Monsignor James Cronin never asked Bishop W. Francis Malooly to become a priest. It was Monsignor Cronin’s daily living of the priesthood at St. Ursula in Parkville that inspired young Fran Malooly to follow in his pastor’s footsteps.
After nearly four decades as a priest, Bishop Malooly said it was one of the best decisions he’s ever made.
“Hearing the call to the priesthood wasn’t like St. Paul getting knocked off the horse,” remembered Bishop Malooly, “it was a gradual thing. During formation in the seminary, each year you’re getting a little more conscious of what it means to be a priest – to be another Christ and to imitate Christ and to bring healing and love and goodness to others.
“So it was a gradual evolution.”
Prior to studying at St. Mary’s Seminary, first on Paca Street and then in Roland Park, he entered minor seminary at St. Charles College in Catonsville when he was 13.
Good priestly examples abounded for Bishop Malooly. In addition to his parish priests and the Sulpicians who taught him in the seminary, his uncle, Bishop T. Austin Murphy, was a source of spiritual inspiration.
Preparing for the priesthood in the midst of the Second Vatican Council was an exciting time for Bishop Malooly, who was happy that it encouraged more active participation among the laity.
“When I was in the seminary, a number of my classmates weren’t sure they could adapt to the changes of the council,” remembered Bishop Malooly, noting that some left the seminary. “I found the council energizing.”
The thought of quitting never entered Bishop Malooly’s mind.
“The priesthood was clearly what I needed to do, and it’s what I wanted to do,” he said. “There was never a question of leaving.”
The bishop finds joy in being able to help others at happy moments like baptisms and weddings, as well as during times when people are suffering with illness, loss or death.
“If we really believe what our faith tells us – that the Lord is present in the Eucharist and that we can be a faith community,” he wondered, “why wouldn’t we be happy about that?”