In recognition of his service to youth, the Boy Scouts of America have given retired Cardinal William Keeler of Baltimore scouting's highest commendation, the Silver Buffalo Award.
“The Boy Scouts of America could not have chosen a more worthy person to receive this high honor,” said Sean Caine, the archdiocese of Baltimore’s communications director.
He added that the present Baltimore archbishop, William Lori, congratulates his predecessor on “this well-deserved award.”
Cardinal Keeler, 82, received the award on April 12 at St. Martin’s Home for the Aged in Catonsville, Md., his current place of residence. The cardinal is a former boy scout, the Baltimore archdiocese newspaper The Catholic Review reports.
Renée Fairrer, a public relations manager with the Boy Scouts of America, said Cardinal Keeler was chosen for the honor for numerous reasons.
He worked “diligently” to strengthen Baltimore’s parochial school system, and in 1996, he founded the “Partners in Excellence” program to help needy families and at-risk youth afford Catholic education. The program has raised $20 million to help award over 16,500 scholarships.
During his time as archbishop, his Lenten Appeal raised more than $70 million to help those in need. The cardinal also chaired the eighth World Youth Day, held in Denver in 1993.
Fairrer also noted that the National Jewish Committee on Scouting gave Cardinal Keeler its Shofar award for his work in Catholic-Jewish relations.
Any individual who provides a service to youth or has worked to improve the lives of youth is eligible for the Silver Buffalo Award. About 50 nominations are made each year and about 10-12 are chosen.
The Baltimore archdiocese said Cardinal Keeler has a long history of working with youth.
“Much of Cardinal Keeler’s priestly and episcopal ministry was dedicated to the service of children, whether he was driving the parish school bus as a newly-ordained priest or leading the school system of the nation's oldest diocese,” Caine told CNA April 16.
Cardinal Keeler was born in San Antonio, Texas in 1931 and raised in Pennsylvania. He was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Harrisburg, Pa. in 1955 and served as an expert at the Second Vatican Council, the Archdiocese of Baltimore website says. He was ordained an auxiliary bishop for Harrisburg in 1979 and later served as the diocese’s bishop. He was Archbishop of Baltimore from 1989 to 2007.
Past Silver Buffalo honorees include Walt Disney, Bob Hope and Jimmy Stewart, as well as astronauts John Glenn and Neil Armstrong. Past cardinals who have received the award include John Cody of Chicago and Francis Spellman of New York.