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A First for the Catholic Church. A First for America?

Cardinal Timothy Dolan
New York Archdiocese

Pope Benedict made a surprise announcement on February 11th, 2013; he would be the first Pope in modern history to step down from the position.  As a matter of fact, he will be the first Pontiff in nearly 600 years to step down and the only the fourth to voluntarily step down in the 2000 year history of the church.  And now the process must begin to pick the man who will lead one of the biggest religous groups on the planet.  And when that decision is made, a man from St. Louis could be at the helm of the Catholic Church.

The process for picking the next Pontiff will begin once Pope Benedict leaves office on February 28.  And this will not be an easy task with Cardinals from across the globe being considered for the job.  Europe is still the dominant force for the Catholic Church right now and much of the growth of Catholocism is taking place in countries NOT named the United States of Amerca.  So Vatican experts say it’s unlikely for the conclave to pick a Western Cardinal.   As a matter of fact, there has never been a Pontiff from the U.S. and that is not likely to change anytime son. But, if there was a Pope to be picked from the Americas, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of the New York Archdiocese would be a front runner.  John Moody, the former Time Magazine Vatican Bureau Chief, told Fox News that Dolan has to be at least considered for this influential position.  “Cardinal Dolan has to be in any serious consideration,” Moody says. “[But] being an American is not an immediate advantage when you’re in the conclave to be pope.”

Dolan has had an eventful past few years, to say the least.  He has been one of the most outspoken and entertaining Archbishops in recent memory, making him a newsroom favorite in the media-capital of the world.  He holds nothing back, stands strong on his Catholic beliefs, and certainly isn’t afraid to tackle hot button topics.  Little do many people know that the highest profile Catholic in the United States comes from St. Louis, Missouri.

Timothy Dolan was raised in the city of Ballwin in West St. Louis County in what his family says was a typical suburban family.  He attended a small Catholic School called Holy Infant Roman Catholic Church.  I had the opportunity to meet some of his former teachers and classmates when he took the helm of the New York Archdiocese.  They say that Dolan always knew he wanted to be a Priest and there was never any doubt in their minds that he would succeed in whatever career path he choose.  Two nuns I spoke with at the school say they remembered him in class, but there was nothing extraordinary about him that led them to believe he would one day be on the cusp of leading their denomination.

It wasn’t until high school that his family says he began to prove himself as a scholar.  He attended high school at the St. Louis Preparatory Seminary in the nearby suburb of Shrewsbury , Missouri.  His college studies were only a few miles away at the Cardinal Glennon College, where he earned a degree in Philosophy.

He spent the next few decades working for the church in various capacities, eventually leading him to the posts of Auxililiary Bishop of St. Louis, Archbishop of Milwaukee, and finally the Archbishop of New York in 2009.  His election to the US Conference on Catholic Bishops and his elevation to Cardinal made world leaders take notice of the Missourians.  And now, with the world watching, Cardinal Timothy Dolan could be on the verge of doing something no American has ever done, lead the 1-billion Catholics around the world.