Parishioners' thoughts focus on Keeler

November 28, 1994|By Ivan Penn and Jim Haner | Ivan Penn and Jim Haner,Sun Staff Writers

Just a whisper of Cardinal William Henry Keeler's name echoed in the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen's sanctuary during a morning Mass yesterday. It came in a simple prayer, asking for blessings on church and government officials.

"We pray . . . especially for Archbishop Keeler," said Father Joseph F. Barr. But the simple passing reference to the newly-made prince of the Roman Catholic Church -- one of 30 elevated to cardinal by Pope John Paul II on Saturday -- was enough to spark smiles and a bit of excitement among the several hundred parishioners gathered at Cardinal Keeler's home church.

"He's very much in our hearts and minds and prayers," said Mary Maguire, of Baltimore. "We're very happy for him."

Most parishioners are awaiting the celebration that will follow Cardinal Keeler's return from Rome this week. Next Sunday's Mass at the cathedral on North Charles Street will be held in honor of Cardinal Keeler.

"What we're hoping is that he'll be the same personable person . . . who used to stand in the back of the church and greet you," said Thomas Maronick, who has attended Mass at the cathedral for 20 years.

Officials at the cathedral are celebrating Cardinal William Keeler Day privately today and have closed the rectory office.

"There's definitely a lot more excitement around here," said Richard Hilgartner Jr., a deacon at the cathedral. "I think a lot of people have been glued to their TV sets, watching the events. I know we have."

At morning Mass in St. Mark's Church on Melvin Avenue in Catonsville, the Rev. John Bowen invoked the name of Cardinal Keeler in his homily, reminding parishioners that their tidy stone church and neat tree-lined neighborhoods are part of a larger worldwide community and a history that is greater than today.

"Cardinal Keeler has never let us forget that," Father Bowen said. "He is constantly reminding us of our connection to the suffering churches of Albania and Sarajevo and Vietnam and of the past history of Rome -- that we are all just a small part of something much larger."

He recalled sending the cardinal a short letter in October congratulating him when word of his appointment became public. "A few days later, he visited our seminary and sought me out to thank me," Father Bowen said. "Imagine that. Out of all the hundreds of letters and phone calls he received, he remembered one note from one priest in his diocese and took the time to say thanks.

"It's that openness, honesty and humility that has made him so dear to all of us in Baltimore."

After Mass, parishioners stopped in the brisk morning air to talk about the new prince of the church as they might an old friend. "He has proven himself an able administrator and a kind and thoughtful Christian who has taken good care of his office and his flock," said Dr. Joseph Keimig, 76, of Baltimore.

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