Every now and then, Bishop W. Francis Malooly surprised callers to his Catholic Center office by picking up the phone himself. Expecting to hear the voice of Katherine Williams, his longtime administrative assistant, the callers were bewildered at hearing the bishop greet them with a cheery “bishop’s office.”
“After their initial surprise, they immediately were put at ease by his saying something like, ‘Katherine doesn’t work here anymore,’ ” remembered Ms. Williams, who has worked in Bishop Malooly’s downtown Baltimore office for seven years.
The bishop’s ability to make everyone comfortable and his legendary even temperament were two of his trademarks, according to those who worked closely with him. They are key reasons he was such an effective administrator, they said.
“Even with all the responsibility he had, he never appeared to be ruffled in any way,” said Deacon Charles Hiebler, the bishop’s assistant in the western vicar’s office and coordinator for planning and council services for the western vicariate.
“In every vicariate, you are always going to have people who get upset about things or who are hard to deal with,” said Deacon Hiebler, who will become Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien’s delegate for the western vicariate after Bishop Malooly’s departure. “He was a peacemaker.”
Deacon Hiebler remembered that when there were difficulties with clergy or between clergy and laypeople, he acted as a moderator.
“If there was a pastor who was upset about a building request or some policy or procedure, Bishop Malooly took time to answer his questions,” Deacon Hiebler said. “He told them what the situation was and worked it out so the pastor felt some satisfaction on it.”
Bishop Malooly was a “great listener” who employed a collaborative management style, Deacon Hiebler said.
“He never let being bishop get in the way of reaching out to help people,” Deacon Hiebler said. “He always made time for everyone.”
Ms. Williams could not recall an instance when her boss didn’t respond to the request of someone looking for advice or an answer to a question.
“If he happened to be available, he would take the call and talk with them personally,” she said.
Bishop Malooly was in the office everyday by 7 a.m., said Deacon Hiebler, noting that the bishop trusted the advice of his advisors and sought counsel from a variety of sources.
“He’s always been a very approachable person,” said Estella Chavez, one of Archbishop O’Brien’s administrative assistants. “He’s always in a good mood. He’s a very humble man.”