Featured photo: Deacon Randolph Copeland blesses the congregation at Sacred Heart Cathedral.
In a career that has included medical work with the military and hospitals in several countries, Deacon Randy Copeland is about to add a new title to his list: chancellor of the Diocese of Gallup.
Deacon Copeland is familiar with overseeing the work of teams, he is also humble and matter-of-fact about his qualifications. He accepted the position with the Diocese when Bishop James Wall approached him with an offer for the role of Chancellor.
“I finished my military career as the chief of a medical department, which includes a lot of leadership responsibilities, and it appears that’s what the Bishop was looking for,” Deacon Copeland says.
Deacon Copeland has spent the past 14 years as an orthopedic surgeon with the Gallup Indian Medical Center and had planned to scale back his working time.
“I’m partially retiring from medical practice. I’ll still be working one day a week primarily taking care of children with musculoskeletal problems,” he says. “I hadn’t been looking for a new assignment upon my retirement, but for the greater glory of God, here I am!”
The chancellor of a Diocese primarily oversees the daily activity of a chancery, and in particular is responsible for Diocesan archives. But the impact of the Chancellor’s office, Deacon Copeland says, is turned outward across the whole Diocese.
“Certainly the purpose of the chancery is not to serve itself, but to serve the entire Diocese. It needs to make sure that we as people of God are working in concert and not becoming discordant with one another. We’re responsible for supporting the mission and ministries of the people, as well as our own mission.”
Everyday ministries are familiar to Deacon Copeland. His was one of the first ordinations made by Bishop Wall in 2009, and besides serving as a deacon at Sacred Heart Cathedral since 2009, he and his wife Maria have run Engaged Encounter, a weekend retreat for Catholic Couples, for ten years.
After completing medical school in 1975 and training for orthopedic surgery, his medical career began with the military. Besides his primary medical duties, he held various teaching and leadership positions. He has also published several papers on the practice of orthopedics and presented medical lectures across the country, both during his time as a military physician and afterwards while serving the Indian Health Service.
Through all of this, it’s evident that Deacon Copeland’s biggest legacy has been his family, which includes four children and seven grandchildren.
With such a schedule, Deacon Copeland has little time for hobbies outside of his work and family, but there is on activity he hopes to soon pick back up.
“In the past I’ve done archery – I used to be an archery instructor back when I was a boy scout leader when I was younger. It’s a little bit like golf: you go to a spot where you shoot, then you go pick up your arrows, then you go to another spot and shoot.” He laughs, “It is a little different than golf, though, because there’s not such thing as archery carts.”
When asked about what he enjoys reading, he unhesitatingly names the Gospel of John.
“The way that the theology is woven through the story, it really appeals to me. It raises my mind to the bigger picture…it calls me to think on a higher plane.”
This is high praise from a man who has made a career out of higher thinking and advanced medicine.
Now he will be able to devote his time to serve the Church he was received into in 1974. His time in the military, as a doctor, as a Deacon, and now as the new chancellor of the Diocese has all directed him at one goal: “Keeping my focus on Jesus Christ. It’s His mission. I’ve given my life to Him, through the Church. I’m looking forward to serving the people of the Diocese – God’s people.”
Fr. Kevin Finnegan, the present chancellor for the Diocese, will continue to serve until January 25, 2016, at which time Deacon Copeland will assume responsibility for the office.