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Archbishop Coakley: All of us are called to be more concerned with mission than maintenance

SUBIACO, ARKANSAS -- The baptized faithful are called to be more concerned with mission than maintenance, Archbishop Paul Coakley said March 15 during a Mass to celebrate the 135th anniversary of Subiaco Abbey and the 55th anniversary of the consecration of its church.

Archbishop Coakley traveled to Arkansas -- which is within the province of Oklahoma City -- for the celebration.

"The modern papacy has taken on a new style, less managerial and more evangelical," Archbishop Coakley said in his homily. "This has consequences for the whole Church. All of us are called to be ... more interested in evangelization and making disciples than merely shoring up institutions while Catholics drift away."

A shortened version of the archbishop's homily is below.

Mission before Maintenance: The Church of Pope Francis

Most Reverend Paul S. Coakley, S.T.L., D.D.
Archbishop of Oklahoma City

I am honored to have been invited to celebrate this Mass with you today on what is my first visit to Subiaco Abbey. I have been looking forward to this occasion for some time. But this has turned out to be a very exciting week in the life of the Church for other reasons as well. Not forty-eight hours ago, we witnessed the white smoke rising above the Sistine Chapel signaling the election of a new Pope. We were surprised (at least I was) to learn his identity as the Cardinal Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who had chosen to be known as Francis. Pope Francis has already captivated the imagination and won the hearts of Catholics worldwide by his evident humility, simplicity of life, and passionate concern for the poor. It will take time for us to get to know him, but we already love him. God has given us a great gift through the election of Pope Francis as the successor of Peter and the Vicar of Christ on earth. He is a man, uniquely chosen by God, to lead the Church and its 1.2 billion members at this particular moment of history, with its distinctive challenges and opportunities.

His pontificate will undoubtedly build upon the legacy of two thousand years of Church history, but especially by continuing the implementation of the teaching of the Second Vatican Council and its authoritative interpretation articulated under his predecessors, especially Blessed John Paul II and Benedict XVI. The modern papacy has taken on a new style, less managerial and more evangelical, according to the papal biographer and commentator, George Weigel. This has consequences for the whole Church. All of us are called to be more concerned with mission, than merely maintenance. More interested in evangelization and making disciples, than merely shoring up institutions while Catholics drift away.

The New Evangelization is the responsibility of all Catholics, not merely popes, bishops, priests, monks, and religious. It is our common calling, rooted in our Baptism and Confirmation. It is, in fact, a mission uniquely suited to lay Catholics; Catholics who live in the world who form families, who interact with co-workers, neighbors and strangers. No baptized person is exempt from his or her responsibility to bear witness to Christ, to preach always, even using words when necessary, as St. Francis, the namesake of our new Pope, once urged his friars.

As the Church enters more deeply into the Twenty-first Century, the New Evangelization has emerged as our chief pastoral task and challenge. Evangelization has always been the mission of the Church, since the day of Pentecost, when the apostles assumed the mission of proclaiming the Gospel to all nations. Today that work of proclaiming the Gospel to the nations continues, but we also recognize the urgency of re-evangelizing those in Christian lands, where the Gospel has already been proclaimed, but where the faith has grown cold. The New Evangelization speaks to a re-evangelization of those who are in our pews, have drifted away, or have some association with our Catholic institutions, but who have really never encountered Jesus Christ, and responded to his call to become a disciple. Too many of our people have been sacramentalized but not evangelized. We bring people to the sacraments, through RCIA, Confirmation, and all kinds of sacramental preparation, but often without the assurance that they have experienced conversion and begun to walk the way of discipleship through a saving encounter with Jesus Christ.

The monks who came to America from their European cloisters had to adapt their rule to the needs of living in a frontier land, where there were often no parishes, no schools, no pastoral ministry. These pioneering monks became missionary monks. The spirit of the Gospel demanded it, and they responded to the needs of their time. They evangelized much of the American frontier, including Arkansas and Oklahoma, and Kansas where I come from. We are profoundly indebted to these tenacious monks.

I am confident that Subiaco Abbey will continue to be a monastic community responsive to the needs of the Church in our time, of a New Evangelization. The focus on mission before maintenance is what keeps our Catholic institutions, whether they be parishes, schools, monasteries, hospitals or charitable services, true to the Gospel impulse that once led to their establishment and subsequent flourishing.

As we mark this anniversary of monastic founding and celebrate the election of our new Holy Father, we recognize the wise and loving Hand of God, guiding all of history through his Providence. In this Eucharistic liturgy we offer our prayers of praise and thanksgiving and entrust to our Triune God a future full of hope.