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Question-and-answer with Oklahoma City Archbishop-designate Paul S. Coakley

The Most Rev. Paul S. Coakley, archbishop-designate of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, shares his viewpoint about several issues impacting the archdiocese he will soon lead.
BY CARLA HINTON Published: February 6, 2011

Q: Several years ago, Archbishop Beltran encouraged archdiocesan parishes to offer Spanish Masses due to the heavy influx of Hispanics to Oklahoma. Is this an idea that you support?

A: I'll know better when I arrive in Oklahoma City, but there's no denying that for much of our country, there is a great influx of Spanish-speaking people and a great majority of them are Catholic. We have an obligation to offer pastoral ministry to them. In generations past, we've had to adapt to various waves of immigrants, so I think that this is just part of our American experience and it's part of our Catholic experience, as well — welcoming them and providing pastoral care for them.

Q: Some parishes, perhaps unfamiliar with other cultures, may not welcome the addition of a Spanish Mass. How would you deal with that type of response from parishioners?

A: I think we need to spend time preparing people, for one thing, for that type of change in the life of their parish. So education, formation, preparation, I think is very, very important. I would want to make sure that anytime there was going to be something new in a parish that people understood the reasoning and the need so that we can avoid any potential hard feelings and misunderstandings. We are uncomfortable with what's new and different. It's something happening all over the country.

Q: The number of people ascribing to organized religion in the United States has declined in recent years as more people opt for nondenominational churches or forgo church services altogether. In your opinion, what are some ways this decline can be halted?

A: The mission of the church is to evangelize. It's to proclaim the Gospel, to bring the good news to an unbelieving world. That's always been the church's mission. There are new challenges today that make proclaiming the gospel more difficult. Our culture has become increasingly secularized so I think we have to come up with new avenues, new language. It's not that the gospel changes. We have to find new ways to share it. For example, using social networking more effectively. I think that's something that we really need to utilize, especially with our young people, but not just young people. I refer to this whole new thrust as the ‘new evangelization.'


Paul S. Coakley

Hometown: Norfolk, Va.

Age: 55.

Professional: Archbishop-designate, Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, present; Bishop of Salina (Kan.) Diocese, 2004 to December 2010; Ordained priest, Diocese of Wichita, Kan., 1983.

Education: University of Kansas, bachelor's degree in English and classical antiquities, 1977; St. Pius X Seminary, Erlanger, Ky., pre-theology, 1979; Mount St. Mary's Seminary, Emmitsburg, Md., master of arts, master of divinity, theology, 1983; Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome, Christian spirituality, 1987.

Personal: Parents John Coakley Jr. and Mary Coakley (deceased), Overland Park, Kan.; brother, John Coakley III., Merriam, Kan.; sister, Mary Christina Berry, Tahlequah.

Hobbies: Bicycling, running, reading.


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