Tribute to Patrick Keegan OBE, GCSG
by the Most Rev Derek Worlock, Archbishop of Liverpool
God in his mercy raises up in the Church leaders and saints to meet the needs of each generation. A South African Archbishop once commented on how blessed is the Church in this land to have had Chesterton and Patrick Keegan in the same century.
This may seem extravagant language: to compare an intellectual giant with a mill-worker’s son from near Wigan. Yet to Pat Keegan fell the honour of being the fist layman to address a Council of the Church.
It was also to him at the end of Vatican II, nearly 25 years ago, that Paul VI entrusted his message to the world of work. “The Church is your friend” declared the Pope. “Have confidence in her”.
By then Pat’s reputation as Josef Cardijn’s collaborator, and International President of the Young Christian Workers, was world-wide. In the post-war years, encouraged by Pius XII, they had travelled together in every continent, fostering the lay apostolate and worker movement throughout the Church. The friend of Popes, priests and working youth, Pat’s influence on individuals and the Church’s thinking was immense.
When the Holy See’s Laity Council was established in 1967, Keegan was inevitably among its first members. In England he became a member of the Laity Commission, a trustee of the National Catholic Fund, and the elder statesman of the YCW and FSA which he had helped to found just before the Council. Increasingly his services were in demand at national level.
His unique contribution was widely recognised. He was appointed OBE in 1969. Ten years later he received the highest award for a Catholic layman when he was given the Grand Cross of the Order of St Gregory the Great by Pope John Paul II, with whom he had worked during Vatican II and in the Laity Council and Family Committee.
Amidst such honours, Pat remained unspoiled, unchanged, proud to be a layman of worker background, and till his death a daily communicant. As the leader of a team of committed laymen, he dedicated himself as a celibate to the service of the Church, especially in the worker movement. His memorial rests in the Church’s growth in understanding of the life and mission of the faithful laity.
Patrick was much loved for himself: for his personal warmth, kindness, humour, outspoken courage, deep spirituality and faith. In all his relationships, he exemplified what he called “a sense of the Church”. He died a most holy death and fully merited the posthumous accolade of the Pope who hailed him as “this dedicated servant of Christ and his Church”.
The Universe, 18 March 1990