Catholic couple takes faith on the road
Long-haul truckers keep Mass schedule
BY LAURA KILGUS, STAFF REPORTER
PROVIDENCE — “Many people define themselves by their job,” says Ann Coakley. “We believe that it is most important to define ourselves first and foremost as children of God, and that jobs are only a means of service and providing for our basic needs.”
Paul and Ann Coakley wanted to start their life together with as little debt as possible, so Paul took a job with a trucking company shortly before their wedding. They decided that it would be a great way to pay off their student loans, spend time together and see the country. Being on the road has been a great blessing to the Coakleys.
Paul began driving a truck in January of 2008. Ann joined him on the road after their wedding that May, and they have been traveling together ever since.
“To us it has been like a two year honeymoon! We get to be together all the time,” she said. “We’ve driven through 40 states while trucking and have made several trips up into Canada. We stop at museums, wander around small towns and go camping or kayaking whenever we have the chance. There have been mornings when we’ve woken up and seen that snow has fallen on the Mojave Desert or flowers are popping out of the melting snow in Vermont.”
Thanks to trucking, Ann and Paul have been able to see all of New England. They even stopped at Rhode Island’s one and only truck stop.
“Paul and I love driving through New England not only because of the beautiful foliage, but also because of how picturesque each town and farm is,” Ann said. “We’ve rolled through tiny frost- covered New England towns early in the morning and always roll down our windows to breath in the scent of chimney smoke and brewing Green Mountain coffee at little diners and coffee shops.”
Before trucking Paul and Ann were able to attend daily Mass on a regular basis. They would go to adoration together and join other young people for prayer groups. But once they started trucking it was really only possible to attend Sunday Mass.
“We’ve really missed those things, especially being part of a community,” she said. “Now, there are times when we’ve had to walk five miles to get to church because of where we have to park our truck. During the summer we’ve come into Mass hot and sticky from walking from a truck stop. Rainy or snowy days always keep things interesting.”
Ann explained that going to a different parish each Sunday can be fun. They have gone to large stone cathedrals and small, white New England clapboard churches. They have heard amazing homilies and have had strangers welcome them with open arms.
“We’ve spent the last two Christmases on the road and were blessed by the warmth and familiarity of Christmas Mass,” she shared. “It is a beautiful thing to be able to go anywhere and experience something as familiar as the Liturgy of the Mass and to be able to appreciate the uniqueness of each parish at the same time.”
When Ann first joined Paul, she explained that she was nervous about many aspects of life on the road. “There seemed to be so many unknowns when it came to trucking,” she said. “The life of a trucker was a mystery to me, but once I was there with Paul things worked out much better than I expected- except that even after two years on the road it can still be frustrating trying to find a place to pull over an 18-wheeler when you need to use the bathroom.”
The couple explained that they haul loads of almost anything and everything anywhere.
“The coolest load we’ve ever had was delivering a truck full of castings of dinosaur bones to a museum that was opening in San Antonio, Texas,” Ann said. “The people that worked at the museum were so excited that as each crate was unloaded they would unpack them immediately and lay out the bones to look at.”
Their two-year-long trucking honeymoon has allowed them to live simply so that they could pay off their student loans quickly, but now God is leading them in a different and exciting direction. Paul and Ann will be finishing trucking soon and beginning to help her parents with their small Catholic publishing company, Precious Life Books.
“My mom, Susan Andrews Brindle, and her sisters, Miriam Andrews Lademan and Joan Andrews Bell, have written and illustrated a Seven Sacrament series for children and many stories of the faith,” she explained. “I was blessed to be able to help my mom illustrate our most recent title, ‘The Most Beautiful Thing in the World.’ It is the retelling of a story written over a hundred years ago about an angel sent to earth to find the most beautiful thing in the world.
Ann explained that the books are beautifully illustrated and written in parable form. They are bi-lingual and tri-lingual, making wonderful tools for catechizing around the world.
“Paul and I are very excited to have an opportunity to travel this summer to conferences and bookstores to help get these powerful books into the hands of children and their families,” she added. “As the trucking chapter of our life is coming to a close, we are very excited to see what new adventures God has in store for us in the next chapter of our marriage.”