Rep. Rebecca Hamilton, Fallin aide Denise Northrup welcome new Catholic Archbishop Paul Coakley
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Published: 13-Feb-2011
by Patrick B. McGuigan

Published 13-Feb-2011

At his formal installation as Catholic Archbishop of Oklahoma City, Paul S. Coakley was welcomed to the Sooner State by a diverse group of Oklahomans, including two state officials.

During ceremonies at the beginning of a Liturgy at Edmond's St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, state Rep. Rebecca Hamilton, an Oklahoma City Democrat, was among the small group of greeters extending their greetings to Coakley. She walked with others to the main altar to shake Coakley's hand and extend what organizers of the event said was a promise of “respect, cooperation and support in his ministry.”

Hamilton is one of the best-known pro-life leaders in the state Legislature.

Also representing the state, on behalf of Governor Mary Fallin, was Fallin's Chief of Staff Denise Northrup.

A range of others, many Catholics but several from other faith traditions, were part of Friday's welcome to Coakley, who comes to Oklahoma from the diocese of Salina, Kansas. Rabbi Barry Cohen of Temple B'Nai Israel greeted Coakley warmly and spoke for a few moments with the man now officially installed as the “Metropolitan Archbishop,” a designation which makes him the senior church official in the region, which includes all of Oklahoma and the state of Arkansas.

Others in the Christian community among greeters included Rt. Rev. Dr. Edward J. Konieczny, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Oklahoma, Rev. Dr. William Tabbernee of the Conference of Churches, and Rev. John D. Tsaras, Economos for St. George Greek Orthodox Church.

Among Roman Catholics part of the formal welcome were a pair of priests, a permanent deacon, a nun, a Benedictine brother, and the head of St. Gregory's University, Oklahoma's only Catholic institution of Higher Education.

Four families, representing relatively distant corners of the archdiocese, also attended from Lawton, Elk City, Guymon and Ada. Attendees for the Mass of Installation filled St. John's with bishops and abbots from around the United States, priests and brothers from across the state, and lay representatives of every parish in the archdiocese. Coakley's predecessor, Eusebius Betran, concelebrated the Mass along with Tulsa Bishop Edward Slattery and Little Rock Bishop Anthony Taylor.

John R. Quinn, the first archbishop of Oklahoma City who is now retired, also joined in the ceremony along with several of America's highest ranking Catholic clerics. The Most Rev. Pietro Sambi, apostolic nuncio to the U.S., read the official document from Pope Benedict XVI deeming Coakley as shepherd of the local church. Among the 30 other prelates were Charles J. Chaput of Denver and Fabian W. Bruskewitz, two of the best-known defenders of orthodox Catholic teaching.

Six Oklahoma priests played a pivotal symbolic role early in the service when they inspected the Apostolic Mandate from the pope to Coakley. After Sambi read an English translation of the Latin document, a deacon carried it, opened for the inspection, to the six priests. After their assent, the parchment was displayed to the congregation.

The six priests, members of the Archdiocesan College of Consultors, were Revs. Ray Ackerman, Timothy Luschen, John Metzinger, Bruce Natsuhara and Joachim Spexarth, as well as Monsignor Edward J. Weisenburger, who is pastor at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Oklahoma City. Our Lady's parish is Archbishop Coakley's official church home.

Friday's ceremony was broadcast worldwide on the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN). Parishes throughout the state used large-screen televisions to allow Catholics and others to watch the ceremony, laden with symbolism and Scriptural references. It was also broadcast on Oklahoma Catholic Radio, based in Oklahoma City.

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