Bishop Keating, 63, reportedly suffered a massive heart attack at the Oblate Residence where he was staying during his two-week "ad limina" trip. He was accompanied on his visit by Father Robert J. Rippy, diocesan chancellor, and Father Mark Mealey, O.S.F.S., judicial vicar.
The bishop's body is expected to return to Arlington on Wednesday, March 25. A funeral Mass has tentatively been scheduled for Saturday, March 28, at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington.
The Church's Code of Canon Law instructs the diocesan board of consultors to elect an administrator within eight days of the death of the bishop. The group was scheduled to meet early this week.
News of Bishop Keating's death rapidly spread throughout the diocese on Sunday morning. Prayers were being offered for the repose of his soul at all 63 diocesan parishes and eight missions.
Bishop Keating has led the Arlington Diocese since August 1983. He was the second bishop of Arlington, succeeding Bishop Thomas J. Welsh, who recently retired as bishop of Allentown. Pope Paul VI established the Arlington Diocese on Aug. 13, 1974.
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 in Arlington, he had ordained 84 men to the priesthood, including 13 men in May 1996, the largest ordination class in diocesan history. He established six new parishes and dedicated 17 churches. The diocese also has opened a new elementary school each year for the past eight years. Holy Cross Academy will keep that tradition alive when it opens in the fall of 1998.
Arlington now has more than 326,000 Catholics spread over 21 counties of Northern Virginia, from the Potomac River to the West Virginia border. There were 188,000 Catholics at the time of Bishop Keating’s installation on Aug. 4, 1983.
John Richard Keating was born July 20, 1934, in Chicago, Ill. His father, Robert J. Keating, died in 1996. His mother, Gertrude, died five years ago.
John Keating 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.
Father Keating received his Licentiate in Sacred Theology in 1959 from the Gregorian University.
He returned to Chicago in June 1959 to accept an assignment as associate pastor of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church in Chicago, where he served until October 1960.
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.
Father Keating returned to Chicago where he was appointed assistant chancellor by Cardinal Meyer. At the same time, he was appointed associate pastor in August 1963 at Immaculate Conception Church, where he served until January 1968.
Father Keating continued to serve as assistant chancellor under Cardinal John Cody and served as associate pastor at St. Germaine Church, Oak Lawn, from January 1968 to August 1969.
He was appointed associate pastor at St. Mary Church, Riverside, from August 1969 to September 1970. He then became associate pastor of St. Clement Church, serving there until November 1975. He then served at St. Louis de Marillac Church, La Grange Park, Ill., until June 1983 when he was named second bishop of Arlington.
From October 1971 to December 1979 Father Keating served the archdiocese as co-chancellor for priest personnel. He was a member of the clergy personnel board of the archdiocese from October 1971 to October 1982, and was elected chairman during the last five years.
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 administrator of the archdiocese, a post he filled until August 1982 when Cardinal Joseph Bernardin was named archbishop of Chicago.
Bishop Keating's training in canon law has been instrumental in his service to the Church in a wide variety of roles. He served as a consultant to the U.S. bishops committee on canonical affairs. In 1979 he was named a trustee of St. Mary of the Lake Seminary and in 1971 he was named secretary of the Archdiocesan Board of Consultors.
In December 1982 Cardinal Bernardin made Father Keating chairman of a committee to reorganize the archdiocesan structure, a multi-million dollar operation that involves some 60 offices and agencies.
In the existing operation, Cardinal Bernardin said, too many people had to report directly to him on a day-to-day basis, and not enough authority was delegated.
Father Keating's reorganization plan was completed in May 1983 and took effect in July. It placed all archdiocesan agencies under five umbrella departments set up according to services - pastoral, community, educational, personnel and executive - with five department directors reporting to Cardinal Bernardin through the curia moderator.
Bishop Keating instituted a similar structure in Arlington, with four departments - pastoral, financial, judicial and administrative. Each department head reports to the moderator of the curia, in this case Father Robert J. Rippy, diocesan chancellor.
Bishop Keating gained national notoriety in November 1994 when he became one of only two U.S. prelates to maintain the diocesan policy of allowing only male altar servers, except under extreme circumstances. Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz of Lincoln, Neb., was the other.
Despite the resultant controversy that this policy generated, Bishop Keating's most 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 have developed a vocations program that is unique among U.S. dioceses and has changed the face of Arlington clergy well into the next century.
Arlington's success gained local and national attention. A lengthy article appeared in Catholic World Report, a monthly Catholic magazine published by Ignatius Press. A recent local article appeared in The Washington Times.
Arlington's 1996 ordination class was tied with the Archdiocese of Los Angeles as the largest in the nation. Los Angeles is the largest archdiocese in the U.S. with more than 3 million Catholics.
The program that produced 35 priests in four years arose from a combination of prayer, strong Catholic education and family programs, plus the enthusiasm of Bishop Keating and other diocesan priests.
The 13 men ordained in May 1996 represented a 10 percent increase in the total number of diocesan priests. There are 130 active diocesan priests, including 10 outside the diocese.
Since his installation as the second bishop of Arlington in August 1983, Bishop Keating has ordained 84 men to the priesthood. That represents 62 percent of all active diocesan clergy.
The diocesan priesthood continues to get younger. Fifty-eight men have been ordained since 1990 (38 percent of all diocesan priests) and 26 in the past three years.
The abundance of young priests has permitted the diocese to share its vocational wealth in a variety of ways.
A mission outreach to the Dominican Republic which started in 1991 now has one priest serving near the Haitian border. Father Patrick Posey cares for more than 20,000 Catholics in Banica.
Two other diocesan priests - Fathers Eric Albertson and Michael Duesterhaus - serve as U.S. military chaplains. Diocesan priests serve as campus ministers at three area colleges and universities.
Father Lee Gross and Father Curtis Clark are full-time faculty members at Mount St. Mary's Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md., and St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Overbrook, Pa., respectively.
Father Daniel J. Maher is following in the footsteps of another diocesan priest, Father Paul deLadurantaye, by serving as assistant director of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington.
Father Donald Planty, Jr., began studies in Rome for the Vatican's Diplomatic Corps in the fall of 1996.
Another diocesan priest, Bishop Anton Justs, was ordained a bishop for the Diocese of Jelgava, Latvia, by Pope John Paul II in January 1996. He was installed in his new diocese on March 25.