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Archbishop Coakley proclaims sacred purpose of Archdiocese

Mutually Shared Vision

By Tina Korbe Dzurisin
The Sooner Catholic

An archdiocesan envisioning team led by the Most Reverend Paul Coakley, Archbishop of Oklahoma City, has ascertained and articulated the sacred purpose of the archdiocese, the team announced this month.

"Our purpose as the people of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City," Archbishop Coakley said, "is to joyfully witness to the Catholic faith in central and western Oklahoma through the teaching, sanctifying and governing ministry of Christ and His Church so that the Body of Christ is made present, the universal call to holiness proclaimed and all people are welcomed into the promise of eternal life."

The announcement is the first official outcome of a 13-month process to discern and proclaim a mutually shared vision for the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City - a process that began when Archbishop Coakley chartered the archdiocesan envisioning team in July 2012 and continued last fall with 12 listening sessions in parishes across the archdiocese.

While the team first crafted the language of the sacred purpose months ago, they finalized it for release to the full membership of the archdiocese at a more recent meeting.

"The articulation of the sacred purpose came from the experience and wisdom and faith of the envisioning team members," Archbishop Coakley said. "The Church is established by Christ and constituted by Christ and has its own structure, purpose and mission. We were trying to articulate that as it applies to us here in the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City. I see it really as affirming for us today what has been embraced and lived out by those who came before us."

The team selected each phrase of the purpose to connote a very specific meaning and to invite reflection on what it means to live as a Catholic Christian in central and western Oklahoma.

"'Joy' is a key word," Archbishop Coakley said. "Joy is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit and it ought to be evident in all that we do in living and proclaiming our faith. People aren't going to be attracted to dour-faced Christians. We have to bear witness to the joy that our faith brings if people are going to be attracted to our message and to our way of life."

The purpose also contains its own metrics. To the extent that the members of the Archdiocese live according to it, the body of Christ will be made present, the universal call to holiness will be proclaimed and all people will be welcomed into the promise of eternal life.

"In our teaching, in our worship, in our sacraments, in our service to the poor, in our personal witness in lives of holiness, we are making Christ present so that others may encounter Him through us," Archbishop Coakley said. "Holiness is not just for specialists. All of us - each in our own way - are called to live a holy life. We do that by allowing Christ to live in us, to take possession of our lives, to fill our minds, to fill our hearts, to fire our imaginations, so that, in all things, we're striving to please the Father, as Jesus did."

As the members of the archdiocese progress in personal holiness, the archbishop suggested, they will organically invite others to consider Christ and His claims - particularly the claim that He offers eternal life to those who believe in Him.

"If we are witnessing to Jesus Christ and the love of Christ is evident in our lives, people might not know it's the love of Christ but they'll be attracted to it and they'll be drawn to us and they will want to know what makes us tick," Archbishop Coakley said. "We have to be confident and willing to take risks in engaging people in conversations about our faith, in expressing how our faith is the integrating factor of our lives and guides our decision-making and judgments. We are very much concerned about this world in which we live, but we believe in the resurrection of the dead and our hope is ultimately fulfilled in heavenly glory. We want to share that hope with other people. Our hope is not hope for ourselves alone, but hope for everyone."

Thirteen active members of the Archdiocese, in addition to the archbishop, comprise the envisioning team, which has met eight times since July.  Representatives of the Catholic Leadership Institute facilitate the team's six-hour discernment sessions.

The group will meet at least three more times to finalize the language of the core values of the Archdiocese, a five-year vision statement, three Archdiocesan priorities and six Archdiocesan goals. Those outcomes will be successively proclaimed to - and, the team hopes, embraced by - the Catholic faithful in Oklahoma.

In September and November, nearly 900 members of the Archdiocese participated in the listening sessions, providing creative input and vital insight into the needs of parishioners. The envisioning team members carefully considered that feedback as they crafted the three Archdiocesan priorities, from which will flow the six Archdiocesan goals.

Tina Korbe Dzurisin is the director of communications for the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City.