Most Reverend Paul S. Coakley
Last week, while visiting one of our Catholic schools, a student asked, “What is the best thing you get to do as an archbishop?” “Ordaining new priests,” was my enthusiastic response. The logical question followed, “What’s the hardest thing that you have to do?” The answer I offered came without serious thought, “Finance council meetings!” They laughed.
Had I paused to really consider the question, my answer would have reflected what I was preparing to do the following morning when I presided at the funeral of Father Shane Tharp. Father Tharp was only 42 years old. He was gifted, enthusiastic and finding his stride as one of our truly effective pastors. If one of a bishop’s greatest joys is ordaining new priests, one of his sorrows is burying those who have come to the end of their journey. It is very hard to lose such a faithful shepherd, especially when he dies so young. Reflecting on both the joy and sorrow elicited by those students’ questions, I realized how much my life as a bishop is tied up with the well-being of our priests.
I think the same could be said for most Catholics. We value our priests. They are an important part of our lives.
Even while experiencing the pain of losing such a young priest, my heart was lifted up in gratitude by all of the good priests whom the Lord has called to serve in the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City. We have been blessed to ordain eight new archdiocesan priests in the past two years. Many more have labored for many years in the vineyard of the Lord. They have touched our lives.
As Thanksgiving approaches, I am reminded of one particular source of my gratitude when I see the latest seminarian poster in the Catholic Pastoral Center hallways. We are truly blessed to have these young men in formation as they seek to respond to God’s call. These young men, God willing, are our future priests. Each of their lives is a mystery. God has a plan for each of them, as he does for all of us.
In the days ahead, every household of registered parishioners in the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City will receive a mailing containing a smaller version of this same seminarian poster. It includes a message from Father Hamilton, our vocations director, from one of our seminarians, as well as from me. The purpose of this annual initiative is to introduce our seminarians to the people of the archdiocese and invite your support. They are OUR seminarians.
One very important goal of this initiative is to stimulate conversation about vocations within our homes, parishes and classrooms. The mailing also contains a prayer asking the Lord to continue to bless our archdiocese with an abundance of priestly vocations.
It is my hope that this initiative will provide the stimulus for prayers of thanksgiving and petition as we ask the Master of the Harvest to send workers to care for his harvest. I encourage you to display this poster around the house, perhaps on your refrigerator door, and to pray this prayer regularly in your homes and parishes throughout the year.
Another important aspect of this initiative is to ask for your financial help. The cost of educating our seminarians continues to rise. This year, the cost is approximately $50,484 per seminarian. I know how much our Catholic people love the priesthood and cherish our priests. For this reason, I am asking for your financial assistance to meet the costs of educating our future priests. The high cost of educating our seminarians requires multiple sources of revenue. This annual seminarian education appeal will cover part of that cost.
Whether you can make a large financial gift, a small gift, or no gift at this time, please continue to pray for vocations and encourage young people to be open to God’s call in their lives. Talk about vocations. Invite young men and women to consider a vocation to priesthood or the religious life.
Young people need our encouragement and support to hear God’s invitation and to respond generously. Thank you for your generosity.