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Roman Catholic archbishop installation ceremony, prayer service steeped in tradition

The installation ceremony for the Most Rev. Paul S. Coakley, an invitation-only event to take place today at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, in which he will become archbishop of the Oklahoma City Archdiocese, will include many traditions and rituals.
BY CARLA HINTON Modified: February 11, 2011 at 2:03 pm •  Published: February 11, 2011

— From the historic chair he will sit in to the ornate pastoral staff he will carry, the Most Rev. Paul S. Coakley will be surrounded by tradition today as he becomes the new leader of thousands of Roman Catholic Oklahomans.

Coakley is set to become the archbishop of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City during an elaborate invitation-only ceremony at 2 p.m. today at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, 924 S Littler.

It has been 17 years since archdiocesan leadership has changed.

The Most Rev. Eusebius Beltran was installed as Oklahoma City archbishop in a grand ceremony in 1993 at the Civic Center Music Hall. Thousands of Roman Catholics and others flocked to the downtown Oklahoma City venue to see Beltran formally become the leader of Roman Catholics living in two-thirds of the state. The Tulsa Diocese represents the eastern portion of the state.

The Rev. Stephen Bird, head of the archdiocese's Office of Worship and Spiritual Life, said St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, which holds about 1,200 people, is expected to be filled for Coakley's ceremony.

He said most of the archdiocese's priests and seminarians will attend the event, as well as bishops and leaders from other dioceses across the country.

State leaders of other Christian denominations and other faiths also will be represented, he said.

The archdiocese is made up of 109 parishes and missions, representing 108,171 people. Bird said each archdiocesan parish was given four tickets to distribute among parishioners. Mission parishes — smaller churches — were given two tickets. Bird said only ticket holders will be allowed into the event.

Bird, who serves as installation committee chairman, said the limited seating at the church is the reason Coakley and other archdiocesan leaders are excited that Eternal Word Television Network, a cable channel known for its Roman Catholic-themed programming, will air the ceremony and offer it via live streaming video on its website at

EWTN will air the installation at 2 p.m., and a repeat broadcast will be shown at 11 p.m. EWTN is on Cox Channel 135 and AT&T U-Verse Channel 562.

Bird said archdiocesan leaders want as many Roman Catholics as possible to share in the joyous ceremony that does not happen often.

Peter McConnell, a theology teacher at Bishop McGuinness High School, shared similar sentiments.

McConnell, 34, said he hopes many of the McGuinness students will be able to watch the televised ceremony.

He said he was an altar server representing Our Lady's Cathedral at Beltran's 1993 installation.

“I was a junior in high school, and it was a pretty big deal for me,” McConnell said. “For me, as a cradle Catholic, it was something that I will remember probably until I can't remember anything anymore.”

Today's ceremony ushering in a new era of archdiocesan leadership will include many traditions based on Scripture, some of them dating to the second and third centuries, a U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops official said.

Some of the rituals rife with symbolism were used at an evening prayer service Thursday at Our Lady's Cathedral.

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