Pope Francis has appointed Bishop Robert J. Coyle as an auxiliary bishop in the Diocese of Rockville Centre, bringing the Long Islander back home after years of ministering to the United States military, church officials said Tuesday.
The appointment was announced in Washington, D.C., by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the apostolic nuncio, or pope’s representative, to the United States.
“I am extremely grateful to the Holy Father, Pope Francis, for assigning us Bishop Coyle,” Bishop John Barres, head of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, said in a statement. “I am also truly grateful for Bishop Coyle’s pastoral service and for his leadership to the young men and women who defend our great country.”
Coyle, 53, who starts the new assignment on April 2, will be the third auxiliary bishop in the diocese assisting Barres in his duties. He joins auxiliary bishops Robert Brennan and Andrzej Zglejszewski.
He fills the vacancy left by Bishop Nelson Perez, who was named bishop of the Diocese of Cleveland in July.
“Years back there was a spirit campaign with the expression, ‘I’m a Long Islander and proud of it!’ ” Coyle said in a statement. “I again can say that here, as a native son.”
He said he is looking forward to helping Barres pursue a major goal — putting more people in the pews of the 133 parishes across Nassau and Suffolk counties and a campus parish at Stony Brook University.
Coyle, who was born in Brooklyn and grew up on the Island, was enrolled in Catholic schools from elementary school on.
He graduated from St. Edward the Confessor School in Syosset in 1978 and St. Mary’s High School in Manhasset in 1982. He received a bachelor’s degree in economics from Fordham University in 1986.
After studies at the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in Huntington, Coyle was ordained to the priesthood in 1991 by Bishop John McGann, then the spiritual leader of the Rockville Centre diocese, at St. Agnes Cathedral. He served as an associate pastor in St. Dominic parish in Oyster Bay, St. Patrick parish in Glen Cove and, later, Corpus Christi parish in Mineola.
While studying for the priesthood, he was commissioned as an ensign in the U.S. Navy and served nearly 25 years on active and reserve duty. From 2000 to 2003, he was a Navy chaplain aboard the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman, deployed to the Middle East during Operation Southern Watch and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
He also was chaplain at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point from 2003 to 2007.
Coyle retired from the Naval Reserve in 2013, the same year that Pope Benedict XVI appointed him an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, based in the nation’s capital. He will step down from that post as he transfers to the Diocese of Rockville Centre.