SHAWNEE — Although Oklahoma's Roman Catholic community and its leaders have championed St. Gregory's University in a variety of ways over its more than 130-year history, Catholic leaders officially pledged their support on Friday during a special ceremony at St. Gregory's Abbey.
The Most Rev. Paul S. Coakley, archbishop of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City; the Most Rev. Edward Slattery, bishop of the Diocese of Tulsa; the Rt. Rev. Lawrence Stasyszen, abbot of St. Gregory's Abbey; and the Rev. Don Wolf, St. Gregory's University chairman of the board signed a memorandum of agreement and declaration of intent formally establishing the Catholic Church in Oklahoma as a major sponsor of St. Gregory's, 1900 W MacArthur.
Friday's event included a short prayer service inside the abbey and a signing ceremony held in one of the church's outdoor plaza areas. After the ceremony, Coakley and Slattery conferred blessings on those gathered for the event.
Stasyszen said over the years, many people have understood the relationship between St. Gregory's University and the Catholic Church in Oklahoma to be much like that of colleges affiliated with religious denominations — such as Oklahoma Baptist University, affiliated with Oklahoma Southern Baptists, and Oklahoma City University, affiliated with the Oklahoma United Methodist Conference.
However, the abbot said the university always has been a mission and ministry of the Benedictine monks at St. Gregory's Abbey since they established the school that eventually became the university in 1875.
The Catholic bishops in Oklahoma had no cosponsorship of the educational institution. Stasyszen said 25 monks are part of the St. Gregory's monastic community, and nine of them directly work with the university.
Stasyszen said the collaborative effort begun with the memorandum signed on Friday represents a new model of structure for the state's only Catholic university and will fully integrate the university within the Oklahoma Catholic Church.
He said he, along with Coakley and Slattery, will serve as members of a new Board of Trustees as the church begins to play an active role in the university's governance.