Salina’s Bishop Coakley installed
as archbishop of Oklahoma City
By DOUG WELLER
Edmond, Okla. — As chief teacher of the faithful, new Archbishop Paul Coakley wasted little time instructing his people.
In his homily after being installed Feb. 11 as the fourth archbishop of Oklahoma City, Archbishop Coakley urged them “to become agents of a new evangelization.”
“The call for a new evangelization is a challenge and an opportunity for the Church today to find effective ways of announcing Jesus Christ and making him known and loved at a moment in history and in the midst of a culture that no longer considers God relevant to its pursuits and concerns,” he said.
“The Word of God must be proclaimed to all the nations… . Jesus Christ is the good news, for which every human heart is searching, and we are its witnesses. But if we are to be credible witnesses, we ourselves have to be fully evangelized,” he said.
Archbishop Coakley’s installation took place before more than 1,200 people at St. John the Baptist Church, the largest Catholic church in metropolitan Oklahoma City. More than 30 archbishops and bishops attended, as well as more than 200 priests and deacons from the archdiocese and from the Salina and Wichita dioceses. Pope Benedict XVI’s representative to the United States, Archbishop Pietro Sambi, greeted those in attendance and read an English translation of the papal appointment.
Archbishop Coakley, the bishop of Salina for six years before his appointment was announced in mid-December, formally accepted the appointment and was greeted by a long round of applause.
Archbishop Sambi also challenged the faithful, as well as the new archbishop.
“What I say to you, your excellency, I say also to your priests, to your deacons, to your religious collaborators and to the faithful of the archdiocese: If the whole group of believers is united heart and soul as the first Christian community was in Jerusalem, there will be enthusiasm in the new evangelization of the archdiocese and hope in the discovery of more and solid vocations to priesthood and to consecrated life,” he said.
Retiring Oklahoma City Archbishop Eusebius Beltran also greeted the crowd and his successor.
“We rejoice in the most dynamic and meaningful way for us to celebrate your appointment and installation — through the celebration of the Holy Eucharist,” he said.
Archbishop Coakley will preside over an archdiocese that is half again as large as the Salina Diocese with more than twice the number of Catholics. He will oversee more than 110 priests and another 100 deacons serving in 67 parishes and 44 missions.
Archbishop Coakley used his homily to not only refer to the feast day of Feb. 11 — Our Lady of Lourdes — but to his episcopal motto, “Put out into the deep,” which was heavily referenced in the Gospel reading.
The appearances of Mary to a peasant girl in the French town of Lourdes more than 150 years ago “remain practically synonymous with miracles of conversion, with spiritual and even physical healings,” he said. “Lourdes even today remains a place of pilgrimage for millions of people who seek the Lord’s guidance, who seek a greater sense of God’s presence in their lives or recognize a need for healing in their lives, and they turn to Mary.”
Lourdes also was a place to which Archbishop Coakley himself turned.
“It was, in fact, a place very dear to me as a young man discerning my own vocation and a place to which I returned to thank our Lord and the Blessed Mother after 25 years of priestly ministry just a few years ago,” he said.
It also will be divine guidance, he added, that will help him in his new ministry in Oklahoma.
“Today, as I accept pastoral responsibility for the threefold office of teaching, governing and sanctifying the Church in this archdiocese as its chief shepherd, I draw courage from God’s faithfulness to his promises. I am very much aware of my own limitations, as well as the awesomeness of the mission that is being entrusted to me,” he said....
“We have to hear the Word of God anew in the depths of our own hearts and respond in faith. The Lord seeks our friendship; the Lord calls us to holiness; he calls us to become saints. Jesus Christ invites us to share his own life in the communion of the Church which he established to continue his saving mission on earth....”
Archbishop Coakley drew laughter when he directed his comments to the youth of his archdiocese.
“To you in particular I repeat Jesus’ words, ‘Do not be afraid.’ Do not be afraid to let Jesus into your life. Let Jesus ‘friend’ you,” he said, referring to Facebook and the method of connecting to others through that form of social media.
“His friendship is so much deeper and more faithful than others who may ‘friend’ and then ‘defriend’ you just as quickly. Jesus will never ‘defriend’ you,” he said, again prompting laughter.
And just as he focused on creating an atmosphere for vocations in the Salina Diocese, Archbishop Coakley urged youth considering a vocation to talk to priests, seminarians, deacons, consecrated men and women — even himself.
“I know the Lord is calling some of you who are here present in the church or who are listening or watching through the media to a special closeness to himself in the priesthood or the consecrated life. Do not be afraid to say yes to the Lord,” he said. “Seek guidance; seek counsel.”
To the remainder listening, he also urged them to hear God’s calling.
“The Lord, indeed, calls each and every one of us by name. He calls us to holiness, he calls us to communion and he calls us to mission, strengthened for the journey before us by the Eucharist which we now celebrate. Let us together put out into the deep,” he said.