Oklahomanization: 1945-1957 Bishop Eugene McGuinness

Bishop McGuinness’ years in Oklahoma (1945-1957) were a time of building and of development of a native Oklahoma clergy. All the numbers showed an upward trend – 40 percent more parishes, four priests for every three priests previously, only three counties without a church as compared to 11 in 1945, and over 20 churches built in places where there were none before. Although extending an open and grateful hand to European born priests – especially the native Irish and the refugee Polish – the bishop had as his first goal a truly native clergy for Oklahoma. When he died during the Christmas season of 1957 the number of native Oklahoma clergy was double that of 1945.

His motto was "All things to all people." He embodied it. His life as bishop of Oklahoma was a lived example of building a good self-concept. He bragged so well and so consistently on Oklahoma's priests and Catholic people that they began to believe that they were something special.

Red-faced, high pitched rasp of a voice, cigar smoking, friendly, warmly emotional — these were some of the visible traits of Oklahoma's third bishop McGuinness' asceticism was one vast effort to build the Church, as he conceived it, in Oklahoma. In 13 years he rushed from an enormously vigorous middle age to a very tired old man.

Bishop McGuinness' background paralleled Bishop Kelley's. Born of Irish Catholic parents near Bethlehem, Pa., Eugene McGuinness was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia on May 22, 1915. Four years after ordination FatherMcGuinness was released from Philadelphia to work with Msgr. Francis C. Kelley's Catholic Church Extension Society. For 18 years he labored with Extension for the Church in poor, rural America. In 1937, he was named Bishop of Raleigh, North Carolina. Seven years later Bishop McGuinness was transferred to Oklahoma.