The Catholic People of Prague, Oklahoma, were first served by various missionaries in a small wooden Church built in 1899. This church was located where the Catholic Cemetery is now, about a mile from the present property. As the town and the Catholic population grew, there was a need for a larger church. In June, 1909, Bishop Theophile Meerschaert dedicated a new church under the patronage of St. Wenceslaus, the patron of the Czech nation. This church was built on the present parish grounds.
This 1909 church was destroyed by a tornado in 1919. That same year, a new brick church was built and was dedicated by Bishop Meerschaert under the continued patronage of St. Wenceslaus. This church served the Catholics of Prague until after World War II, when it became necessary to make plans for a larger church.
Planning for a new church had begun in 1945 under the previous pastor, Rev. Eric Beevers. Although aspirations for a new church were high, the parishioners lacked much in worldly goods and it seemed as if a new church was many years in the future when, in 1947, Rev. George V. Johnson was appointed pastor. In that same year, Father Johnson was called to Bakersfield, California, where his mother, Mrs. Annie Johnson, was critically ill. As his hospitalized mother recovered, Father Johnson spoke of his new parish of St. Wenceslaus and its hopes for a new church. Some of the Sisters of Mercy staffing the hospital asked if the parish ever made devotions to The Infant Jesus of Prague. When Father Johnson replied in the negative, the Sisters asked if he would accept for his parish a statue of The Infant Jesus of Prague. To this, Father Johnson consented. In August, 1947, a statue of The Infant Jesus of Prague arrived in Prague, Oklahoma, and Father Johnson placed it in St. Wenceslaus Church.
As a matter of course, Father Johnson ordered literature concerning The Infant Jesus of Prague and copies of devotions to The Infant Jesus of Prague, which were placed near the statue. Soon members of the parish told of requests being answered. Two weeks before Christmas, 1947, Father Johnson was walking up and down the aisle of the Church praying The Divine Office when his eyes were caught by the statue of The Infant Jesus of Prague. He recalled the many stories of his parishioners and their faith in The Infant Jesus of Prague. As Father Johnson gazed on the statue, he promised The Infant Jesus that he would make the new Church a Shrine to The Infant Jesus of Prague if The Infant would help him get the new church built. Donations of money and supplies soon started arriving from parishioners and businesses in Prague. Donations were even received from throughout the United States. On February 22, 1949, Bishop Eugene J. McGuinness dedicated the new Catholic Church at Prague, again under the patronage of St. Wenceslaus. Keeping his promise, Father Johnson set the state of The Infant Jesus of Prague “on a throne of gold” back of the main altar.
The Association of The Infant Jesus of Prague
The Association of Confraternity of The Infant Jesus of Prague was erected in 1913 under the guidance of the Carmelite friars by Pope St. Pius X. The purpose of the Association is to pray to The Divine Infant, to place all members under the protection of the Divine Infant, to promote devotion to The Infant Jesus of Prague, and to evangelize. At the request of Rev. George Johnson and the recommendation of Bishop Eugene J. McGuinness, Bishop of the diocese of Oklahoma City and Tulsa, permission to establish The Association of The Infant Jesus of Prague in St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church, Prague, Oklahoma, was given from Rome by the Carmelite General on August 16, 1949. Since this time, people from around the world have been accepted into The Association of The Infant Jesus of Prague, at Prague, Oklahoma, and public devotions to The Infant jesus of Prague have been offered at The National Shrine. From its establishment in 1949, The Shrine of The Infant Jesus of Prague in St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church has been designated The National Shrine of The Infant Jesus of Prague.