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‘Light of hope’: Cardinal Keeler, basilica restorer, interfaith leader, dies at 86

Cardinal Keeler served as the spiritual shepherd of the Baltimore archdiocese from 1989 until his retirement in 2007.
Cardinal William H. Keeler, 14th archbishop of Baltimore, an international leader in Catholic-Jewish relations and the driving force behind the restoration of America’s first cathedral, died March 23 at his residence at St. Martin's Home for the Aged in Catonsville. He was 86.
 
Cardinal Keeler served as the spiritual shepherd of the Baltimore archdiocese from 1989 until his retirement in 2007.

Archbishop William E. Lori, one of Cardinal Keeler’s two successors, said one of the great blessings of his life was coming to know Cardinal Keeler, whom he met when the cardinal was bishop of the Diocese of Harrisburg, Pa., and Archbishop Lori was priest-secretary to Washington Cardinal James Hickey.

When Cardinal Keeler became archbishop of Baltimore, Archbishop Lori said he learned of "his prowess as a church historian coupled with his deep love and respect for the history and heritage of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.”

Among Cardinal Keeler's many accomplishments in the Baltimore archdiocese, Archbishop Lori highlighted “the wonderful visit of Pope St. John Paul II to Baltimore in 1995, the restoration of the Basilica of the Assumption and the creation of Partners in Excellence which has helped thousands of young people from disadvantaged neighborhoods to receive a sound Catholic education.”

“When I would visit the cardinal at the Little Sisters of the Poor (in Cardinal Keeler's retirement), I gave him a report on my stewardship and told him many times that we were striving to build upon his legacy – a legacy that greatly strengthened the Church and the wider community,” Archbishop Lori said in a written statement.

Pennsylvania roots
 
Born in San Antonio, Texas, and raised in Lebanon, Pa., Cardinal 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.
 
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.”

Read More: http://catholicreview.org/article/home/light-of-hope-cardinal-keeler-basilica-restorer-interfaith-leader-dies-at-86
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