David Iven’s faith led him to remote parts of Guatemala and to a pantry in Muskogee.
He said he was brought up in a Catholic family, where “church on Sunday was as normal as going to work on Monday”.
Iven began to consider the priesthood at a young age.
âWhen I was in eighth grade I was thinking ‘next year I’m going to high school and I will have electives, what kind of classes should I take,'” he said. âI was thinking of different professions and I liked what I saw our parish priest doing. He got involved in the life of the people of the parish, advised, encouraged.
In the 1970s, Iven and other priests served the city of Santiago Atitlan, a village of 35,000 people on the shores of Lake Antitlan in Guatemala. The team was led by Oklahoma priest Stanley Rother, who was killed there in 1981 and later recognized as a martyr and beatified.
While in Guatemala, Iven shared his love of stone polishing with the locals. He said he left Guatemala to care for his sick father.
âWhen I came back from Guatemala, I decided to quit,â Iven recalls. “I liked being a priest, but I didn’t like being celibate.”
His lapidary skills helped him find a job at Zales Jewelry. This work brought him to Muskogee.
He left Zales and got a job with the Oklahoma Department of Social Services, working with DHS Child Abuse and Foster Care Investigations.
âThis work was more in keeping with my work as a priest,â he said. “I felt it was a continuation of my ministry.”
For several years, Iven taught English as a second language.
He is now a volunteer at Catholic Charities.
“My faith now tells me that there is something more to life than making money or becoming famous,” he said. “There is a deeper meaning to life than that.”
Missionary work has changed lives
David Iven recalled the missionary work that changed his life in Santiago Antitlan.
âI loved it and I hated it,â he said. âI ended up being in charge of the hospital and I saw so much suffering, so much disease, so much malnutrition. We were doing what we could. We have had some impact.
He said the pastoral team was able to help people better understand Christianity.
âThe village had been isolated for so long that there were many pagan customs that merged with the Catholic tradition that the conquistadors brought in centuries ago,â he said. “They called themselves Catholics. Most of the people there worshiped an idol called Maximon.”
Iven recalled that showing Christian principles by helping residents with their medical needs and preaching the gospel was the best way to counter idolatry.
“There were no doctors. No dentists. The only modern medicine came from the Spanish speaking segment that had pharmacies.”
Most of the locals were from the Tz’utujil tribe, which did not have a written language, he said.
âWe were very limited in the ministry because of the language issue,â he said. “We asked three bilingual men to develop a system for writing the language. We started with scripture readings and medical brochures.”
Treasure in the form of stones
Iven has a collection of stones that he polished.
He said he uses a machine that has a diamond disc.
He compared the polishing of rock to the transformation of sandpaper into wood. The stone undergoes a series of grinding as it is smoothed.
âWith a stone you get it finer and finer and finer in stages,â he said. “And the last step is polishing.”
He said he found fascinating stones in stone shops. He found jade, opal and agate.
âI love agate because there is such a variety of colors,â he said, showing off a colorful specimen. “It’s probably the agatized bone of a dinosaur.
Iven recalled teaching the people of Santiago Atitlan how to cut and polish jade, which he said comes in many colors.
âJade was a Mayan treasure,â he said. âAfter I left, that’s how they made a living.
Volunteerism Iven, others
Iven remains active at St. Joseph Catholic Church. He volunteers every Tuesday at the Catholic Charities pantry.
âWe provide food and nutrition assistance to anyone in need,â he said. âThere is no religion or political party required. We give them enough food to help them. But there is no way for a family to live on a one month ration. We cannot feed them. to an applicant only once a month. “
It’s a help, says Iven.
âIt doesn’t solve all the problems, but it does put a little grease on the squeak,â he said.
Iven said he was checking the shelves to make sure there was a good supply of staple foods to hand out.
âSometimes I end up doing this for 10 minutes, sometimes I do it for an hour, depending on how low the stock is,â he said. âThe office volunteers determine the number of people in each group to serve.
He said he dedicates his Tuesdays to service because “I just feel better doing something.”
âI don’t like to sit here,â he said. “I know my small contribution is not going to stop hunger, but I agree with the theory of making aid available, even if the needs have to be addressed at a deeper level.”
Questions and answers
HOW ARE YOU BEING A MUSKOGEE OKIE?
âI got a job at Zales. I think I got the job based on my jewelry making. I was at Enid and they asked me to come to Muskogee and open a new store. . We opened a new store. Shortly after I opened the store, I moved to DHS (Department of Human Services). “
WHAT DO YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT MUSKOGEE?
âWe have trees and lakes. I grew up in western Oklahoma. It’s big enough that most services are available in big cities. Traffic, noise, pollution are not there. not as extreme here as in the big cities. Just more of a small town feel. “
WHAT MAKES MUSKOGEE A BETTER PLACE TO LIVE?
âIf more people who live in Muskogee were shopping in Muskogee. The idea of âârunning to Tulsa every time they want to buy something is so short-sighted. And I would like to see things that don’t cost a lot of money. , such as cycle paths Many families enjoy cycling.
WHICH PERSON IN MUSKOGEE WILL YOU ADMIRE MOST?
âJim Eby and Jim Risch would be right at the top of the list. They are both thinkers. They analyze things that are going on around them, whether itâs financial or social. Bill Miller, Social Security retiree, the same thing I would say about Bill. Them and their wives. “
WHAT IS THE MOST MEMORABLE THING FOR YOU IN MUSKOGEE?
“The night we moved to Muskogee with our 2 week old baby. We contracted a gentleman with a really big cattle truck. He transferred us from Enid.”
WHAT DO YOU DO IN YOUR FREE TIME?
“Spend a lot of time on the computer. A lot of time reading Facebook or doing research. Interesting how you can jump from one topic to another and all of a sudden three hours have gone by.”
HOW DO YOU SUMMARIZE MUSKOGEE IN 25 WORDS OR LESS?
“I consider Muskogee to have all the qualities of a small town with all the goods and services available.”