A knack for knowing names

How is a bishop like a bar in a television sitcom?

When he knows everyone’s name.

The opening jingle to “Cheers,” a comedy hit on NBC from 1982-93, highlights the familiarity, warmth and name-dropping ability that are among the trademarks of Bishop W. Francis Malooly.

Whether it was at his home parish of St. Ursula in Parkville, the Monsignor O’Dywer Retreat House in Sparks or at his office at the Catholic Center, Bishop Malooly has the gift of placing names with faces.

In 2004, when Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski was made eastern vicar, he discovered it’s a skill that requires some legwork.

“I had never worked at the Catholic Center. I had 20 years of parish experience,” Bishop Rozanski said. “Bishop Malooly told me the best thing to do is to walk the (seven) floors here, get out and around, and get to know people.”

That knack was first developed as a parish priest.

“People always sit in the same section and as families, so I kind of memorized a family at a time,” Bishop Malooly said. “I remember coming back to St. Joe (St. Joseph, Cockeysville) for a Mass to celebrate my being ordained a bishop. I had left St. Joe 25 years earlier, and people are still sitting in the same pews.”

The skill was further enhanced at the Monsignor O’Dwyer Retreat House.

“You get a group of 40 or 50 kids coming in for a three-day retreat, and I would go around the room and try to remember each person,” Bishop Malooly said. “It was easier with the boys because they never changed their clothes. The girls would change three or four times a day.

“It gave me a chance to know them, but it also affirmed them, because if I knew the name they thought I was interested in them. I do the same with confirmations as best I can now.”

Rick Berndt has done work for the archdiocese as a partner at Gallagher, Evelius and Jones LLP.

“He’s one of the people in the archdiocese who know all 52 of the people who work here at the law firm,” Mr. Berndt said. “He recalls more than just the name. He seems to store away every bit of information. It’s all right there, a year later, two years later, five years later. That makes it very easy to start a conversation.”

George J. Kraus is a parishioner of St. Thomas More, Baltimore, where Bishop Malooly has resided since 1985.

“I’ve known him for 23 years,” Mr. Kraus said, “but he’ll recognize people he hasn’t seen in two years and greet them by name. That’s a great feature to have.”

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.