Todd Nance has always wanted to be a priest and on May 25 he made history as becoming the first Osage to enter into priesthood.
“I was actually surprised when I heard I was the first Osage priest but I am very honored to hold that title,” Nance said.
Nance grew up in Hominy and attended Saint Joseph’s Catholic Church. His family was very active in the parish and that is where Nance spent a lot of his time.
“I always wanted to be a priest since I was three years old,” he said. “I would mimic the priest and I use to play mass when I was younger.”
His parents are Felix Nance (Osage) and Casey Nance. His siblings are Russell Nance and Heather Nance.
In high school, Nance participated in youth groups, taught religious education, served on the youth Advisory Board for the Diocese of Tulsa and was a youth director for the Church of Saint Benedict.
“I was able to bring God to people and people to God in ways they couldn’t,” he said. “It was through all those things I realized I wanted to do more which led me to be a priest.”
Nance graduated from Hominy High School in 2004 followed by a year of discernment in Stillwater, where he helped in a parish while taking classes at Oklahoma State University.
In the fall 2005, he attended Conception Seminary College in Missouri where he earned his bachelor’s degree in philosophy and was trained in pastoral life.
“I learned a variety of pastoral experiences working with the elderly and people in crisis situations as well as other situations,” he said. “I also did youth camps and learned how to work with kids.”
Conception Seminary College is one of the largest 40 Roman Catholic college seminaries in the nation and is one of only 15 with a complete four-year academic curriculum, according to www.conception.edu.
In fall 2009, Nance attended Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in Indiana and in April 2012 he was ordained as a deacon.
On May 11 he graduated from Saint Meinrad with his master’s degree in divinity.
“What kept me motivated during these last eight years was a strong desire to be a priest and a strong calling from God that this is what I am supposed to be doing,” Nance said.
“I have never felt that studying and becoming a priest is something that I should not do.”
On May 25, Nance was ordained as a priest of the Diocese of Tulsa at Holy Family Cathedral. That evening he gave his first mass at Saint Bernard of Clairvaux Parish.
Father Chris Daigle of Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Pawhuska, vested Nance and gave him his chalice. The chalice is over 100 years old and was made in Belgium.
“I gave him my chalice because 35 years ago my pastor gave me that chalice and I want to see Todd enjoy it,” Daigle said.
Daigle, a mentor and friend of Nance, first met in 2009. Nance had a summer internship with Daigle and helped around Immaculate Conception Catholic Church. He performed Holy Communions, visited elders, did yard work, helped in the kitchen for the free meal program and was active in mass.
“We’d also eat together, pray together and he’s shared a lot of hopes and dreams with me,” Daigle said. “As well as concerns, or he would call me during the school year.”
Daigle is thankful for the relationship he has with Nance and is glad everyone from the parish has been there to help him.
“He grew a lot from being a school-educated person to taking what he learned and putting it into perspective,” Daigle said. “I am very proud of him and it has been a delight.”
On May 26, Nance performed mass at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church as well as at St. Mary Parish in Barnsdall.
There were even a few people who “Lulu’d” during mass, Daigle said.
After mass, Osage Nation Assistant Principal Chief Scott BigHorse and his brother Van Bighorse honored Nance. They sang him two prayer songs and presented him with a purple Pendleton blanket.
“While we have our traditional religious and ceremonial leaders, it’s going to be new for people to see there is now an Osage religious leader in the Catholic church,” said Kristen Pratt, a long-time friend of Nance. “I know Todd will serve as a great role model to any young Osage who shows interest in his role in the Catholic Church.”
Pratt (Osage) and Nance have known each other since they were about 7 years old and she couldn’t be happier or more proud of him.
“In the last few years he interned at Immaculate Conception with Father Daigle for Christmas and the New Year, I get such a joy seeing him give his Homily and as I sat there listening, my mind always wonders back to when we were children and seeing now the people we have become today, 20 years later,” Pratt said.
So far, Nance is enjoying his new life as a priest and looks forward to spending many years at Saint Mary Catholic Church in Tulsa.
“I put forth the effort and energy into doing this,” he said. “It is a beautiful thing and every bit as good as I hope it would be and more.”