With the death of Paul Taggart, the
Catholic Diocese of Wilmington -- and, indeed, the secular
community -- lost a veritable giant who stood astride two
cultures separated by a generation warp. Taggart belonged in
He was an
accomplished preacher who got his start as a radio announcer, a
persuasive advocate who was once an insurance salesman, a
sociologist who was sympathetic to those who struggled in
cultures here and abroad which
Courtesy of the Diocese of Wilmington
looked upon them as an
underclass, and a politician who mastered the art of the
possible and who, had he chosen a different vocation, might well
have served as mayor, governor, senator or in a combination of
As it was,
he elected after a wartime tour aboard a battleship, during
which he experienced combat, and several years in the business
world to become a priest. He rose to be a pastor, monsignor and
vicar general, the second-ranking official in a diocese, chosen
as such by three bishops of strikingly different personalities
Many have wondered why Taggart
was never elevated to wear the episcopal purple himself. It is
the practice for the Vatican to select bishops from
recommended candidates submitted periodically. It is impossible
believe that Taggart's name could have been left off any such
lists that went forth from Wilmington. One has only to conclude
that it wasn't there because he didn't want it to be.
indicated that by explaining that it would be difficult for a
man in a diocese as small as Wilmington to effectively govern
confreres, all of whom he knew personally -- on a first-name
basis, so to speak. Therefore, his becoming a bishop would
almost certainly mean assignment to a different place and
Taggart so knew and loved the city where he was born and reared
that he could not abide that. A manager who declined a corporate
promotion because it involved transfer would understand.
Nevertheless, he went well beyond the customary promise of
obedience to their bishop that priests take by enthusiastically
supporting the five bishops under whom he served. When James
Mulvee was appointed bishop of Wilmington, Taggart immediately
flew to Manchester, N.H., to extend in person a welcome on
behalf of the diocese. At the time he was diocesan administrator
for the second time.
native of predominantly Irish-American St. Ann Parish, where he
later served as pastor, was ordained in 1951. That meant he came
of age in his profession in the '60s, the decade of upheaval. As
it so often seems to happen, he proved to be the right man in
the right place at the right time.
was shaken to its roots with the massive change emanating from
the Second Vatican Council. Having grown up in the precouncil
church, he was steeped by education and the atmosphere of a
largely insular community in the rigors of its dogma and
seemingly immutable traditions. Many priests of his age and
background resisted what their Pope had proclaimed as reform
and, at best, eventually went along with scarcely-concealed
reluctance. Quite a few simply walked away.
on the other hand, embraced change. He was at the right hand of
the then bishop, Michael Hyle, as that bishop sought to
implement such things as English liturgy, responsibility for
freely choosing what formerly had been imposed by command and
entering into rather than avoiding the modern world.
Transformation was more than theoretical as real controversies
threatened to divide the Catholic community into several
same time, the civil rights movement demanded that principles
subverted for a century be put into actual practice. Taggart was
recognized as being in the forefront of that effort -- literally
in the front in the case of Martin Luther King's march in Selma,
Ala. Years before, Taggart was instrumental in founding the
local chapter of the National Conference of Christians & Jews
and the Catholic Interracial Council.
broke out in Wilmington in the wake of King's assassination,
Taggart, then pastor of St. Paul parish, spent a harrowing night
with parishioners living in the city's near west side, site of
the worst unrest. He was point man for the diocese's involvement
with disaffected youth and was prominent in the chorus
protesting the months of repressive deployment of the National Guard and advocating enactment of open accommodations
less inclined to publicly oppose the Vietnam War although
sympathetic with the young people and others who demonstrated
against it. In part that reflected his being a Navy veteran from
the 'greatest generation', but more so his friendship with James
Walsh, a Maryknoll bishop who spent 12 years in prison for his
opposition to communism in China and unwillingness to
acknowledge the legitimacy of an independent Chinese Catholic
capacity as a diocesan administrator, Taggart was director of
the local effort to support foreign missions -- his late sister,
Barbara, was a medical missionary in Asia -- a member of the
building commission which oversaw the construction of St. Mark's
High School and development of All Saints Cemetery -- where
Taggart will be buried. He was a funds raiser par excellance
-- with the ability to make front-page news of communion
breakfasts by bringing to town the likes of Teresa of Calcutta, Fulton Sheen,
Maria von Trapp, Frank Sheed and Mazie Ward.
years ago, columnist Bill Frank wrote of Taggart, "I am sure
that historians will give this true blue Wilmingtonian a special
niche in diocesan annals."
response to his passing, the present bishop, Michael Saltarelli,
issued a statement which said, in part: "We have lost a most
respected priest. His ministry and service in this diocese is
legend. He is one of the giants on whose shoulders many of us
retiring from his final post as rector of the Cathedral of St.
Peter in 1994 and during a long and painful illness, Taggart
awaited patiently the eternal reward promised to every 'good and
faithful servant'. When the role of the clergy who made the
diocese the vibrant institution that is is called, Paul Taggart
will answer in the company of Edmond FitzMaurice, Francis
Tucker, John Lynch, Thomas Reese, Thomas Lawless, James Enright,
Justin Dinny and James Grant, other giants who have been
patiently waiting for him to join them.
Requiescat in pace.
Council's personnel committee violated the state Freedom of Information Act
when it discussed matters beyond those that the law shields
In keeping with Veterans Day, the daughter of a World War II
sailor learned that friends last a lifetime, but shipmates are
to read the Allentown, Pa.,
Morning Call article.
When Michael Sessions ran for vice
president of the Hillsdale, Mich., High School student council
last year and lost, he swore he'd make a political comeback. The
Los Angeles Times reports that the 18-year-old senior did so in
a startling way: He was elected mayor.
to read the article.