Strengthening Discipleship in Oklahoma City
June 18, 2015
By Karel Lucander
“Oklahoma, where the wind comes sweeping down the plain!”
The territory in which Sister Diane Koorie serves is as vast and grand as the backdrop of the groundbreaking musical by Rodgers and Hammerstein. As director of pastoral ministry for the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City since 2001, Sister Diane ministers to more than 100,000 Catholics living in the western two-thirds of Oklahoma. This area encompasses 46 counties and more than 42,000 square miles, but Catholics comprise only about 4 percent of the population. As Sister Diane says, the growth of Catholicism here is “small but mighty,” and the opportunities for positive change present themselves in many ways.
A core facet of her current ministry includes facilitating a pastoral ministry formation program associated with two universities, offering both bachelor’s and master’s degree programs. Individuals also can participate in these programs for personal enrichment or for continuing education. In addition to leading the pastoral ministry program, her responsibilities include student advising, administrative planning, and working with other offices to promote the archdiocese’s programs.
In 2011, a new archbishop joined the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City and a team met for 13 months to formulate a vision. They identified three priorities, and the overarching theme of their vision has taken hold and inspired members to, “Go Make Disciples!” Articulating those three words has provided an intentional purpose. Team members have been on fire with a new reason to evangelize. And it couldn’t happen at a better time. There are more people entering the global/Hispanic ministry here, and faith formation for both adults and adolescents is on the rise.
“This pastoral planning process has brought a new life, new energy and new awareness. I see a lot of growth and development of Catholicism and personal involvement of people and growth in numbers both here and in the parishes. I think it is encouraging to see the commitment and dedication of persons to becoming better ministers in the church,” says Sister Diane. “We have come so far with lay ministry, but we have so much farther to go.”
And although the wide open spaces of Oklahoma may appear homespun, the crossroad of Interstate 35 and Interstate 40 also is a breeding ground for drug dealing and human trafficking. “We’re working hard against these types of issues and, as a result, also working against the death penalty here,” she adds.
Before coming to Oklahoma City, Sister Diane spent many years as a high school teacher and in parish and diocesan youth ministry. Originally from New Orleans, Louisiana, she met the Sisters of Mercy in fifth grade at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Kenner. She entered the Sisters of Mercy in 1963, professing her first vows in 1966, and making her final vows in 1969. Her higher education began at St. Louis University, where she obtained a bachelor’s degree in biology. She went on to receive a master’s degree in education from the University of Georgia (subsequently teaching science for many years), and a master’s degree in religious education from Loyola University New Orleans.
Now in her current ministry, she has a large territory of souls to tend, and she is leveraging technology to keep the people and the churches here interconnected.
“Technology is making our offerings more accessible to everyone in the Archdiocese. We now video conference with real-time interactive transmissions in seven parishes, and that has provided significant growth in our program,” she says.
Although no two days are alike for Sister Diane, every morning she and her office colleagues meet for prayer to begin the day.
“I find our daily morning readings and prayers very nourishing,” she says. “I have so much desire for this ministry, and I love what I’m doing. Bringing the legacy of mercy to what I do is the backdrop, the umbrella, to what I do, and it keeps me going.”