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Arlington’s Second Bishop — John R. Keating

(This is reprinted from the 25th anniversary issue of the Arlington Diocese in August 1999.)

Arlington's second bishop, the Most Rev. John R. Keating, served Catholics in Northern Virginia from Aug. 4, 1983, until his death on March 22, 1998. Pope Paul VI established the Arlington Diocese on Aug. 13, 1974. Bishop Keating succeeded Bishop Thomas J. Welsh, who retired as bishop of Allentown in December 1997.

At the time of Bishop Keating's installation in 1983, the diocese had 188,000 Catholics in 57 parishes. In 1999, at the time of the 25th anniversary of the diocese, it had over 336,000 Catholics in 65 parishes and five missions. Bishop Keating dedicated more than 20 new churches and seven new schools during his tenure. The last, Holy Cross Academy in Stafford, opened in the fall of 1998. The number of Catholic school students in the diocese has increased from 12,818 to 16,632 since 1983.

Bishop Keating issued six pastoral letters as head of the Arlington Diocese: Consultation in the Parish in September 1984; On Reverence for the Eucharist in December 1988; On Catholic Schools in September 1990; On Handing on the Faith in October 1992; On Morality and Conscience in September 1994; and Courage in September 1996.

During Bishop Keating's tenure, he ordained 84 men to the priesthood, including 13 men in May 1996, the largest ordination class in diocesan history.

John Richard Keating was born July 20, 1934, in Chicago, Ill. He attended Queen of All Saints School, Quigley Preparatory Seminary - both in Chicago - and St. Mary of the Lake Seminary, Mundelein, Ill.

He studied theology at the Gregorian University in Rome while attending the North American College from 1955 59. He was ordained a priest by Bishop Martin O'Connor, rector of the North American College, on Dec. 20, 1958, in Rome.

He received his licentiate in sacred theology in 1959 from the Gregorian University. Cardinal Albert Meyer, Archbishop of Chicago, sent Father Keating back to Rome in 1960 to study for an advanced degree in canon law. He received his doctorate in canon law in 1963 from the Gregorian University.

He was vicar general and chancellor of the archdiocese from December 1979 until his appointment to Arlington. Upon the death of Cardinal Cody in April 1982, Father Keating was elected archdiocesan administrator, a post he filled until August 1982 when Cardinal Joseph Bernardin was named archbishop of Chicago.

As bishop of Arlington, Bishop Keating gained unwanted national notoriety in November 1994 when he became one of only two U.S. prelates to maintain diocesan policies of allowing only male altar servers, except under extreme circumstances. Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz of Lincoln, Neb., was the other.

Despite the controversy that this policy generated, Bishop Keating's lasting legacy in Arlington will be his tremendous success in attracting young men to the priesthood.

One of his first official acts in Arlington was the appointment of Father James R. Gould as diocesan vocations director. Together they developed a program that was unique among U.S. dioceses and has changed the face of Arlington clergy well into the next century.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2008