Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

William Cardinal Keeler
MSA SC 3520-14284


Born William Henry Keeler, March 4, 1931, in San Antonio, Texas. Son of Thomas L. and Margaret T. (Conway) Keeler. Attended St. Mary School, Lebanon, Pennsylvania; Lebanon Catholic High School, Lebanon, Pennsylvania; St. Charles Seminary, Overbrook, Philadephia, B.A., 1952; Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, Licentiate in Sacred Theology, 1956; Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, Ph.D., Canon Law, 1961.

From the Archdiocese of Baltimore homepage:

His Eminence William Cardinal Keeler
Fourteenth Archbishop of Baltimore

Motto: Opus Fac Evangelistae. "Do The Work of an Evangelist."

William Henry Keeler was born March 4, 1931 in San Antonio, Texas, the son of Thomas L. Keeler and Margaret T. (Conway) Keeler. He was raised in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, where he attended St. Mary School and Lebanon Catholic High School. He received a B.A. from St. Charles Seminary, Overbrook, Philadelphia, in 1952 and a Licentiate in Sacred Theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome in 1956.

Ordained a priest on July 17, 1955 in the Church of the Holy Apostles Rome by Archbishop (and future Cardinal) Luigi Traglia, the young cleric became assistant pastor at Our Lady of Good Counsel Church, Marysville, and secretary of the diocesan Tribunal (1956-1958). He was then assigned to study Canon Law at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. In 1961, he received his doctorate in Canon Law and was reappointed by Bishop George L. Leech as assistant pastor of Our Lady of Good Counsel Church and defender of the bond of the diocesan Tribunal. In 1964, he was named pastor of the Marysville parish.

As secretary to Bishop Leech during the Second Vatican Council meetings in Rome (1962-1965), he was appointed peritus or "special advisor" to the Council by Pope John XXIII. During the Council, he also served on the staff of the Council Digest, a daily communication service sponsored by the United States Bishops.

In 1965, he was appointed to serve as Vice Chancellor of the Harrisburg Diocese and, in time, Chancellor (l969) and later Vicar General. He held the latter position when he was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Harrisburg and Titular Bishop of Ulcinium (Dulcigno) by Pope John Paul II on July 24, 1979. His episcopal ordination occurred on September 21, 1979, at St Patrick Cathedral, Harrisburg.

On September 3, 1983, he was elected Administrator of the Diocese of Harrisburg by the College of Consultors. Pope John Paul II appointed him Bishop of Harrisburg on November 10, 1983, and he was installed as Bishop on January 4, 1984, by His Eminence John Cardinal Krol, Archbishop of Philadelphia.

His Eminenece William Cardinal Keeler was elected to the College of Cardinals by Pope John Paul II on November 28, 1994. The Consistory ceremony took place in the Pope Paul VI Audience Hall, Vatican City State. The Cardinal currently serves on the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Congregation for the Oriental Churches.

Cardinal William H. Keeler was appointed Archbishop of Baltimore by Pope John Paul II on April 11, 1989, and was formally installed as 14th Ordinary of the nation's oldest See on May 23 in ceremonies at the Catehdral of Mary Our Queen. Prior to his assignment in Baltimore, he was Bishop of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, from 1983-1989 and had served in the Harrisburg diocese since 1956.

An influential participant in a wide range of national and international issues, Cardinal Keeler was elected President of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB) and the United States Catholic Conference in November 1992. He had been elected as the organizations' Vice President in November of 1989, when he hosted Baltimore's bicentennial celebration of the founding of America's first Roman Catholic diocese. He is also Chairman of the Maryland Catholic Conference, Chair of the Board and Chancellor of St. Mary's Seminary and University in Baltimore, as well as Mount St. Mary's Seminary, Emmitsburg.

As part of his work with the NCCB, Cardinal Keeler has developed a reputation for effectively building interfaith bonds. He is particularly noted for his work in furthering an effective Catholic-Jewish dialogue and served for a time as moderator of religious relationships with the Jewish faith as a member of the International Catholic Orthodox Commission for Theological Dialoue in 1986 and then went on to serve as Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs from 1984 to November 1987, he helped arrange the Pope's meeting with Jewish leaders in Miami and with Protestant leaders in Columbia, S.C., during the 1987 papal visit. The Archbishop was appointed to the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity in the summer of 1994, and to the Congregation for the Oriental Churches in November 1994. Since 1998, he has served as Chair for the Committee on Pro-Life Activities.

Since coming to Baltimore, one of Cardinal Keeler's priorities as leader of the oldest Catholic See in the United States has been the strengthening of the Catholic school system. He also has been a vigilant leader of the pro-life movement and an outspoken advocate for expanded evangelization throughout the parish community. Several years ago the Cardinal initiated the Lenten Appeal, a giving campaign that to date has raised nearly $12 million in support of area Catholic schools, the needs of the less fortunate, and a variety of spiritual development efforts.

He is the Vice President of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, and a member of the Black and Native American Missions Board. He serves on the Boards of The Catholic University of America; the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Washington; and Mount St. Mary's College. He is Chairman of the Board of Catholic Charities, the largest non-governmental agency providing assistance to the needy of Maryland. He is president of the Cathedral Foundation and publisher of The Catholic Review.

Honorary degrees: Lebanon Valley College; Mount St. Mary's; Gettysburg College; Susquehanna University; Gannon University, Erie, Pennsylvania; Loyola College, Baltimore; St. Mary's College of Minnesota, Winona, Minnesota; Shippenburg State University, Pennsylvania; Elizabethtown College, Pennsylvania, University of Notre Dame, South Bend; Ateneo University, Philippines, and College of Notre Dame of Maryland, Baltimore.

Return to William Cardinal Keeler's Introductory Page

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