William Wakefield Baum

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William Wakefield Baum : biography

November 21, 1926 –

William Wakefield Baum (born November 21, 1926) is an American cardinal of the Catholic Church. He served as Bishop of Springfield-Cape Girardeau (1970–73) and Archbishop of Washington (1973–80) before serving in the Roman Curia as Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education (1980–90) and Major Penitentiary (1990–2001). He was elevated to the College of Cardinals in 1976, and is currently the longest-serving American cardinal in history.

Episcopal succession

Category:American cardinals Category:Archbishops of Washington Category:American Roman Catholic archbishops Category:American Roman Catholics Category:People from Dallas, Texas Category:1926 births Category:Living people Category:Members of the Congregation for Catholic Education Category:Major Penitentiaries of the Apostolic Penitentiary Category:Cardinals created by Pope Paul VI

Early life and education

William Wakefield White was born in Dallas, Texas, to Harold E. and Mary Leona (née Hayes) White. His father, Presbyterian, died when William was a young child, and he and his mother subsequently moved to Kansas City, Missouri. His mother married Jerome Charles Baum, a Jewish businessman, who adopted William and gave him his last name.

He received his early education at the parochial school of , and began to serve as an altar boy at age 10. He entered St. John’s Minor Seminary in 1940, and then studied philosophy at Glennon College in St. Louis. In 1947, he entered Kenrick Seminary, also in St. Louis, for his theological studies.


Baum was ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Edwin V. O’Hara on May 12, 1951. His first assignment was as assistant pastor of in Kansas City. He taught theology and Church history at St. Theresa College from 1954 to 1956, as well as at St. Aloysius Academy and Glennon High School. He then furthered his studies at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, Angelicum in Rome, where he earned a Doctorate of Sacred Theology degree in 1958. His thesis was entitled: "The Teaching of Cardinal Cajetan on the Sacrifice of the Mass".

Returning to Kansas City, Baum resumed his teaching duties at St. Theresa College (1958–63) and served as secretary of the Diocesan Tribunal. He also did pastoral work at and St. Peter’s Church, both in Kansas City. In 1960, he became pastor of in Sugar Creek. He published "Considerations Toward the Theology of the Presbyterate" in 1961. He was named a papal chamberlain by Pope John XXIII in April 1961, and vice-chancellor of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph in 1962.

From 1962 to 1965, Baum served as a peritus, or theological expert, to Bishop Charles Helmsing at the Second Vatican Council. In that capacity, he worked with the Secretariat for Christian Unity and helped draft Unitatis Redintegratio, the Council’s decree on ecumenism. In 1964, he was named the first executive director of the Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs for the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, a post which he held for five years. He also served as a member of the Joint Working Group of representatives of the Catholic Church and World Council of Churches (1965–69) and of the Mixed Committee of representatives of the Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation (1965–66).

In 1967, Baum returned to Kansas City, where he served as chancellor of the diocese and pastor of . He was named a domestic prelate in 1968.

Episcopal ministry

Bishop of Springfield-Cape Girardeau

On February 18, 1970, Baum was appointed the third Bishop of Springfield-Cape Girardeau by Pope Paul VI. He received his episcopal consecration on the following April 6 from Cardinal John Carberry, with Bishops Charles Helmsing and Joseph Sullivan serving as co-consecrators. He selected as his episcopal motto: "Ministry of Reconciliation" ().

He served as an American delegate to the World Synod of Bishops at the Vatican in 1971, and was chairman of the Bishops’ Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs (1972–75).