“Jesus is the reason there is a priesthood and a Church”

“The world, the flesh and the devil fight against you,” says Bishop David Konderla of Tulsa, in reflecting on the priesthood, “but you fight back with the tools Jesus Christ gave His Church. It makes for a meaningful life.”

Bishop David Konderla celebrates his first Chrism Mass in the Diocese of Tulsa and Eastern Oklahoma on April 11, 2017. (Image courtesy of the Diocese of Tulsa, Oklahoma)

Bishop David Konderla, 62, has led the Diocese of Tulsa, Oklahoma since 2016. He grew up in Bryan, Texas, the second oldest of twelve children. He entered seminary for the Diocese of Austin, and was ordained a priest in 1995. In addition to parish assignments, he has served as diocesan vocations director and pastor and director of campus ministry at St. Mary’s Catholic Center at Texas A&M University.

He spoke recently with CWR about the Diocese of Tulsa, his path to the priesthood, the challenge of vocations, ministry to young people, and the necessity of putting Christ first in one’s marriage.

CWR: What was it like growing up in Texas?

Bishop David Konderla: I grew up in what was a small town at the time, the oldest boy of six boys and six girls. We lived on the edge of town, near to a rural area, so I spent my youth playing in the woods and fields swimming in stock tanks and trespassing on my neighbors’ property.

I went to Catholic school up to grade eight and served at Mass. My father was an insurance salesman, and my mother a registered nurse. She worked for two or three years after nursing school, and then took a 19-year maternity leave, going back to work when the youngest was two or three years old. We were 14 people living in a small house; it always seemed that somebody was mad at somebody else and that some scrapping or arguing was going on. Looking back, I can say that it is wonderful to have 11 siblings and all the family that comes from that.

CWR: How did you decide to go to the seminary?

Bishop Konderla: I was not interested in going to college. In 10th grade, I participated in a cooperative education program in which you work half a day and go to school half a day. It prepares you to work in a trade. I worked in the veterinarian toxicology lab at Texas A&M. I continued there two years after high school, then took a night job at a machine shop. I was so enthralled with the machine shop that I quit my day job and went to work as a machinist. Ages 20 to 25, I worked in the shop, managed it and was part owner. I could see with some clarity what that track in life was going to look like for me. I would buy out my partner, own and operate my own shop, and work as a machinist.

At the same time, I was volunteering at my parish. I had a good friendship with my pastor, and he asked me at age 20 if I thought about becoming a priest. I told him no, that I had no interest, and that I was working at a machine shop. But just as I could see what my life would be working at the machine shop, I began to see through the parish what my life would be like if I took the path of the priesthood. I began to weigh the two options.

At age 23, I experienced a much deeper conversion to being a disciple of Christ. Serving the Lord became a more important part of my life. By age 24, I thought seminary might be a good path for me. I went to a “come and see” weekend at St. Mary’s Seminary in Houston, where I felt a tremendous sense of peace. I applied, sold my share in the machinist shop, and entered as a freshman at age 25.

While in the seminary, I became interested in Trappist monasticism. I had been on some discernment retreats, and thought about entering the monastery. However, their primary vocation is being a monk, with the priesthood secondary. If I were to enter, I might not be ordained a priest. That knowledge helped clarify for me what my real vocation was. I felt called to live and serve as a priest. At age 35, I was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Austin.

CWR: Can you give on overview of the Diocese of Tulsa?

Bishop Konderla: Whereas the western side of the state is flat, the eastern side we’re located on is hilly, green and beautiful. It is an extremely rural diocese, with many tiny towns. Some of our parishes only have a few dozen people. We have a Catholic population of 60,000 to 80,000; Catholics make up six or eight percent of the state’s population.

We have 80 priests who serve in 77 parishes; about a third of our parishes don’t have resident priests. A number of our pastors serve multiple parishes. These parishes may be small, but the people are faithful. One of my favorite things about the role I have is going out to visit the parishes. I try to visit each one at least once a year, so I might be going to two, three, four or five parishes on a weekend.

But being out among the people and celebrating the Mass is the easiest and most joyful thing I do. I drive myself; I put 30,000 miles on my car each year.

CWR: How is Tulsa doing for vocations to the priesthood and religious life?

Bishop Konderla: We have 17 seminarians, and ordained three to the priesthood this year. We accepted six new seminarians for the fall class. Our numbers our healthy; we’re always looking for men who are called to the priesthood. If a man is called to the priesthood, that will make him happier than anything else he can do in the world.

CWR: You were a vocations director. How do you attract good men to the seminary?

Bishop Konderla: We attract good men by presenting Jesus Christ to them in a way that is immediate and personal. Jesus is the reason there is a priesthood and a Church. If you are a priest, you’ve reached the point where you know who Christ is and you want to serve His mission in the world.

It is part of the masculine personality to have a quest, to be able to pit your life against some challenge that is meaningful, bringing the Gospel to people so that they can come to know and love Jesus as you do. The world, the flesh and the devil fight against you, but you fight back with the tools Jesus Christ gave His Church. It makes for a meaningful life.

CWR: You were pastor and director of campus ministry at St. Mary’s Catholic Center at Texas A&M University. What was that role like, and why it is important for the Church to be active on college campuses?

Bishop Konderla: That school is an outlier example because of its size. When I was there, it had 60,000 students, a quarter of whom were Catholic. So, in a sense, it was the largest Catholic university in the country. During my time there, we estimated that it had 17,000 Catholic students, making it larger than most Catholic colleges in the country.

About 10 percent of our Catholic college students are attending Catholic colleges, with the other 90 percent in non-Catholic schools. Also, not all of our Catholic universities are truly presenting the faith to their students. If the Church is going to be successful reaching college-age men and women with the Gospel, we have to be on secular college campuses.

In reading about ministry to college students, I saw there was once an attitude of suspicion in the Church towards Newman Centers on secular college campuses. The thinking was, “Why are you not in a Catholic university?” There is no longer that kind of attitude prevalent; the Church must be the leaven in the world to transform the world, so we need a vibrant and faithful presence on secular campuses as well as Catholic ones.

CWR: Did you enjoy campus ministry?

Bishop Konderla: It keeps you young. You are dealing with the same age range year-to-year, 18 to 23; the faces and names change, but the age range stays the same. I was meeting young people age 19, 20 or 21 who were very devout. I’d say to them, “You’re certainly ahead of me spiritually than where I was when I was your age!”

CWR: What is the Alcuin Institute of Catholic Culture and how it has contributed to the diocese?

Bishop Konderla: The Alcuin Institute is an office of formation for our diocese. It is an evangelization tool to try and reach people, helping them engage in the faith by engaging with the intellectual and spiritual life of the faith. They have small group gatherings and study some sort of text, such as the writings of St. Augustine or material from an early Church council. They then enjoy a Socratic dialogue together about what it means in terms of our lives lived today.

The Institute also provides us with educators for our diaconate program and for our annual catechetical conference. It is a tool we use to build Catholic culture.

CWR: You were the chairman of the USCCB Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage. What do you see as some of the greatest threats nationally to traditional marriage?

Bishop Konderla: I think the greatest problem is our own lack of faith. There are many threats that come to us through the culture, such as erroneous messages that come to us through the media, the use of pornography, and the idea that sex and babies should be separated, but these are not the primary threats. What a person needs to be able to flourish in marriage is a relationship with Jesus Christ that is real and personal to them. It enables them to overcome whatever happens in their daily lives and enables them to make sacrifices and to be faithful to the marriage to which they’ve committed themselves.

If married people depend only on one another for joy and to be strong, that marriage has a weak foundation, as the marriage is only as strong as the people in it. But if they enter marriage as disciples of Jesus Christ, He is going to unite their commitment to one another and provide the strongest foundation possible. Whatever problems they encounter, they can take to Him, and He will give them what they need to move forward.

CWR: I assume your parents gave you a good example of what a marriage should be?

Bishop Konderla: Yes, they were amazing people. I’ve often thought about what it must have been like for them, when they were surrounded by 12 children, wondering, “How are we going to deal with this?” But they did.

When I work with engaged couples, I like to ask them to imagine not just what their first few years of married life will be like, but what they’d like their 50th wedding anniversary to be like. Be specific. Who will be there, and what will happen on that day?

It is true, couples in the early years of marriage with three, four, or five children are going to be exhausted. But the children will grow up and move on. You’re not going to be exhausted for the whole marriage.

I want them to focus on how their relationship will progress, and what kind of people their children will become. What will the dividend or payoff of a lifetime of faithful marriage be? I think a conversation like that can be fruitful and important.

CWR: In 2020, you withdrew the Diocese of Tulsa from the Oklahoma Council of Churches because it would not condemn abortion nor defend traditional marriage. You also cited gender ideology and is threats to religious liberty. How did this situation come about and have any other churches followed your lead?

Bishop Konderla: There is a dynamic tension that pertains to the Church’s life in the world. We want to be part of the world, but not of the world. In an ecumenical or interfaith organization, we have to ask, are we able to be part of that organization that contributes to the good of the whole, without at the same time being overly influenced by, or corrupted by the values of the organization itself?

We reached a point where we felt that the OCC was not representing traditional Christianity in a way for us to continue to be members. If I am part of an organization, but cannot sign on to its statements, am I an important part of that organization? It is a small controversy that happened in our diocese, and I don’t know if others followed our lead.

CWR: There was a shooting at a Tulsa Catholic hospital on June 1 that left four victims and the gunman dead. What effect has this had on the Catholic health system?

Bishop Konderla: In our country we have a heightened awareness about violence such as this, but you don’t think it can happen in your neighborhood until it does. It happened at St. Francis Hospital, part of an excellent hospital system in our area, at the hands of a disgruntled patient. He came in with two firearms and killed two doctors, a receptionist, a patient and then himself. It was a terrible, tragic loss of life.

I came to the hospital the next day to celebrate Mass as a way of praying for all affected by this occurrence. As I walked through it, you wouldn’t have known anything happened the day before. The staff was scurrying about, being the merciful love of Jesus Christ by providing for patients’ health care needs. The hospital staff proved resilient while grieving the loss.

CWR: I saw carpentry was an interest for you. What are some of your creations?

Bishop Konderla: I did carpentry with my dad while growing up. When something broke around the house, we’d have to do our own repair work.

When I went to the seminary, I continued woodworking. My primary type is called wood turning. I use a lathe, like a machinist would use, and I take big blocks of wood with interesting color or grain and turn them into large vases or bowls. Many of these end up in charity auctions for our schools. I’ve also made a number of croziers. The one I use is the fifth crozier I’ve made.

CWR: What major initiatives do you have going on in the diocese?

Bishop Konderla: We are planning for our 50th anniversary celebration next February. We’re in the midst of a nationwide Eucharistic revival, in which our diocese is participating in various ways. We’re building a new church and student center at Oklahoma State University. When it is dedicated, it will be the third new church building I’ve dedicated since coming to Tulsa six years ago. It’s good to see signs of growth.

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About Jim Graves 223 Articles
Jim Graves is a Catholic writer living in Newport Beach, California.


  1. How wonderful to hear about such a committed Bishop. So Many get bad press these days because they follow the liberal ideology that deceives the minds and souls of the faithful.The shepherds should protect their flock from the anti-life spirits that destroy the innocent and distort the true meaning of life, human sexuality, family,purity, and faith.

  2. I wish that all Bishops were like the Bishop here us described.

    However, I recognize that he is not “the norm” regarding Bishops, and in good conscience, as stated by some leading Catholic scholars is an open letter to the Pontiff Francis, there is ample reason for NOT entrusting our young men to pursue their calling to the priesthood of Jesus under the control of most Bishops (and by extension the machinery of their seminaries and chanceries etc) of the Catholic Church.

    Among the recent honest voices courageously spesking out about the seeds of mistrust sown by the US bishops is Msgr. Thomas Guarino, who has had his essays on this topic published here at CWR, and First Things, for instance, this from late 2021:


    My operating assumption about most Bishops and their conferences is that they live as the prophet Ezekiel warns this morning in today’s Mass readings: “They live to shepherd themselves.”

    Most of these men seem to be of the type condemned by Ezekiel, who are not to be trusted. Thus, we commit our sons as Ezekiel declares, to be safeguarded from such unworthy Bishops, and shepherded by the Lord.

  3. Jesus fulfilled the roles of priest, king and prophet. Notice after Jesus resurrected, the priesthood stopped………no more mention of it in the N.T. Study and read the book of Hebrews.

    • Notice after Jesus resurrected, the priesthood stopped………(sic)

      An ignorant assertion which is refuted by Jesus Christ Himself in the upper room following the Resurrection in the issuance of the Great Commission.

      Study and read the book of Hebrews.

      Your comprehension of Hebrews 7 is quite deficient, Brian.

    • “Jesus fulfilled the roles of priest, king and prophet. Notice after Jesus resurrected, the priesthood stopped…”

      On the contrary, the Bible indicates that there will be priests, and a daily sacrifice, during the times of the New Testament.

      Malachi 1:10-11 (KJV): “Who is there even among you that would shut the doors for nought? neither do ye kindle fire on mine altar for nought. I have no pleasure in you, saith the LORD of hosts, neither will I accept an offering at your hand.

      “For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the LORD of hosts.”

      The Hebrew word for “incense” (qatar) as used in that passage connotes a sacrifice. From Strong’s: burn (incense, sacrifice)… offer (incense, a sacrifice).”

      We know that this is a NT sacrifice for the following reasons:

      1. After the building of the first temple, it is forbidden to Jews to offer sacrifice anywhere but in the temple in Jerusalem, which is why they no longer have a sacrifice: There is no temple and no Jewish priesthood. Deuteronomy 16:5-6. So, the sacrifice mentioned there cannot be the Jewish sacrifice. In fact, Sacred Scripture specifically states that the sacrifice is by Gentiles.

      2. We know that the Gentile sacrifices of the OT were to devils, so Malachi cannot possibly be speaking about OT times. 1 Corinthians 10:20. Yet, the sacrifice mentioned by Malachi is a) by Gentiles, b) from the rising of the sun even unto the going down, and c) is “in every place.”

      3. If a person is Protestant, whatever church he belongs to does not, and cannot, fulfill the prophecy of Malachi of a Gentile sacrifice offered in every place, daily from the rising of the sun to its going down, so he either has to admit that his organization does not fulfill that prophecy or that the Bible contains a failed prophecy.

      4. The early Christians specifically referenced the prophecy of the prophet Malachi and noted that the Christian Church (i.e., the Catholic Church) fulfills the prophecy. See Didache chapter 14: “On the Lord’s Day come together, break bread and hold Eucharist, after confessing your transgressions that your offering may be pure; But let none who has a quarrel with his fellow join in your meeting until they be reconciled, that your SACRIFICE be not defiled. For this is that which was spoken by the Lord, “In every place and time offer me a pure sacrifice, for I am a great king,” saith the Lord, “and my name is wonderful among the heathen.”

      5. The Catholic Church fulfills that prophecy. Please identify which denomination you belong to and explain how that denomination fulfills the prophecy of Malachi: “For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place INCENSE shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering…”

    • Next, the epistle to the Hebrews states unequivocally that Christians have altars (which connotes a sacrifice) from which they eat, and Jewish people cannot be admitted to Communion.

      See Hebrews 13:10 (KJV): “We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle.”

      Thus, “we” (i.e., Christians, as that’s who Saint Paul is writing to) “have an altar” (and thus we must have a sacrifice) “whereof they have no right to eat” (eating is done during the sacrifice) “which serve the tabernacle” (direct reference to the Jews who did not accept Christ).

      • Further, a sacrifice and a priesthood during the NT is prophesied in yet another section of the OT. See Isaiah 66:19-24, which is a prophecy of the NT era.

        See also Zechariah 14:1-21 (KJV), which is a prophecy of the NT era. Verse 21: “Yea, every pot in Jerusalem and in Judah shall be holiness unto the LORD of hosts: and all they that SACRIFICE shall come and take of them, and seethe therein: and in that day there shall be no more the Canaanite in the house of the LORD of hosts.”

        • Moreover, Jeremiah 33:15-26 contains a prophecy that is fulfilled only as a Messianic prophecy; i.e., it is fulfilled only by Christ, as there has not been a man who sits on the throne of David for thousands of years. But Christ sits on the throne of David, fulfilled only during the NT era. However, the prophecy also states that there will never lack a sacrificing priesthood, and that, too, has been fulfilled in the NT. If it has not been fulfilled during the NT, then it is a failed prediction, as the Jewish people have not had a priesthood for thousands of years.

          Jeremiah 33:17-18 For thus saith the LORD; David shall never want a man to sit upon the throne of the house of Israel;

          18 Neither shall the priests the Levites want a man before me to offer burnt offerings, and to kindle meat offerings, and to do sacrifice continually.

          Question for Protestants: During what era (OT or NT) has that prophecy that David will always have a son to sit on his throne, and that there will always be a sacrificing priesthood, been fulfilled?

      • Our Lord stated unequivocally that He would give us His flesh to eat and His blood to drink (John 6:1-66), He states unequivocally that He was giving His disciples His body and blood (Matthew 26:26-28, Mark 14:22-25, and Luke 22:19-20), and Saint Paul makes clear that what is involved is “the body of the Lord.” See 1 Corinthians 11:29: “For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.”

        The definition of the word “discern” is “to perceive or recognize something.” Saint Paul calls that something “the body of the Lord.”

        Finally, the Mass (liturgy) is directly referenced in the New Testament, although understandably the average Protestant would not realize it. See Acts 13:2 (KJV): ““As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.”

        The Greek word for “minister” contained in that passage is, roughly, “liturgy.” That passage is a direct reference to the liturgy being celebrated by the first Christians. Notice also the reference to fasting, which is the practice of Catholics prior to liturgy, and has been so since the early Church.

        In the Septuagint, which is the Greek text quoted by the apostles approximately 80% of the time, as opposed to the Hebrew, the word “liturgy” is a reference to “sacrifice.” In other words, every time the word “liturgy” appears in the Greek OT, it is a reference to sacrifice. There are no exceptions to this. And the Greek word used in the NT in that passage is the same Greek word used for the sacrifice of the OT: “liturgy.”

        I’ll skip any reference to the Christian priesthood and the Christian sacrifice made by the early Church fathers, as they are too voluminous and numerous to be included here.

        The 73 books of the Bible are thoroughly Catholic.

  4. I am both proud and blest to have met Bishop Konderla right after he was ordained. He was on the same parish staff for 3 years before he served elsewhere. Both being from large families, we hit it off immediately. He deeply influenced the infant baptism program we developed (What Do You Ask of God’s Church?) and helped shape the content of our marriage preparation program. His witness to his own vocational journey and to its family foundation truly shapes how he leads. His Pastoral Letter (2018) “God Builds a House” listed Strengthening the Family and the Domestic Church as the first of 3 priorities. When I read that, I thought – would that ALL bishops and pastors had that as a first priority! All vocations – conjugal, celibate, and consecrated might increase. The Church in Eastern Oklahoma is greatly blessed. But they know that.

  5. Matthieu 19.11-12
    Peshitta: “For there are men of confidence since the womb of their mother, they are born thus. And there are men of confidence who are thus because of men. And there are men of faith who are men of faith because of the Kingdom of heaven. Let him who can contain this, contain it!”
    In France we have a movement of study which is represented by Pierre Perrier. He has unearthed StThomas’ Catholic evangelisation in China, archeological proof to boot.
    The movement considers the Peshitta- Syriac New Testament in Araméen – to be older than the Greek. One proof are quotes in Araméen lifted from the Peshitta and scattered in the Greek NT with additional explanations. Another is the subtilité of certain vital passages.
    In their translation Joachim Elie and Patrick Calame explain the following from the Araméen concerning the Euchuch:
    “Mehaimene”.From the root aman which means “believe”, “have faith,” “have confidence”. This is also the root of “Amen.” The Mehaimene are those with the faith,or in whom we can trust, have confidence.
    The root aman also means “to raise little children in confidence,” “to be true.”
    The most familiar translation is “eunuche,” the man in whom we can confide the harem without fear that he fall into temptation. Jesus, in Syriac explains with a play on words lost in the Greek.
    Nothing to do with castration – vulgar and unacceptable – he reveals the true meaning of chastity, which is “because of the Kingdom of Heaven.” This Kingdom in which only little children enter. According to the Greek-Roman World, sexuality is only contained by castration. According to the Kingdom, sexuality can be transformed and purified into innocence.
    Defenders of the faith, fight James Martin’s assertions that Jesus was referring to LGBT. It is contestable with the language of Jesus.

  6. PS. There were three languages on the cross. And at Pentecost everyone heard the gospel in his own language. Three synoptic gospels, perfected in the upper-room under Mary’s guidance. Greek. Latin. Araméen. The evidence is in the NT itself. And the chaste ascetic priesthood was instituted by Christ unquestionably in Matthieu since the beginning.

3 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. “Jesus is the reason there is a priesthood and a Church” | Passionists Missionaries Kenya, Vice Province of St. Charles Lwanga, Fathers & Brothers
  2. “Jesus is the reason there is a priesthood and a Church” | Franciscan Sisters of St Joseph (FSJ) , Asumbi Sisters Kenya
  3. Jésus est la raison pour laquelle il y a un sacerdoce et une Eglise

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