Skiatook Catholic Church incorporates Osage culture

As Father Ken Iheanacho said his homily for his Father’s Day mass at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Skiatook, he wore eye-catching new vestments and moved about very colorful altar cloths.

“Some of you may have noticed our new altar cloths and my vestments,” he said. And with a smile he added, “They look pretty good.”

Father Ken joins Father Chris Daigle, the priest for the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Pawhuska, whose vestments and altar cloths are adorned with Osage ribbon work and Osage yarn work.  

Osage tribal member Sherri Mashburn, who attends the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Skiatook, said the new vestments carry on the vision of Father White, a former priest at the church. White did a lot of research on the Osage and renovated the church to include Osage history and art in 1998, she said.

The woodwork on the altar of the church also includes Osage imagery. The depictions of the Archangel Gabriel, Archangel Michael and the Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, displays them dressed in Osage clothes. Osage warrior icons also adorn the walls and incorporate gold leaf and silver.

“Our Sacred Heart Church holds a great deal of history and many nationalities among our parishioners. We celebrate today our Osage history with our county, our church and our community,” Mashburn said. “The new vestments and altar cloths are to compliment the history and vision of what Father White started. So now, Father Ken will carry on the tradition with a lot of history in our church and I look forward to see what we can grow and what more we can add to our parishioners and to our church.”

Mashburn recognized the owners of the Pawhuska-based Cedar Chest shop, Julie O’Keefe and Danette Daniels, as well as Faith Fenner, who were there for the work on the vestments and altar cloths.

“They were the ones who collaborated with me on coming up with this design and putting everything together for us,” Mashburn said.

Father Ken, who is from Nigeria and has been a priest in Skiatook for a year, has lived in America for more than 18 years. He started his career in Tulsa, at Saint Francis Church and was there for three months. He then continued his career in Stillwater for two-and-a-half years, Tahlequah for six years and then again in Tulsa  for nine years.

Parishioner Emily Black, Osage, who grew up in California but always visited with her grandmother in June for In-Lon-Schka, said she has been going to the Sacred Heart Church for about eight years in Skiatook.

“What you heard this morning is what we hear every Sunday. He is a very dynamic speaker, a wonderful teacher and we are totally blessed to have him here with us,” she said. “I saw the [vestments and altar cloths] when Sherri first received them and I think they are absolutely astounding. I think they are just gorgeous, with the ribbon work and the finger weaving on them, I just can’t say enough words on how beautiful they are and how happy I am to see that.”

Special blessings were said for Mashburn and her husband Larry, as well as for all the fathers and grandfathers in attendance. Father Ken said he appreciated what Mashburn and her husband did for the church.

“They are gorgeous, it is wonderful, I really love it,” he said. “It really reminds us of the history here, of the Osage Nation and our parish.”