Supporting Catholic education in creative ways

Cardinal William H. Keeler, who served as a bus driver for a parish school after he was first ordained, gave his blessing to several innovative educational programs within the Baltimore archdiocese, including one for children with special needs – PRIDE (Pupils Receiving Inclusive Diversified Education.)

Cardinal Keeler helps break ground for campus improvements at Archbishop Spalding High School in Severn in 2004. (CR file)

Mary Jo Hutson, a former principal of St. Anthony School in Hamilton where the first PRIDE program was launched, said in an earlier interview with the Catholic Review that the cardinal used a gift for hospitality to win support for PRIDE, Partners in Excellence and other initiatives.

“There is no question that he was an engaging presence at any gathering,” said Hutson, who died in 2015. “A crowd brought a distinct sparkle to his eye.”

Hutson, a former associate superintendent for Catholic schools, said the cardinal’s greatest legacy is his gift for making people feel recognized, known and remembered.

“This, I think, is the hospitality that must precede all of our efforts to evangelize,” Hutson said.

During his tenure, several Catholic schools closed. Several others opened, including St. Ignatius Loyola Academy, Mother Seton Academy, Sisters Academy, Our Lady of Grace School, Cristo Rey Jesuit High School and School of the Incarnation.

Mary Pat Seurkamp, former president of what is now Notre Dame of Maryland University, said Cardinal Keeler was “very attentive” to implementing Ex Corde Ecclesiae, a 1990 apostolic constitution on Catholic higher education which set norms to assure the Catholic mission and identity of Catholic colleges and universities. He worked with leaders of Notre Dame, Loyola University Maryland and Mount St. Mary’s University on implementing the constitution.

“He was very thoughtful about how to address these issues,” Seurkamp said. “He recognized that higher education needed to be a place where ideas could be expressed, but we also had to do things consistent with the teachings of the church.”

When Loyola University Maryland selected former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani as its commencement speaker and recipient of an honorary degree in 2005, Cardinal Keeler directed that no representative from the Archdiocese of Baltimore be present at the commencement exercises because of Giuliani’s support for keeping abortion legal.

Seurkamp, whose family has had close ties to the cardinal going back to his Harrisburg days, said she periodically called the cardinal to get his advice on difficult issues, including controversial speakers at the university. She also enjoyed sharing good news with him, she said.

“He was a very holy man,” she said. “He had a deep spirituality and holiness about him. He was also very smart and strategic.”


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