Fr. Joe Townsend

As I begin to learn who you are I want to take this opportunity to share with you a little of who I am. I know some of you have heard this, but with summer travel some may have not been present when I shared this at Mass. I am a native of Oklahoma, growing up in the far southeastern corner of Oklahoma in the town of Valliant. I grew up on a cattle ranch and lived in a house that was only about 100 yards from where my great-great-grandmother was settled by the U.S. government in the Indian Removal Act of the early 1830s, which displaced the Choctaw Indians from their traditional homeland in Northern Mississippi.

My family has been in this part of the country since 1834. My grandfather was a full blood Choctaw Indian, which makes me onequarter Choctaw. I grew up as the baby of the family with my two older brothers and two older sisters.

I did not grow up in the Catholic Faith, but instead was a member of the Southern Baptist faith. I converted to Catholicism as a freshman in college, and like all converts, there is an interesting story behind my conversion.

When most people tell the story of how they became Catholic, it usually starts with someone, some Catholic. I often joke, when I hear someone say, “well it was because of this Catholic girl; she got me hooked and then lead me to the Church,”...well in my hometown, I could not have dated a Catholic girl if I had wanted to, because there were not any to date in my high school of 300.

But I was being drawn to the Church, even from a very early age. My fi rst memory of showing any interest in the Church was when I was in the second grade, about 7 or 8 years old. I remember the scene like it was yesterday. It was during school, during recess and it was raining outside so we had to stay indoors. For some reason, we were playing some type of game where we were all lined up and told our religion, and when it got to me, as a good little Southern Baptist, I of course blurted out, “I’m Catholic.” I think most of my classmates did not even know what that was.

My first real introduction was by watching Midnight Mass from Rome each Christmas Eve. When I was 16 years old, the local priest had put an ad in the paper asking if anyone was interested in learning about the Catholic Faith. Now, to show how the Lord works His wondrous ways, it was my Baptist mother who saw the ad and told me if I was really serious about being Catholic that I needed to act on it. So I made the call, and I remember the priest telling me to meet him at a certain time in the rectory. That posed a problem for me, because I knew what a parsonage was but I had no clue what a rectory was. So instead, when I got there, I just went into the Church. And as soon as I sat down, I had the powerful feeling that I was home, that this is where I was supposed to be, and I have never looked back.

I have often asked my mother what allowed her to look past what ever prejudices she might have had about CircusCatholics, since she did not know any either. She told me that when she was a little girl in rural Oklahoma, where there was not much of a Catholic presence, she would often go to the tent revivals
that were put up almost every week during the summer, partly because it was something to do. She said she heard many a sermon about how evil Catholics were, but that even as a little girl she never believed any of those stories. For my part I think Our Lady was preparing her for the time when her own son would express an interest in the Faith.

During the past 19 years of my priesthood I have been blessed in so many ways by the faithful I have met in my assignments; assignments that have been as diverse as large urban parishes of a couple thousand people to small rural communities of 20 and 30 parishioners; from college students at both OSU and TU to the care of the Catholic inmates at two of our state prisons. I even ministered to circus performers who wintered in Oklahoma. Now God and His Church have led me to you, the people of St. Benedict. It is He who has brought me here and it is He who invites us to walk together, pastor and
parishioner, with Him, to where He wants us to go—to walk with joy, with faith, with a sense of humor, in prayer and hope; hope in a God who is good and caring and always ready to embrace and lift up His people.

I am glad to be here, honored to follow the good leadership of Msgr. Gaalaas, Fathers Tom and Eichhoff and the many associates who have ministered here alongside our deacons, staff, and countless volunteers.

Rev. Joe C. Townsend

Church of Saint Benedict

2200 W Ithica St, Broken Arrow, OK 74012
(918) 455-4451