Rev. John Vanden Hende. For nearly ten years Father Vanden Hende has been rector of St. John’s Catholic Church at Bartlesville. His career as a missionary priest in old Indian Territory began in 1899, soon after his ordination, after a long course of preparation for his duties in Belgium, of which country he is a native.
John Vanden Hende was born at Renaix, Flandres Orientale, Belgium, October 9, 1873, a son of Desire and Adele (Debonnet) Vanden Hende. His mother died in Renaix about 1883. From Renaix the father moved to Brussels, and about 1892 came to America, locating in New York City, where he died in 1903. His first business venture in the old country was as a manufacturer of cotton goods. He failed in that, and then made a living as an organist at St. Martin Church in Renaix and as a music teacher. The present bishop of Oklahoma, Rt. Rev. T. Meerschaert, learned the elements of music from Desire Vanden Hende. After going to New York Mr. Vanden Hende devoted himself to church music and choral society work. There was a family of seven children, four daughters and three sons, and one other of the sons is now a priest at Chazy, New York.
Father Vanden Hende was educated in St. Anthony" College at Renaix, at St. Boniface College, Brussels, the Seminary of Algiers in Algeria, and the American College of Lou vain. he was ordained a priest in July, 1899, and arrived at Muskogee, in old Indian Territory, in October of the same year, where he began his work as an assistant. In 1901 he was made chaplain of St. John’s Indian School, and in 1902 his work was transferred to Antlers among the Choctaw Indians. During 1903-’04 he was assistant priest at Kingfisher, and during 1905-’06 had charge of eleven missions with headquarters at Hydro. In 1906 he became rector of St. John’s Church in Bartlesville.
When he arrived at Bartlesville the members of the parish were worshiping in a small brick church 33x40 feet. In 1910 Father Vanden Hende remodeled and enlarged the church to dimensions 33x115 feet, and in 1912 St. John’s Parochial School was built, while a substantial rectory dates from 1907. All these are brick buildings. The parish at first comprehended both the counties of Nowata and Washington. In 1912 Nowata County was made a separate parish, having at that time a church and an organized congregation. Today the parish of St. John includes the whole of Washington County, of which Collinsville with its new church is a mission. There is a membership of about 150 families in the parish, of various nationalities, Irish, Polish, Mexican and German.