Father Edward C. Keating O.F.M.
Edward (Eamon) Keating was born June 2, 1927 in Cork City, Republic of Ireland, one of four children to parents Catherine and Jeremiah Keating. He was a joyful, bright young lad who grew up during the time of the Great Depression and then World War II, greatly impacted by his family's strong Catholic faith and customs.
"God came first in our lives, then family and society,” he recalls. “We prayed the rosary every night as a family. Our parents not only taught us the faith, they lived it. Even in the toughest of times they would always find a way to help people in need.”
After finishing secondary school young Edward took exams to qualify for a highly sought-after government position. He ended up being offered several but chose a spot in the Accountant’s Branch of the historic Post and Telegraphs in Dublin. In his free time, he landed jobs in the theater as a professional actor.
Life was good. He was experiencing success in his career and in his part-time passion at a young age, and yet he felt something was missing.
Edward attended the Friars Minor novitiate in Killarney for one year, earned degrees in philosophy and economics at Galway University in three years, onto the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium for theology for one year, then to Rome for three more years. He was ordained a Franciscan priest on July 6, 1958 in the Church of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart in the Piazza Navona in Rome.
After ordination he was assigned as Vice-Rector and Master of Students at the Irish College in Louvain for nine years. His superiors began to recognize that he had special talents, fully capable of handling challenging situations. They sent him to El Salvador for six years in the seventies, a tumultuous period there during the Cold War.
He went as a "trouble shooter" and had to quickly learn the Spanish language.
He came back to Ireland briefly, but this time was assigned to Northern Ireland, giving missions there when other friars were reluctant during the peak of the disturbances between the Protestants and Catholics.
If challenges were his specialty, the stakes kept getting higher for him. His next assignment was in Chile, first under the presidency of Marxist Salvador Allende during a period of dramatic economic decline and poverty, and later under dictator Augusto Pinochet when Chile was under martial law, a curfew, and a period of terror.
He returned again to Ireland, continuing his work giving missions and retreats. Always the pragmatist, he met with his Superior and reminded him that he was now fluent in French, Spanish, and Italian but was not putting those skills to use. At exactly that time, a Vicar General in the Diocese of St. Petersburg, Irishman Monsignor Laurence Higgins, had heard that there were priests in Ireland who spoke Spanish and could meet the needs of a growing Hispanic community in Florida.
Edward accepted an assignment to come to Tampa, Florida in 1985, first as Associate Pastor for the Hispanic Community at Incarnation Parish, then to Corpus Christi and St. Catherine of Siena from 1989-1993, before returning home to Ireland for his first "retirement."
"I went back to Galway, still doing some mission and parish work, minding my own business, when Laurence (Monsignor Higgins) called," Edward recounts. "He said, 'Edward, I need you.' So, I unretired!"
Edward joined Monsignor Higgins at Tampa’s St. Lawrence Parish in 1994. In 2008 he reached the mandatory age when all priests are required to retire from active ministry, though that has been a mere technicality. Even though he became “legally blind,” he continued to celebrate mass and impact parishioners through his unique teaching style until his isolation required by Covid-19.
“Every sermon from Father Keating was like a theology class,” says St. Lawrence Parishioner Bob Best. “I attended Catholic grade school, high school, and college and yet Father Keating is the one who has given me my deepest understanding of the Bible and my faith overall.
"I was taught in my classes in Louvain that you always have to give background information on Old and New Testament readings for people to understand context," Edward used to say. "Historical background makes things clearer."
It is not just the laity that Edward continued to assist in “retirement.” Fr. Chuck Dornquast had his first priestly assignment at St. Lawrence as Parochial Vicar, learning from his interactions with Father Keating.
“Fr. Keating was the finest example of what happens when a priest allows his own heart to be overwhelmed by the Heart of God,” says Fr. Dornquast. “In all aspects of his life, be it celebrating sacraments or chatting over lunch, his heart truly did reveal the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Edward Keating died on February 1, 2021.
A visitation for Fr. Keating will take place 5:00 - 7:00 pm Monday, February 8th at St Lawrence Catholic Church. An evening prayer service will follow at 7 pm Monday.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 11:00 am Tuesday, February 9th at St. Lawrence Catholic Church. Interment to follow at Calvary Catholic Cemetery in Clearwater, Florida 5233 118th Ave, Clearwater, Fl 33760 (Everyone is asked to meet at the cemetery as there is funeral procession)
"ENTRUSTED TO OUR CARE"
IN LIEU OF FLOWERS, Please send memorial contributions to the Father Edward Crispin Keating Memorial Fund, c/o St. Lawrence Catholic Church
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