A gentle leader with a sense of humor

Although many who knew Cardinal William H. Keeler described him as an essentially shy person, they noted that he was warm and congenial with a good sense of humor.

Cardinal William H. Keeler blesses the Ten Commandments monument at Sacred Heart of Mary, Graceland Park, in 2006. (CR file)

Monsignor Joseph Luca, pastor of St. Louis, Clarksville, remembered driving to a radio studio to record a commercial promoting RENEW, a program designed to help foster faith. The cardinal took the wheel.

“We pulled up to the studio and the owner of the studio came to my side of the car and said, ‘Oh, your eminence. We are so glad to see you.’”

Monsignor Luca was embarrassed, the priest said, but the cardinal thought it was “hysterical.”

Father Leo Patalinghug, leader of the Grace Before Meals apostolate, remembered that the cardinal sometimes took Baltimore seminarians out to dinner in Rome.

“We were walking home, and he was telling us this story and we all got to laughing so hard that he had to stop and he was holding onto the wall he was laughing so hard,” said Father Patalinghug, who studied at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. “We all were just amazed to see the utter joy that he could exude.”

Father Patalingug said the cardinal was also a deeply spiritual man – someone who knew when it was time to laugh and when it was time to pray.

“I was struck by his desire to be seen as one who was a spiritual father to his people as opposed to simply being the authority figure,” said Monsignor Luca, noting that 38,000 people throughout the archdiocese participated in the RENEW program during its three-year operation. Many priests also participated in the Emmaus program, an initiative promoted by the cardinal to provide support to clergy.


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