Philly priest, Navy chaplain named Auxiliary Bishop

Mark Abrams
January 27, 2019 - 4:00 am
Commander Joseph Coffey

Archdiocese for the Military Services

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A Philadelphia priest serving nearly 20 years as a Navy chaplain won't be coming home anytime soon.

He's been tapped by Pope Francis to serve as an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese for Military Services.

Bishop-elect Joseph Coffey has ministered to tens of thousands of sailors, Marines, and Coast Guard members and their families in a nearly 20-year Navy career that has taken him to such places as a U.S. base in Afghanistan, the Persian Gulf and the South Pacific.

"Everything I did as a parish priest, I've been able to do in the military. But now I wear a uniform and wear combat boots. But it's the same work, and that's what makes it so special,
" he said.

He was ordained in 1996 and served five years at St. Katherine of Siena parish in Torresdale before going full-time into the Navy chaplaincy program.

Why the Navy?

"My dad was in the Navy as a doctor," Coffey said, "mostly in the reserves, and my little brother, Jim, had gone to Villanova on ROTC scholarship for the Navy and he was in the Navy at the time I went to seminary. And he told me of the great need that was out there for priests in the Navy chaplain corps."

Coffey, 58, says he'll stay with Navy service and likely continue supervising chaplains in his new role.

"I've had wonderful assignments, and I've always been busy as a priest, as a Navy chaplain," Coffey said. "I really feel blessed to have the opportunity to serve in this way and try not to take even a day of it for granted."

Coffey grew up in Philly and still has a big family of brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews in the area. He still follows all the Philadelphia sports teams from afar and admits he had hopes of retiring from the Navy and returning home..

"I've been very happy and proud to tell people around the world that I've met that I'm Philadelphia priest who happens to be serving in the Navy right now. But my heart and my intention was always to return to Philadelphia.  Butt the Holy Father and the Lord, it seems like they have other plans for me."

Coffey will be formally installed during ceremonies in Washington D.C. in March.