Bishop W. Francis Malooly may be the vicar for the western part of the archdiocese, but for some 23 years he has made his home in the 300-family, urban vicariate church of St. Thomas More in Baltimore.
From the pastors he has lived with in a nearby detached house, to the many parishioners he has come to know, Bishop Malooly has made his mark at St. Thomas.
Father Richard Murphy, pastor of St. John the Evangelist in Frederick, served as pastor of St. Thomas More in 1985, and lived in the downstairs portion of the house he shared with Bishop Malooly. The two took frequent walks around the parish, talking of sports and family.
“He was an unofficial associate pastor at the parish and was always helpful and ready to jump in,” Father Murphy said. “Anytime there were any differences, and there were some serious challenges the parish faced, he was always willing to support me personally and the parish.”
Bishop Victor Galeone of the Diocese of St. Augustine in Florida resided with Bishop Malooly for seven years at St. Thomas More, and described him as “one of the kindest and most personable men” he’s ever known.
“In those seven years together, I never heard Bishop Fran say an unkind word about anyone,” said Bishop Galeone.
When Bishop Galeone returned from ministering in Peru, he told Bishop Malooly that he wanted to serve in the city, but not as a pastor.
Through Bishop Malooly’s gentle persuasion, Bishop Galeone did end up taking on the role of pastor.
“I don’t know what he saw in me, but I would not be where I am today if it weren’t for him,” said Bishop Galeone, who also was ordained a bishop in 2001.
Father Brian A. Zielenski, O.Praem., current pastor of St. Thomas, said most people at the church probably know Bishop Malooly, whom he described as “a very outgoing, gentle, considerate man.”
Longtime St. Thomas More parishioners Edward and Geraldine Ryan are among those who have developed a friendship with the bishop.
“He’s a very pious man, very friendly, and he knows everybody by their first name,” said Mr. Ryan.
Mr. Ryan, an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion and lay corporator for the parish, said his wife makes Christmas cookies every year and always gives the bishop a tin.
When Mrs. Ryan had to inform the bishop that she would need to ‘retire’ from serving as an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, the bishop said “well don’t worry about that, but make sure you keep those cookies coming!”
Bud Sigler, a longtime St. Thomas More parishioner who has known the bishop some 30 years, described the bishop as very down-to-earth.
He recalled how his daughter asked then Father Malooly to witness her wedding, and not long after, he was ordained a bishop.
“I said, Fran, now that you’re a bishop you’re still going to marry my daughter, aren’t you?” Mr. Sigler asked. “He said, oh yes, yes.”
Deacon Jim Mann of St. Dominic, Baltimore, first came to know Bishop Malooly when they were 13-year-old students at St. Charles minor seminary in Catonsville.
“Because of our last names, we sat next to each other,” said Deacon Mann, who is also a district court judge for Baltimore City.
“Even back then, there was just something so special about him,” said Deacon Mann, who has been a St. Thomas More member for 30 years. “He was very down-to-earth and loved sports, and you could tell that his call to the priesthood was real.”
He said he feels Bishop Malooly brought a sense of stability to St. Thomas More.
“It had all of the challenges urban parishes have, and through it all, Bishop Malooly was the one constant,” Deacon Mann said. “And even though he was busy with other duties, he always maintained a presence at St. Thomas More, which was very important to us.”
Bishop Malooly is close with each of Deacon Mann’s nine children. When the deacon’s father died in 2000, Deacon Mann turned to Bishop Malooly.
“He presided at the funeral Mass,” Deacon Mann said, “but more importantly, it was his presence and helping me through that difficult time that helped take a load off of my shoulders.”
St. Thomas More Deacon Michael McCoy said the bishop has always been “deeply and sincerely connected with the people.”
Driving by the parish rectory, it was not unusual to see Bishop Malooly cutting the grass with a push mower.
“He is loved, I think, by everyone,” said Deacon McCoy. “He’s considered part of the family.”