Monsignor Lloyd E. Aiken, who spent most of his priesthood at Sacred Heart in Glyndon, the parish of his youth, died at Stella Maris Hospice Feb. 5, a year to the day after informing the people he served that he had been diagnosed with stomach cancer.
A priest of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, he was 75.
Monsignor Aiken’s earliest memories of the Catholic Church were at Sacred Heart, where he returned as pastor in 1987. He oversaw a 1990s building boom which included a church that he helped design; took on additional pastor duties at St. Charles Borromeo in Pikesville in 2009; and learned Spanish in order to serve an increasingly diverse faith community.
“I was blessed to share my time and ministry with a parish that had ties to my childhood,” Monsignor Aiken told the Review last October. “It helped to strengthen my vocation. I’m thankful for where I was raised.”
Monsignor Aiken was baptized at Church of the Ascension in Halethorpe and was five years old when his parents, a lumber salesman and a nursing supervisor at Rosewood State Hospital, moved to northwest Baltimore County. He received his initial religious education at Sacred Heart from the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. Too old to attend its parish school, which was dedicated in 1956, he attended Franklin Elementary and Junior High Schools.
During his freshman year at what was then Loyola High in Towson, he discerned that he “wanted to become a priest,” and entered St. Charles, the minor seminary in Catonsville.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and a master’s degree in divinity from St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore. After serving as a transitional deacon at St. Bernardine in West Baltimore and Church of the Nativity in Timonium, Monsignor Aiken was ordained a priest in May 1970 at St. Anthony of Padua in Gardenville by Bishop F. Joseph Gossman.
Monsignor Aiken served as an associate pastor of Nativity, 1970-75; Holy Trinity in Glen Burnie, 1975-76; and then St. Margaret in Bel Air, 1976-83. He then served as pastor of Church of the Annunciation in Rosedale until 1987, when he was named pastor of Sacred Heart.
By then, Masses were held in the Glyndon school’s multi-purpose room, as a burgeoning parish had long outgrown its “Little Church,” where Monsignor Aiken had received first Communion.
“As a child, it seemed like such a large building,” Monsignor Aiken told the Review last fall when Sacred Heart honored him with a ceremonial striker for its bell. “In reality, it had 22 pews and could hold 125 people.”
Existing plans for a new church were problematic, Monsignor Aiken said, as it “seated fewer people than were being accommodated in the parish hall.” He was heavily involved in a new design, which included the construction of a worship space, narthex and three classrooms, all connected to the existing school building.
Father James D. Proffitt, director of Clergy Personnel for the archdiocese, served as associate pastor of Sacred Heart from 1998 to 2001. He said that Monsignor Aiken’s sense of hospitality and pastoral care can be seen in its “new” church, which was dedicated in 1993.
“He wanted the place to look welcoming,” Father Proffitt said. “He felt, ‘If it’s for the church, it should be noble.’ Everything matched and blended in. He wanted it to be aesthetically appealing. Worship was going to be noble, even down to the vestments.
“He took fastidious care of the physical plant. He wanted everything to be just right. You would see him doing landscaping, watering new trees to make sure they didn’t die.”
Father Proffitt remembers showing up several hours early on the day he moved into the Sacred Heart rectory and finding Monsignor Aiken “vacuuming my room. He wanted it just right.”
According to an obituary prepared by the archdiocese, Monsignor Aiken’s ministry also included updating the St. Charles Borromeo campus.
Both Father Proffitt and Father Canisius Tah, associate pastor of Sacred Heart and St. Charles Borromeo since July 2017, described Monsignor Aiken as being extremely approachable.
“It didn’t matter who you were, or where you came from, he was available,” Father Tah said. “The parish (Sacred Heart) is different from what it was in the 1990s, and he embraced different cultures. People came from all over to make this their home, and he taught us what it meant for the church to be a missionary one.”
That included learning Spanish, which involved an immersion program in Cuernavaca, Mexico, when Monsignor Aiken was in his 60s. Father Hilario Avendaño is associate pastor for Hispanic Ministry at Sacred Heart, but in his absence, Monsignor Aiken would celebrate scheduled Spanish Masses.
“He told me that there was a time he never thought that would be required of him, but it was a way to know, and journey with the people,” said Father Tah, a native of Cameroon. “It wasn’t just the Spanish community, it was the African community too. We began a cross-cultural celebration in 2018, and he was the main celebrant.”
The Hunts, Rick and Diana, sent six children through Sacred Heart School. Last October, Rick recalled the attention Monsignor Aiken gave the school.
“It had less than 300 students in 1987,” said Rick Hunt, who served on the parish council and school board. “At its high point, it had 800.
“He had a love affair with Sacred Heart, a love affair with the parish. He allowed us to do things we never would have thought to do. He convinced me to go to the city jail and mentor. There were so many little things he did, when you add them up.”
Monsignor Aiken served on the archdiocesan Presbyteral Council and Clergy Personnel Board, and on the Board of Trustees of St. Mary’s Seminary.
He easily made friends, among them Sulpician Father Thomas Ulshafer, whom he met in the late 1950s as a minor seminary classmate at St. Charles.
“I had the good fortune of having a friend who traveled well,” said Father Ulshafer, former provincial of the Sulpicians. “It was one of his great hobbies. We took a lot of vacations in Europe. He liked seeing things that interested him, studying the history, and just taking the time to relax.”
Father Ulshafer said that it was telling that he preferred to be addressed as “Father,” rather than “Monsignor.”
“He was proud that he came from a working-class family. He was humble, and didn’t appreciate his own talents as much as he should have,” Father Ulshafer said. “He was never arrogant or overbearing, which is the reason he had so many friends. That complemented his style as a pastor, which was collaborative. He would rather work with people, than order them around.”
Father Ulshafer will offer the homily and Archbishop William E. Lori will be the principal celebrant at a funeral Mass for Monsignor Aiken at Sacred Heart, 11 a.m. Feb. 17. Viewing and visitation will be held at St. Charles Borromeo, Feb. 15, 9 a.m.-3 p.m.; and at Sacred Heart Feb. 16, 6:15-10 p.m.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Lloyd E. and M. Agatha Aiken Endowment Fund, Sacred Heart Church, 65 Sacred Heart Lane, Glyndon MD 21071. The fund, which honors his parents, supports seminarian formation, Sacred Heart Parish and continuing education.
Email Paul McMullen at pmcmullen@CatholicReview.org