July 04, 2008
The Road to Renewal: Victor Joseph Reed & Oklahoma Catholicism, 1905-1971
By Br. Benet S. Exton *

By Br. Benet S. Exton *

Book written by: Jeremy Bonner


This book is the first biography of Bishop Victor J. Reed, the fourth Catholic bishop of Oklahoma (1958-1971).  Bishop Victor Joseph Reed was born on December 23, 1905 in Montpelier, Indiana to Victor Larue and Henrietta Mary Collins Reed.  Victor converted to Catholicism in order to marry Henrietta and in 1910, moved to Bald Hill, Oklahoma because of the oil industry. 


Victor Joseph Reed was sent at the age of seven in 1912 to St. Joseph’s College in Muskogee, Oklahoma.  Victor Reed expressed interest in the priesthood and he was sent to St. John’s Seminary in Little Rock, Arkansas.  In 1928 Bishop Francis Clement Kelley sent Reed to continue his studies at the Urban College of the Propaganda in Rome.  After he was ordained a priest, he to Oklahoma and was assistant pastor at St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Oklahoma City. 


After having a second opportunity to study in Rome, Fr. Reed was appointed to be the bishop of Oklahoma City-Tulsa in 1958.  The next year, Pope Blessed John XXIII convoked the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), which  Bishop Victor Reed attended every session and was involved in the discussions on the liturgy.


When the Council concluded, Bishop Reed tried to implement the renewal of the Council in his diocese.  There were some clergy and laity who were supportive and others who opposed them.  Bishop Reed had to work with both extremes; he and the Church were in new waters.  Some thought he allowed too much experimentation while others claimed he did not allow enough.  Still Bishop Reed was determined to implement Vatican II.  .  


Bishop Reed allowed the experimentation of new parishes and allowed the laity to cross over parish boundaries and attend the church they wanted to.  He allowed the laity to be more involved in the finances of their parish.  He wanted more democracy in the parish structure following Vatican II’s call for more lay participation in the Church.


Jeremy Bonner’s research project was to study a bishop and his diocese and how it implemented the Vatican II renewal of various aspects of the Church.  Bishop Reed spent most of his life as a bishop as a Council Father and one of those who implemented the Council’s renewals.  Many considered him to be an open-minded person and willing to move the Church forward.  But he was also a person who knew what he was called to do as a bishop and he would act as such when he thought it was needed.  His time as bishop was not an easy one since he had to deal with many conflicts in his diocese.  This may have lead to his early death at the age of 65.


The book is divided into four parts.  The first is the biography of Bishop Reed.  Part two describes how Reed dealt with the renewal of diocesan structures, education, parish life and the post-conciliar Church.  Next, the book discusses the liturgy, ecumenism, racial equality, Oklahoma’s mission in Guatemala and the Vietnam War.  The final part is about the priesthood of the post-conciliar times, female religious life in Oklahoma, the laity and its identity.  The conclusion examines Bishop Reed’s term as bishop of Oklahoma to see what was done and what was not finished.


General readers may find this book a bit dry and academic.  However, this book will be of great interest to Oklahoma Catholics as well as those interested in the tumultuous times after Vatican II.  Research into what happened in the 1970s in the Catholic Church in Oklahoma should be of interest for a future researcher into this topic.

Br. Benet Exton, O.S.B., St. Gregory's University, Shawnee, Oklahoma.
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