Cardinal Keeler’s response to priesthood call was way of saying thanks

Born in San Antonio, Texas, and raised in Lebanon, Pa., Cardinal William H. Keeler knew from an early age he was called to the priesthood. In a 2005 interview with the Catholic Review, he recalled visiting his grandfather’s farm in Illinois when the local Catholic pastor stopped by for a visit – pointing to the 4-year-old boy and announcing that he would one day become a priest.

Then-Monsignor William H. Keeler (third from left) meets with members of the Priests’ Education Committee in the Diocese of Harrisburg in 1968. (Courtesy Charles Blahusch, The Catholic Witness)

After graduating from Lebanon Catholic High School in 1948, Cardinal Keeler entered St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, seeing priestly service as a way of expressing his gratitude to God.

“I wondered about a way of saying thank you to (God) and giving back to the church the gifts that God had given to me,” Cardinal Keeler remembered. “It was as simple as that. For me, becoming a priest was not complicated.”

Cardinal Keeler was ordained a priest in Rome July 17, 1955. He served as assistant pastor of Our Lady of Good Counsel in Marysville, Pa., before taking on other assignments as secretary to Harrisburg Bishop George L. Leech and as a “peritus,” or special advisor, during Second Vatican Council meetings in Rome.

Cardinal Keeler served as pastor of Our Lady of Good Counsel from 1964 to 1965, and was named vice chancellor and then vicar general and auxiliary bishop of the Harrisburg Diocese. St. John Paul II appointed him bishop of Harrisburg Nov. 10, 1983, and archbishop of Baltimore April 11, 1989. The pope elevated Cardinal Keeler to the College of Cardinals in 1994. His episcopal motto was, “Do the work of an evangelist.”


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