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The Oklahoma Group's History

ORIGIN AND PURPOSE OF OUR “FRATRES IN UNUM” GROUP

Following Vatican Council II perhaps the most progressive diocese in the United States was that of Oklahoma City-Tulsa.  After that Ecumenical Council, the diocese of Oklahoma City-Tulsa called together what they called the LITTLE COUNCIL.  Delegates were elected from each parish from around the entire state.  There were many young priests, and most were very proud of the idea of having elected representatives implement the theology, philosophy, and insights of Vatican II into the life of the Catholic parishes in Oklahoma.  The bishop of the era was Victor J. Reed who had his roots in the state and had served there as a parish priest prior to becoming our bishop.  He was permissive of new ways and experiments but not a firebrand.

But many of the laity were not so enthusiastic.  For instance, the diocesan newspaper was uniquely privately owned and edited by one of the more liberal priests and his articles were often at odds with the conservative leanings of a group of loudly opposed laity.  So before long the Little Council took aim at that paper, and it was no longer the official diocesan paper. The paper was sold, and the owner-editor moved to California to exercise his ministry. 

By the late 1960s many of the young and more progressive clergy dropped out of the active ministerial ranks – moving out of state to serve in various more secular areas of service.  Those who laid aside their active ministry and yet stayed in Oklahoma were scattered and many were discouraged and perhaps even distressed.  In 1982 an inactive priest from the diocese of Dallas-Fort Worth, with his recently acquired master’s degree in Psychiatric Social Work, was hired to head our Catholic Charities Organization.  This was Lou Wise.  Lou even though deep into the challenge of his new job, also felt the inspiration to establish the St. Vincent de Paul Society in the state.  He also began to seek out any “former” (inactive) priests to provide the structure of a support group and provide some camaraderie for these men and their wives.  Before long he was able to occasionally assemble around 30 individuals and their spouses.  In 1984 Lou left the job at Catholic Charities but remained in the Oklahoma City area as an Allstate Insurance Agent and continued to lead the Fratres In Unum Group.  The men who were active in the early years of the Frates were: Charlie Meiser, Fred Krueger, Grove Hayden, Frank Manning, Dale Dirkschneider, Frank Helderle, Bill King, David Iven, David Jones, Neil Towner, Bob Westerman, George Zins, James Fellows, Dale Tacheny, Bob Brousseau, Pat Quirk, and their wives, and probably a few others.  Eventually Lou retired from Allstate and moved to New Mexico.  But the Fratres In Unum Group held on in his absence.  When Lou’s wife became ill, they moved back to Oklahoma and Lou has resumed his regular attendance at their monthly luncheons in Oklahoma City.  We have always had a few active priests who regularly attend our lunches, such as Fathers Jim Greiner, Paul Gallatin, Phil Creider and Joe Kolb.  Fathers Jim Greiner and Phil Creider are about the only surviving members of our active priest supporters and Phil has two immune problems due to his twenty years of service in the armed forces that prevent him from attending the meetings.  Occasionally other active priests drop by.

In December of 2009, at Neil Towner’s funeral, Grove Hayden and Charlie Meiser encouraged me (Tom Litsch) to drive into Oklahoma City for their monthly luncheons.  I lived in a town some 85 to 90 miles west of OKC, but by then I was fully retired, so I began to attend their luncheon gatherings in January of 2009.  I love lists so I revived the Directory of inactive priests that Lou Wise had started.  I added to the local list the names and addresses of any men who had served in Oklahoma but had then moved out of state.  That way I could keep all the old timers informed about what was happening in the lives of the various families.  I now have many obituaries of our formerly active priests.  Just this week I received news that the wife (Margaret King) of one of our deceased inactive priests, William King, had died in Round Rock, Texas.  I also send out email &/or telephone reminders of the upcoming luncheons.  Unfortunately, to paraphrase the title of a 2003 book edited by one of our deceased members, Bob Brousseau, we are “A Dying Breed of Brave Men.”

We were inactive for a while due to the COVID Pandemic, but recently became active again.  Currently we gather on the second Tuesday of most months at 11:00 a.m. in the Cracker Barrel Restaurant near I-40 and Meridian (700 Cornell Parkway, Oklahoma City).  You are welcome to join us.  We occasionally change venues, so check with me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to be sure of our current watering hole.

Submitted by Tom Litsch of Clinton, OK; October 1, 2022

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