By Judy Hilovsky
The Sooner Catholic
All former residents and employees of Saint Joseph’s Orphanage and Children’s Home are encouraged to gather for the fifth reunion on Aug. 12 in Oklahoma City.
Those unfamiliar with the orphanage may have driven past it without even realizing it. The home’s 27 acres was situated near the half-way point of the new El Reno Interurban rail line connecting Oklahoma City and Yukon, which is now 39th Expressway. In 1973, the building was sold and became the headquarters of the International Pentecostal Holiness Church.
It all began just three years after Oklahoma statehood when land was purchased to create the Saint Joseph Orphanage Asylum and Industrial School. On Aug. 1, 1912, Sister Mary Scholastica, superior, and Sisters Mary Anthony, Mary Raphael and Mary Ambrose, all Sisters of Mercy, arrived to receive the children. On Oct. 6, 1912, Bishop Theophile Meerschaert blessed the new facility.
Over the years, the children were cared for by more than seven religious orders, including the Sisters of Mercy, Sisters of the Blessed Carmelites, Benedictines, Missionary Sisters of the Most Blessed Trinity, Sisters of Saint Joseph and the Divine Providence Sisters.
A large brick building set on a sloping hill, saw a gymnasium added, a chapel and classrooms. It was central to many of the charities of its day for Catholics and those they helped. Oklahoma’s Catholic Charities also had its start at Saint Joseph where it was headquartered until 1926.
Having grown to 60 acres by 1913, area promoters fostered the idea that the gardens, farming and livestock of the orphanage would publicize the rich farming potential of the area. The orphanage continued to grow to include various tracts of land including the “north farm” where Resurrection Cemetery is now located.
Father James Garvey, who started as director in 1928, used a popular annual parish picnic to raise funds to reduce the home’s indebtedness, resulting in the mortgage being paid off by 1934.
During the next 60 years, the orphanage would see many changes in its structure, outreach and workers.
In 1965, the children’s home relocated to Eastern Avenue in northeast Oklahoma City with more modern dormitories, cafeteria and chapel. Throughout the years Saint Joseph provided care and housing for more than 5,000 children until they graduated eighth grade.
Judy Hilovsky is a freelance writer for the Sooner Catholic.
St. Joseph’s Orphanage reunion
2 p.m. - 4 p.m.
Trinity Gardens, 3825 N.W. 19, OKC
Mass at 5 p.m. at St. Patrick
RSVP by Aug. 7