On July 14, 1991 Archbishop Charles A. Salatka formally established the Parish of Saint Mark the Evangelist in Norman, Oklahoma. The Archdiocese donated ten acres of land on Tecumseh Road west of I-35 to serve a fast-growing area in Cleveland County from Blanchard to Moore. Father John Metzinger, Pastor at Prince of Peace Parish in Altus, Oklahoma was named the first Pastor. A home was purchased early in that year adjacent to the Tecumseh Road property at 3701 Castlerock Rd to provide a Rectory for the Pastor. The Rectory became the site of most parish meetings and frequently daily Mass was celebrated in the dining room. On Sunday morning, July 14 the first Mass was celebrated in the Ballroom of the Sheriton Hotel. It was immediately apparent that attendance exceeded the planned seating. Partitions were opened and chairs were added. Three hundred fifty people were in attendance. In his homily at this first Mass, Fr. Metzinger said: "Trust in the word. Trust is crucial for our new community. God has called us together. He has chosen me, and he has chosen you. God will build this house and the Holy Spirit will guide us."
The first Capital Campaign began with plans for construction of a building on the Tecumseh Road property. The cost for this first building was $1.3 Million. On April 7, 1993 the building which is presently “Founders Hall” was completed and joyfully blessed by Archbishop Eusebius J. Beltran and Retired Archbishop Charles A. Salatka. By this time, Deacon Jim Knight had come to assist Father Metzinger, and Dee Knight served as Religious Education Director, and Bob Schlegel served as Music Director. There were now 245 families registered at Saint Mark.
By this time, the parish has grown to include 490 families, and Cheryl Jacobson joined the parish staff as secretary as Byron Jacobson began formation for the diaconate.
In this year, Archbishop Beltran established All Saints Catholic School in Norman as a multi-parish community school for St. Joseph, St. Thomas More, and Saint Mark Parishes. While a new and permanent facility was under construction near Saint Mark, classes began in the old school building at Saint Joseph.
Sadly the unexpected death of Dee Knight ended an important relationship with Saint Mark Parish and the Knight family. Deacon Jim Knight transferred to Saint Thomas More Parish in Norman shortly thereafter and two years later began seminary studies for priesthood and was eventually ordained for the Archdiocese in 2001. Sister Sara Dwyer, ASC came to Saint Mark as Pastoral Associate and Director of Religious Education. Sister Bernita Leiker, ASC accompanied Sister Sara and was an important part of parish life.
In the fall of this year, All Saints School opened at a new location near Saint Mark. Deacon Byron Jacobson completed his formation and was ordained and assigned to St. Mark. The two hundred family parish which began in 1991 had now grown to more than 705 families. The need for a permanent church and education facility became pressing as the parish continued to grow, and plans were undertaken for more construction. “Building a Church for the Future” was the goal and theme of the $2,000,000.00 Capital Campaign to build a new sanctuary, baptistery, chapel, education, and administration wing. A comprehensive design and building committee began to meet, choose an architect and contractor, and the following year a groundbreaking ceremony was held on the feast of Saint Mark, 1999.
December 6, 2000 was the great day of celebration as the parish community of 894 families assembled to dedicate the new church with Archbishop Beltran and retired Archbishop Salatka. In this year Sister Sara Dwyer left Saint Mark and Michael Briggs assumed the position of
In June, 2002 Father John Metzinger completed eleven years as Pastor at St. Mark and accepted a new assignment at St. John the Baptist parish in Edmond. Father Thomas Boyer, then Pastor of Our Lady’s Cathedral, was assigned as the second pastor of St. Mark as membership climbed past 1,100 families. The following year, the first building that served as the temporary church was rededicated as "Founders Hall" in honor of the original families who established the parish twelve year earlier with a great reunion of the founding families. During this year, some alterations were made to Founders Hall with the removal of classroom walls, cry room, original sacristy and office to provide a considerably enlarged nursery and child-care facility as well as a large Youth Room.
A reorganization of Parish Ministries began with Dottie Morris and Donna Wynn serving as transitional Directors of Religious Education. They began the first Vacation Bible School summer program which was enthusiastically received by parish families. The increasing number of children in Religious Education prompted a move to All Saints School on Wednesday evenings. Mary Bojarski began serving as coordinator of Sacramental programs (First Confession/First Communion) in an effort to combine and blend the parish children at All Saints School with the parish children in the Religious Education Program. A “Mothers Day Out” program began this year in the space created in Founders Hall, and Deacon Byron Jacobson assumed the leadership with the RCIA program which was growing larger each year. By this time the parish has grown to 100 registered families.
A successful two year pledge campaign was begun to purchase the Walker Organ for the new church, and the following year a four manual 82 stop organ was installed at a cost of $92,000.00. At this time Pam Grega replaced Bob Schlegel as Music Director. This year saw the publication of the first “Annual Report” provided for the parish on the web site newly designed. The report contained details and information about the many ministries that provide leadership and service from Education, Youth Ministry, Social Service and Outreach, to a detailed financial summary.
At this time, Lori (Hoehner) Blankenship assumed the position of Religious Education Director, and in September of this year, Beth Lenherr came to the parish as Director of Youth Ministry. The RCIA program this year brought more than 70 people to Baptism and Confirmation. The formation of a core team for this ministry was now firmly established and providing great leadership.
Darlene Marquez replaced Beth Lenherr this year as Beth took a position at a language program on the island of Mauritius. The Youth Program experienced considerable growth and development during this time centering on the Sacrament of Confirmation. Toward the end of the following year, Darlene gave birth to her first child and elected to resign and care for her daughter. During this year, the old altar platform from Founders Hall was removed to make more floor space for the many growing events, dinners, and receptions in this space which once served as the worship space. Lighting was improved and a new sound system installed.
With 1,278 families now registered at Saint Mark Shawn Reidy joined the parish staff this year as Director of Youth Ministry bringing renewed interest and energy to this ministry of the parish. A co-operative relationship was begun with the University of Oklahoma School of Music providing an internship experience in Church Music Ministry for OU Organ Students. From this time to the present, students in the graduate degree program at the University serve as Organist in the parish.
At the beginning of this year after consulting with and visit from leadership at Cross International, members of the parish selected a project from several proposed by Cross International for the Parish of Saint Mark to share its resources with some of God’s people in great need. “Project Hope”, ESPWA, was selected, and in February Father Boyer and Deacon Byron visited ESPWA, an orphanage led by Father Marc Boisvert in Les Cayes, Haiti. Upon their return and report to the parish a commitment was made to regularly tithe from our parish income to support the needs of this Orphanage. In the following year, Father Marc visited Saint Mark in gratitude and by her personal presence and charismatic vision deepened the interest and commitment of the parish community to the children at ESPWA Villiage.
20111,356 families now make up the community of Saint Mark Parish. This steady growth bears witness to the faith and holiness of the people who assemble for worship here week after week. Stewardship with God’s gifts has brought us a long way since 1991 just as it has brought us more responsibility. During this year a celebration of twenty years will be celebrate on July 15, 2011. Glory be to God!