LEBANON, Pa. (WHTM) – Cardinal William Keeler had a special place in his heart for Lebanon.
Keeler, who passed away Thursday at the age of 86, went to Lebanon Catholic High School when it was still on Willow Street. He said his first mass in the city where he was raised.
Deacon Richard Wentzel of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary grew up a couple years behind Keeler.
“His intelligence never overshadowed his humility,” Wentzel said.
Keeler’s first assignment as priest was to Our Lady of Good Counsel in Marysville.
“When I look back on him, I think he will be remembered for his great love for the church,” Wentzel said.
Keeler led the Midstate faithful when he was elected the seventh bishop of the Diocese of Harrisburg in 1983, a position he held until he was named the Archbishop of Baltimore where he was eventually elevated to cardinal.
Joe Aponick, who was given his first job by his Eminence, said Keeler was someone who had a reputation for forging friendships with Protestant and Jewish clergy.
“It was his outreach and his concern for the community at large … for other faith groups and for the community and how faith could do good works in the community,” Aponick said.
Officially, Keeler served the Midstate for 33 years. His name is enshrined on a building at the Diocese of Harrisburg.
“He had many callings or service, but I think that was a theme of his life, was that service to do work for people,” Aponick said.