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Tragedy reshaped new Oklahoma City archbishop

The Most Rev. Paul Coakley will be installed Friday as the archbishop of Oklahoma City.
by Carla Hinton Modified: February 6, 2011 at 10:59 am •  Published: February 6, 2011

Coakley said he was a college junior when he visited Ireland. A post-graduation trip to France eventually set his heart upon the priesthood.

He said he spent eight months at the Abbey of Notre Dame de Fontgombault in France and considered becoming a monk at the monastery. Coakley said he was “very American” and the monastery was “very French” and he ultimately thought the culture differences were too pronounced.

He said he did gain clarity in those months at the monastery, enough to resolve to enter the seminary when he returned home to Kansas.

He said his parents were very supportive of his decision to become a priest and they encouraged him to fulfill his mission.

“So, it was no one thing, but a lot of individuals and opportunities that I had growing up as a young adult that moved me in that direction.”

Coakley brings a variety of gifts and talents to his new post as leader of the Oklahoma City Archdiocese.

He served as the director of the office of youth and young adult ministry for the Diocese of Wichita, as well as a hospital chaplain and college chaplain. Coakley also served as associate director and director of a spiritual life center in Wichita and director of spiritual formation at a Maryland seminary.

He was a parish priest for several churches in the Wichita Diocese, and led parishioners in building a new school and a new church.

He said he was looking forward to being a parish priest again in 2004 after having served as the diocese's vice chancellor and a church administrator, when four months into his appointment at a new parish, he received the call telling him of his appointment as Salina bishop.

He said six years later, to the day, he received a similar call letting him know that Pope Benedict XVI had appointed him as the new archbishop of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City.

“I was privileged during my 21 years as a priest in Wichita that I had a variety of types of ministry, Coakley said.

That diversity and ability to deal with all types of people should work in his favor, the bishop said.

He said the Salina Diocese and the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City are similar in some ways, but perhaps the biggest difference is the larger number of people he will be leading.

He said the Salina Diocese has 86 parishes, representing about 48,000 people, while the Oklahoma City Archdiocese has about 109 parishes and missions, representing about 108,171 people.

by Carla Hinton
Religion Editor
Carla Hinton, an Oklahoma City native, joined The Oklahoman in 1986 as a National Society of Newspaper Editors minority intern. She began reporting full-time for The Oklahoman two years later and has served as a beat writer covering a wide...
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