Archdiocese ascension

Bishop: A priest follows in his uncle's footsteps in a ceremony at Cathedral of Mary Our Queen.

March 02, 2001|By John Rivera | John Rivera,SUN STAFF

W. Francis Malooly, a Parkville native who went from an altar boy at St. Ursula School to a priest who runs the day-to-day operations of the Archdiocese of Baltimore - historically one of the nation's most influential - was ordained a bishop yesterday.

In a ceremony at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen attended by about 30 cardinals and bishops and hundreds of priests, Malooly was presented with the symbols of his new office: a ring; a crosier, or brass shepherd's staff; the miter, or bishop's pointed hat; and a book of the Gospels, which he will teach and proclaim.

"When I became a priest 31 years ago, I had a good number of friends and family," Malooly told the approximately 2,000 people who packed the cavernous North Charles Street cathedral and greeted the new bishop with hearty, sustained applause. "I have a whole archdiocese of friends and family now, and I'm very grateful."

Malooly, 57, follows in the footsteps of his uncle, the late T. Austin Murphy, who was a bishop in Baltimore from 1962 until retiring in 1984.

Malooly, known as "Father Fran" before his appointment, will be one of three auxiliaries, or assistants, to Cardinal William H. Keeler, who ordained him yesterday. He replaces Bishop P. Francis Murphy, who died of cancer in September 1999.

For the past 12 years, Malooly has been chancellor and vicar general of the archdiocese, acting as the equivalent of a company's chief executive officer. In Keeler's absence, Malooly was the authority. Before that, he was the archdiocese's director of clergy personnel for five years, setting parish assignments for his brother priests.

The posts, though powerful, were never things he sought.

"It was more by coincidence that I ended up in the positions I had," he said. "And yet my sense has always been, I'll do what the bishop asks me to do."

It is not unusual for a man who has held the positions Malooly has to be fairly unpopular because of the decisions he has had to make. But that was not the case with the new bishop, judging from the affection demonstrated yesterday and the attendance of so many priests.

"So many priests and deacons," said a seemingly overwhelmed Malooly toward the end of the two-hour service. "I thought after my five years in clergy personnel you would never show up today."

The Rev. Robert F. Leavitt, president of St. Mary's University and Seminary in Roland Park, said the new bishop "enjoys incredible support, affection and esteem from his brother priests."

"I've seen a lot of priests and bishops come through the seminary, but he has such an unusual sense of calm, hope and a belief in people," Leavitt said.

Malooly, whom associates describe as a private, quiet, unassuming man with a mischievous sense of humor, was born in Baltimore in January 1944. He grew up in Parkville and remains close to his family.

"My mother and my three siblings and I all still live within about five or seven minutes of each other," he said in an interview this week.

His mother, Rosemary Malooly, who prayed silently in the front pew yesterday as her son was ordained, later recalled that he decided to become a priest "when he was in the fifth grade and he became an altar boy. He started going to Mass every day, and it just never left him."

Malooly attended seminary from 1958 until his ordination in 1970, a time that saw great changes in society. "We went from Eisenhower and building new homes and the middle class in the '50s to the Beatles and Woodstock and Vietnam," he said.

The church was changing, too, as the Second Vatican Council modernized church practice. "I had a couple of classmates who left the seminary, because by the time we got into our theology years, the church was different from what they expected when they entered," Malooly said. "I think many of us found it energizing. I did."

He was ordained by his uncle, Bishop Murphy, at St. Ursula parish in May 1970. Malooly said he had some rough outings at his first assignment at St. Joseph, Texas parish in Cockeysville.

"I was never a confident preacher," he said. "There was a man at the 7:30 Mass at St. Joe's on Sunday morning, the quiet Mass. The minute I would start my homily, he'd open up the Sun funny pages. You could tell by the colors.

"And I never took umbrage at that, because I really didn't think I was that good," he said.

Not that he didn't work at it.

"I spent 15 hours a week working on my homilies those first few years," he said.

As his skills developed, he found that he loved sharing the important moments of his parishioners' lives, "whether it be the baptism, first Communion, their marriages," he said. "Any of the peak moments, good or bad, difficult or happy, are the things that still energize me the most."

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