Oklahoma City’s Archbishop Paul Coakley has received a Catholic leadership award for his prominent opposition to a satanic black mass in his city, as well as his work with Catholic Relief Services. Timothy C. Flanagan, founder of the Pennsylvania-based Catholic Leadership Institute, praised Archbishop Coakley’s “commitment to living and sharing the gospel values with passion and humility.” The leadership institute gave the archbishop its Outstanding Catholic Leader Award on Tuesday. The organization noted his actions ahead of the controversial black mass simulation held in September at the city-run Oklahoma City Civic Center Music Hall. “In the weeks leading up to the event, Archbishop Coakley's voice was a rallying cry for his community and for the nation — a voice of truth and strength, but also one of unwavering hope in Christ's victory over Satan,” the institute said Dec. 2. “He also prayed for mercy, calling upon Catholics to trust in the power of the Lord’s grace and to pray for the conversion of those involved.” The institute said the archbishop showed “steadfast determination” in response to the event. “His main weapons were a very effective peaceful procession and Holy Hour prayer service,” the organization added. The man who had scheduled the black mass claimed to have a consecrated Host he intended to desecrate in public. However, he returned it to a priest of the archdiocese after a California-based lawyer threatened legal action on behalf of the archbishop, on the grounds that the host constituted stolen property. The Catholic Leadership Institute also noted Archbishop Coakley’s work as chairman of the board of Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. bishops’ Catholic global humanitarian relief agency. In November, he led a mission trip to Gaza, Jerusalem and the Kurdish region of Iraq to consider the needs of displaced Christians and other religious minorities. He and CRS staff met with refugees, local church and civic leaders and humanitarian workers. “The scope of the crisis is massive,” he said in a November essay posted on the Oklahoma City archdiocese’s website. “With winter approaching the need for proper housing is urgent.” “One of the greatest dangers that tragically could affect the future of the Middle East is the indifference of Christians and westerners,” he continued. “The Middle East is in danger of losing its Christian population and witness. Our voices must be raised in support of peace, reconciliation and respect for religious liberty.” Archbishop Coakley has headed the Oklahoma City archdiocese since December 2010. At the time of his appointment by Pope Benedict XVI, he was the second-youngest archbishop in the U.S. He previously served as the Bishop of Salina, Kansas, and was a priest for Kansas’ Diocese of Wichita for 21 years. The archbishop told the Catholic Leadership Institute that for him, faith is “really like the air I breathe, the light that illuminates all of my life.” “It determines the way I look upon the world and understand the world in light of God's love,” he said in reaction to receiving the award. He said his faith journey has had “moments of conversion” but largely has been “not so dramatic, but quite ordinary.” “Faith has been more like a seed sown quietly, silently, in a very hidden way that has deepened, grown and matured through the years, and please God has born some fruit and please God will continue to bear fruit. I'm so grateful for the gift of faith.” The Catholic Leadership Institute provides leadership formation and training to bishops, priests, deacons and lay persons to aid them in their ministry and to strengthen Catholic faith communities.
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