Cardinal Keeler helped put Baltimore ‘on the map’

Father Michael White, pastor of the Church of the Nativity in Timonium and Cardinal William H. Keeler’s first priest-secretary in Baltimore, said Cardinal Keeler “put Baltimore on the map in the Catholic Church.”

Cardinal Keeler embraces St. John Paul II at Oriole Park at Camden Yards during the pope’s historic 1995 visit to Baltimore. (CR file)

Father White noted that in addition to the papal visit, Cardinal Keeler hosted spiritual gatherings in Baltimore in the late 1990s with St. Teresa of Kolkata and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople. Leaders within the Catholic Church and from other faith traditions regularly visited him in Baltimore and “not a day went by” when bishops from other parts of the country didn’t call for the cardinal’s advice, Father White said.

No Baltimore archbishop since Cardinal James Gibbons attracted as many key leaders to Baltimore as Cardinal Keeler, Father White said.

“Pope John Paul loved Cardinal Keeler,” Father White remembered. “He used to call the cardinal ‘Baltimore.’”

The 1995 papal visit to Baltimore – at the invitation of Cardinal Keeler – was one of the cardinal’s proudest moments. The pope celebrated Mass at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, visited the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen and the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, shared a meal at Our Daily Bread and encouraged seminarians at St. Mary’s Seminary in Roland Park.

Harold A. “Hal” Smith, former executive director of Catholic Charities, remembered that during the pope’s meal at Our Daily Bread with approximately 20 representatives of various Catholic Charities programs, everyone froze in the presence of the pontiff.

“Nobody knew what to say,” Smith remembered. “The cardinal had a wonderful moment of hosting the group when he spearheaded the conversation by asking the pope a question. The people would ask the cardinal a question, who would then address the Holy Father.”

It took about 10 minutes before everyone realized they could talk directly to the pope, Smith said. “The cardinal made it all work,” he said.


Excerpt from the Catholic Review obituary on Cardinal Keeler by George P. Matysek Jr.  For the complete article, click here.