

2013 8/14

2012 8/13

2011 8/12

2010 8/12

2009 8/12

2008 8/11

2007 8/13

2006 8/15

2005 8/12

2004 8/13

2003 8/18

2002 8/16

2001 8/20

We’ve started earlier. We’ve started later.

God bless you!

Fr. O’Brien

 

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Manners at Bishop Kelley High School

A wise person once said, “The people who really know your character are waiters and clerks.” 

One of my favorite things to do every year is to make a presentation to our incoming freshman class on the subject of manners. It’s often spoken of by older generations that manners have been lost. At Bishop Kelley, we are not giving up the fight! We emphasize these points and expect students to follow them.

Here’s what I’ll be sharing with the students next week. I hope you find it helpful.

“Do to others whatever you would have them do to you.” –Matthew 7:12

A Bishop Kelley student…

  • represents Bishop Kelley wherever they go in person and online.
  • uses “please” and “thank you” a lot.
  • makes eye contact with adults as they pass by and greets them warmly. He or she says, “Good morning Father” if greeting a priest or “Good morning Mr./Mrs.  _____” or if the student does not know the name of the teacher, he or she simply says, “Good morning/afternoon.”
  • finds ways to serve others and jumps at the opportunity to do so. Example: Doors!
  • is on time and prepared (every class, every day!).
  • makes everyone feel included especially in social situations (lunch and dances).
  • cleans up after themselves and picks up trash even if it does not belong to them.
  • stands at attention and is quiet during prayers, the Pledge of Allegiance and the National Anthem.
  • dresses modestly so as not to draw attention to themselves.
  • shows up for meetings and commitments to which they said they would attend.
  • does not makes jokes about race, religion, gender, or ethnicity.
  • helps a fellow student or visitor find their way. He/She asks, “May I help you find something?” when he/she notices someone who is not sure where to go.
  • stays at their desk until the bell rings.
  • says “excuse me” when walking in front of someone.
  • does not crowd the hallways and locker areas.
  • helps a student or teacher who drops something in the hall or classroom.
  • offers to carry the books of a fellow student with a lot of books or who is on crutches.
  • (female) carries a purse that is of normal size so as not to knock over her fellow students (if she carries a purse at all).
  • (male) offers to get a chair for a female student who does not have one. He may even offer her his own chair and find another somewhere else.
  • uses their cell phone appropriately.
  • acts appropriately in the chapel. It’s a place of prayer!

“Life is short, but there is always enough time for courtesy.”-Ralph Waldo Emerson

God bless you!

Fr. O’Brien

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Homeschooling v. Catholic Schools- It’s Not a Competition

“It’s not a competition.” That was my first reaction to an article send to me by a friend with the news that the number of American children who are homeschooled now exceeds the number of children in parochial schools.  The numbers are:

  • In 1980, about 10,000 families chose to homeschool.
  • As of 2012, 1.8M K-12 students were homeschooled. That’s 3.4% of the K-12 school population. That number is now more than 2M.

Conventional wisdom would say that I should be against homeschooling. I run a Catholic high school and anyone choosing homeschool education for their high school age child is one less student coming to Bishop Kelley High School. I don’t see it that way. I am a big believer in the Catholic teaching that “parents are the primary educators of their children.” For many families that is a Catholic education. In the Diocese of Tulsa and Eastern Oklahoma, that’s about 4,000 students in 13 schools. For these families, they’ve decided that a Catholic school is the best place for their children. An increasing number of parents in Oklahoma and around the country believe that a homeschool education is best for their children. This is a good thing.

So as a school leader, I’m not threatened by an increasing number of homeschool families. It’s not a competition. Those parents believe that homeschooling is the best way to educate their child just as parents who send their children to Bishop Kelley believe that we’re the best option. Several options for parents, including public, charter, and online, are good for kids, good for Oklahoma, and good for this country. It’s my hope that the state and federal government encourage more options for families, not fewer.

God bless you!

Fr. O’Brien

P.S.- A new private high school for boys is opening in north Tulsa. Another option for Tulsa families!

 

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Catholic Schools, School Choice, and the NY Times

This morning’s New York Times website includes an opinion piece by author Katherine Stewart entitled “What the ‘Government Schools’ Critics Really Mean.” Stewart makes the case that those who are putting forward arguments in favor of school choice are doing so from a position of religious fundamentalism. Read the article for yourself but I think it’s unfair. Yes, some who support school choice legislation at the local, state, and federal levels are motivated by their religious beliefs. What’s wrong with that? All kinds of people support specific legislative agendas based on their religious beliefs. It’s been that way since before the United States was the United States. People living their faith in the public square should be encouraged rather than discouraged.

Specifically, on the issue of school choice, I personally believe in it and support it because of my Catholic faith that holds that parents are the primary educators of their children. Out of that belief, parents know their children best and should have an active role, supported by local, state, and federal government, to choose the best school for their child. In some cases, that school may be religious. If I were not religious, as many in the school choice movement are not, I’d still be in favor of it, because every child is different and not every school is good for every child. In our current system, most children attend a school chosen for them based on their zip code. Just because a school is close to their residence, why would that school be the best place for them?

To imply that advocates for school choice are racist and theocratic is not only unfair, it’s untrue.

God bless you!

Fr. O’Brien

 

 

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Personal Financial Literacy at Bishop Kelley

For all the news about the dysfunctional Oklahoma education system, a decision made a few years ago, I believe, will pay off in the long run. For the last several years, the State of Oklahoma has required a course in personal financial literacy in order to graduate. Here at Bishop Kelley, we’ve embraced it hoping to ensure not only our students spiritual and educational futures be solid, but also their financial futures.

Reports abound of the state of American family finances and the news is not good. The main responsibility for teaching children about finances falls to parents. It’s our hope that the personal financial literacy curriculum we offer will supplement and enhance what parents are already teaching their children.

We offer the course during the school year and as an online summer offering.  I think it will pay off in the long run and give our students a solid foundation on which to build a secure financial future.

God bless you.

Fr. O’Brien

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