Archbishop Paul Coakley
Archbishop Paul Coakley
WASHINGTON — Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, has named new chairmen of the boards for Catholic Relief Services and the Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc., better known as CLINIC.

He appointed Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City as chairman of CRS, the U.S. bishops' overseas relief and development agency, which is based in Baltimore. The archbishop succeeds Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, Ariz.

Archbishop Kurtz also appointed Bishop Kevin Vann of Orange, Calif., to chair the board of directors of CLINIC. He succeeds Bishop Richard J. Garcia of Monterey, Calif., who was re-elected as a member of the board during the U.S. bishops' annual fall general in Baltimore earlier in November.

The new appointments were announced Nov. 19.

Archbishop Coakley, a CRS board member since 2012 and a member of the board's Governance and Nominations Committee, "has the gratitude of the USCCB for his willingness to take on this responsibility," Archbishop Kurtz said in a statement. "A mere look at the evening news indicates how important CRS is in carrying the church's compassion worldwide."

On behalf of the USCCB, he thanked Bishop Kicanas for "his relentless efforts at CRS these past three years. He has led heroic efforts to address poverty and the effects of national disasters worldwide."

Archbishop Coakley said he was grateful for the appointment and praised his predecessor "for his sterling example and dedication as the previous chair."

"I have witnessed CRS at work and know firsthand what an effective and essential organization it is," Archbishop Coakley added. "Even now, as I transition into this role, more than 100 CRS workers are on the ground in the Philippines, offering their expertise and assistance as our Filipino brothers and sisters face great and unexpected suffering in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan."

He added, "The work of CRS -- its mission to extend the love and compassion of Christ to the poor wherever there is need -- continues."

Carolyn Woo, CRS president and CEO, said Archbishop Coakley has been "an active supporter" of issues addressed by CRS and said his "experience and expertise will be a great asset to this agency."

She added, "Over the last three years, this agency has faced both challenges and opportunities to increase and improve our services to those who suffer the most, and (Bishop Kicanas) leadership has guided  CRS strategically and steadfastly to continue that mission," she added  in a statement.

Bishop Kicanas traveled extensively, with several trips to Lebanon, his  ancestral home, to meet with Syrian refugees supported by CRS and its partners. He's also traveled to Haiti, Cuba and several countries in Africa and Asia.

In announcing Bishop Vann's appointment, Archbishop Kurtz said the prelate brings to the post leadership skills and his experience from having previously served on the CLINIC board.

About Bishop Garcia's tenure, the archbishop note he had served "during this critical time in immigration history."

The U.S. bishops established CLINIC in 1988 to support a rapidly growing network of community-based immigration programs. It was a legal services adjunct to the bishops' more policy-focused Migration and Refugee Services.

CLINIC has grown from 17 affiliated organizations to more than 200 Catholic and community-based immigration programs, with close to 300 field offices in 47 states. CLINIC has more than 1,200 representatives who have been accredited with the federal government to process immigration applications, along with attorneys who assist hundreds of thousands of low-income immigrants a year.

During their general assembly in Baltimore, the bishops elected three  new CRS board members: Bishops William P. Callahan of La Crosse, Wis., Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Fla., and Cirilo B. Flores of San Diego. They also elected Miami Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski to the CLINIC board.