‘Approachable’ priest popular at weddings

When Claire Arrabal befriended the newly ordained priest who conducted her Archbishop Keough High School retreat in the early 1970s, she had no idea that the future Bishop W. Francis Malooly would – in a manner of speaking – become wedded to her family.

In 1979, Bishop Malooly officiated Mrs. Arrabal’s wedding to her husband, Pedro, at St. Mark, Catonsville. He then baptized three of their four children. On June 20, the bishop witnessed the wedding of the Arrabals’ daughter, JoAnna Robbins, to her husband, Dave, at Church of the Resurrection in Ellicott City.

“He has been a wonderful friend to our family and to my children, and it was just so special for us to have that connection,” said Mrs. Arrabal, a parishioner of Church of the Resurrection. “He’s such a good and holy person – such a good role model.”

In his heyday as a parish priest, Bishop Malooly said he would officiate some 60 weddings annually.

Today, he still gets plenty of wedding requests, often for the next generation of couples.

“It’s the children of couples I married in the ’70s, but it’s hard to do it because of the confirmation schedules,” said Bishop Malooly.

He will witness his niece Meghan’s wedding in September at Immaculate Conception in Towson, and he typically officiates five weddings a year now.

On Aug. 26, 2001, he witnessed the wedding of Amy (Buck) Donahue, a former staff photographer for The Catholic Review, and her husband, Chris, at Our Lady of the Angels in Catonsville.

“I don’t have many Catholics in my immediate family on my dad’s side,” said Mrs. Donahue, an Immaculate Conception, Towson, parishioner and mother of three. “He really explained the significance of marriage and the beauty of getting married in the church. He talked about the significance of the ring. He had such a peaceful mannerism about him.”

She said the bishop is a friend of her parents and that she knew, admired and trusted him.

“It was neat for me because I was working at the Review at the time,” she said.

When Mrs. Robbins became engaged, she said the very first thing she did was make sure Bishop Malooly could witness her wedding.

“Some people have a place they have to have, but for me, (having Bishop Malooly) was always extremely important,” she said. “He married my parents, and he’s always been so involved in all of our lives.”

She chuckled as she recalled how when she was younger and “Father Fran” would come to dinner, she and her siblings would play their musical instruments for the priest.

“He would always tell us what a great job we did,” recalled the 26-year-old. “He’s down-to-earth and approachable. He never was intimidating. He’s just himself – very kind.”

Catholic Review

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