Right-hand man to the archbishop of Baltimore

Advisor and assistant to three men who directed the Archdiocese of Baltimore, Bishop W. Francis Malooly most deftly handled that role in October 2006, when tragedy struck.

Cardinal William H. Keeler was in Italy when an auto accident left him with severe injuries and took the life of a good friend, Father Bernard Quinn. During his recuperation from a broken ankle, Cardinal Keeler, then 75, came to rely on his western vicar more than ever.

“It was a great comfort,” Cardinal Keeler said of Bishop Malooly’s steady presence.

After surgery at Mercy Medical Center, Cardinal Keeler spent two weeks at Mercy Ridge recuperating. During that time, he was able to concelebrate Mass every day. His ritual also usually included a visit from Bishop Malooly.

“I knew that issues were being addressed as they unfolded, by a person who was very competent to handle them,” Cardinal Keeler said. “I also knew that he would take any decision that he knew I would be interested in, to me. I would quickly decide an issue, and he would execute it.”

In April 1989, Cardinal Keeler succeeded Archbishop William D. Borders, who had appointed Bishop Malooly director of clergy personnel in 1984. In that position, Bishop Malooly became known for his decisiveness and for the care he took in deploying newly ordained priests in their crucial first assignment.

“He not only had to deal with individuals, but with groups,” Archbishop Borders recalled. “He recognized the leadership of different people, called them forth into leadership positions and then supported them.

“He also had to make some tough decisions. Anyone who is in a position of leadership has to look to the greater good. If you look to the greater good, sometimes you also encounter human limitations and weaknesses. You can’t procrastinate to make tough decisions. He has that ability to make decisions, but always in a kind, fatherly way.”

Archbishop Borders and Cardinal Keeler mentioned Bishop Malooly’s ability to respond in a crisis.

“I have encountered several crisis situations in the archdiocese,” Archbishop Borders said. “Even though there was a lot of pressure involved, Bishop Malooly always maintained his balance. You have to be thinking in terms of the common good, even when, emotionally, you might feel like hitting your head against a wall. He always had that balance.”

Cardinal Keeler said that Bishop Malooly’s ability to provide pointed, succinct briefings is invaluable.

“My style is not to get too immersed in details,” Cardinal Keeler said. “Bishop Malooly was able to meet on a weekly basis with the management team that addressed a number of different issues as they were presented by various departments and parishes of the archdiocese.

“When St. Ursula recently opened its spiritual center, Monsignor (James P.) Farmer, the pastor, detailed the great service the archdiocese was able to give with respect to their building problem. That’s the kind of thing Bishop Malooly was able to handle very well.”

Archbishop Borders, Cardinal Keeler and Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien all counted on Bishop Malooly’s institutional knowledge of the archdiocese, which he began acquiring as the nephew of a bishop.

“In 20 years as vicar general, he’s picked up a lot of insights about the church, the local church, especially,” Archbishop O’Brien said. “He’s been very perceptive in absorbing the concerns of the people of the archdiocese.”

When Archbishop O’Brien came to Baltimore in July 2007, Bishop Malooly served as a veritable road map to the archdiocese, assisting Father Adam J. Parker, vice chancellor, with a yearlong tour that included stops at all 151 parishes.

“The game plan he took into effect with Father Adam (Parker), getting me around to the parishes, was most effective,” Archbishop O’Brien said. “He gave me helpful hints as I prepared for each visit.”

Catholic Review

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