Boyhood friends of Cardinal-designate Daniel N. DiNardo recall a smart youngster who even at the tender age of 12 was preparing for an ecclesiastical life.
"We would play priest together. In fact, my mother made vestments for him to play in," the Rev. Donald M. Fest of Washington, D.C., said yesterday, reminiscing about his grade school days at St. Anne School in Castle Shannon.
"It was dreaming. It was acting on a call that we really didn't understand, but we had it in our heart that this is something we wanted to be and do."
The dream became a reality, as "Danny" DiNardo, who was born in Steubenville, Ohio, but moved Castle Shannon when he was just a boy, was ordained the Rev. DiNardo in Pittsburgh in 1977 and named archbishop of the Galveston-Houston diocese in Texas last year.
Yesterday, the reality became somewhat dream-like, as Pope Benedict XVI elevated him to an exalted status in the Roman Catholic Church, naming him a cardinal along with 22 others.
The pope made the announcement in Rome shortly before noon -- around 6 a.m. in Pittsburgh. The only other American to be named was Archbishop John Foley, a native Philadelphian who has worked for many years in the Vatican.
"I am deeply grateful to the Holy Father for his kindness in appointing me and for his trust in allowing me to be placed in the College of Cardinals," Cardinal-designate DiNardo said yesterday in Texas. "May I immediately add that it is also very humbling and surprising."
Many people had expected another Pittsburgh native and longtime prelate here, Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., to be named.
Archbishop Wuerl had, however, been actively discouraging speculation on the matter. The reason is believed to be that his predecessor in Washington, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, is still very active and is eligible to vote for a new pope until he turns 80 in July 2010. It is virtually unheard of to have two voting cardinals in the same archdiocese.
Galveston-Houston never has had a cardinal before, and was only made an archdiocese in 2004. Cardinal-designate DiNardo will be the first cardinal in the American South. His selection underscores the flourishing of the Catholic population in that part of the country and the increase in the number of Hispanic Catholics.
The pope is "recognizing the great growth of the Catholic population in this archdiocese, in the state of Texas and generally in the southern part of the United States," the cardinal-designate said.
Archbishop DiNardo, 58, has a long history in Pittsburgh. He graduated in 1967 from the former Bishop's Latin School here, worked his first assignment as a parochial vicar at St. Pius X Parish in Brookline and was founding pastor of Ss. John and Paul Church in Marshall.
He worked in the schools office of the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh. Then he was dispatched to Rome, where he staffed the English-language desk of the Congregation for Bishops, translating documents pertaining to possible bishop appointees in the United States, Canada and Australia. In the 1990s, he returned to Pittsburgh at his own request.
Upon his return, he served as co-pastor of Madonna del Castello in Swissvale, along with future Pittsburgh Auxiliary Bishop Paul Bradley.
Pittsburgh Bishop David A. Zubik, who entered St. Paul Seminary with the cardinal designate in 1967, invoked city pride in the pope's selection and praised his spirituality.
"You can take the priest out of Pittsburgh, but not Pittsburgh out of the priest, and Cardinal-designate DiNardo has been home many times in the last 10 years," Bishop Zubik said. "I pray that he will be able to continue to come to see us in the years ahead, and we can assure him of a warm Pittsburgh welcome."
In fact, the cardinal-designate visited Pittsburgh to celebrate Bishop Zubik's installation last month. He also returned to lead a weeklong retreat for priests a year ago.
At least one person spoke against the selection.
David Clohessy of St. Louis, national director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, said Cardinal-designate DiNardo had an "abysmal" record for dealing with clergy sex-abuse issues while serving as bishop of the Sioux City, Iowa, diocese from 1997 until 2004. He said he was "disappointed" by the selection.
Mr. Clohessy objected to the cardinal-designate's handling of abuse allegations leveled against a priest, which dated to the 1960s, in Sioux City.
Cardinal is theoretically an honorary title, but those who carry it serve in important advisory roles to the pope and the Vatican bureaucracy. Their most important duty is to elect a new pope, which they are eligible to do until they turn 80.
The pope named 18 "cardinal electors" younger than 80, and therefore eligible to vote for a new pope. He also named five men who have passed their 80th birthdays, which is a way of honoring priests and bishops for a history of extraordinary service to the church. All will be elevated formally to the rank of cardinal Nov. 24 at a ceremony in Rome.
Ann Rodgers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1416. Cindi Lash can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-1973. Jonathan D. Silver can be reached a firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1962.