The 1961 date began a sacred journey that led Cardinal Rigali from his native Los Angeles to the dicasteries of the Vatican and a cardinal’s-eye view of Church history.
Along the way he has witnessed Vatican II and Church figures like St. John XXIII, St. Paul VI, Venerable John Paul I, and St. John Paul II who ushered in that historic reform and other remarkable events.
Cardinal Rigali will discuss his storied priesthood and his front seat to Church history in the May issue of The East Tennessee Catholic Magazine.
His calling took him from associate pastor at Los Angeles parishes to become a prince of the Church, as cardinals are commonly referred.
He was born on April 19, 1935, one of seven children, and was baptized in Holy Cross Parish in Los Angeles before attending Holy Cross and Transfiguration grammar schools.
The cardinal, who is 85, went on to study in Archdiocese of Los Angeles seminaries Our Lady Queen of Angels Seminary and St. John’s Seminary, in which he attended with future princes of the Church Cardinals William Levada and Roger Mahony.
Following seminary, Cardinal Rigali was assigned as an associate pastor at parishes in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles before beginning graduate studies in canon law at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, the beginning of a special tenure with the Vatican.
As he studied in Rome, the young priest was named one of the priest assistants during the first two sessions of the Second Vatican Council in St. Peter’s Basilica.
Thus began a storied priesthood in which Cardinal Rigali’s early ministry placed him in service to Popes Paul VI and St. John Paul II, who elevated him to the College of Cardinals in 2003.
He began his Vatican service in the English section of the Secretariat of State in 1964, and from 1966-70 he served as secretary of the Apostolic Nunciature to Madagascar.
Cardinal Rigali also served as archbishop of St. Louis from 1994-2003 and then archbishop of Philadelphia from 2003-2011.
In addition, he has served at the Vatican as secretary of the College of Cardinals (1990-94), secretary of the Congregation for Bishops (1990-94), and president of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy (1985-90).