Reinstated Priest Back 'Home':
Keohan Takes Job with Salem's Immaculate Conception Church

By Tom Dalton
Salem News [Salem MA]
May 10, 2005

SALEM — Things may never be the same for the Rev. Edward Keohan, who spent 17 months in priestly limbo waiting for Archbishop Sean O'Malley to clear him of a sexual abuse allegation. But, slowly, the pieces are falling back together.

Keohan, 73, was exonerated and reinstated to active ministry last month. Two weeks ago, he accepted an assignment as senior priest in residence at Immaculate Conception Church.

It is a homecoming of sorts for Keohan (pronounced Cue-an). Even though his last assignment was at Our Lady of Lourdes in Revere, he spent more than 15 years (1987-2003) as administrator of the former St. Mary's Italian Church in Salem.

He also is good friends with the Rev. Timothy Murphy, pastor of Immaculate Conception. Murphy was with him that night in January 2003 — Keohan's 70th birthday — when news of the charge hit the media. Murphy has stood by his friend ever since.

By all accounts, Keohan has been warmly received at his new parish.

Murphy made the announcement at weekend Masses, noting that a longtime deacon, Chuck Collins, was leaving to be ordained a priest in Florida and that Keohan was joining the staff.

"The Lord taketh away, but the Lord also giveth," Murphy said, according to one parishioner.

"He got a nice round of applause," said Phil Moran, who attended Keohan's first Mass at Immaculate Conception. Moran, a parish member and lawyer, represented Keohan in the church case.

"I'm glad he's back," said parishioner Joe O'Keefe, the Ward 7 city councilor. "In my mind, he was always a good priest and still is."

Parishioner Mike Brennan said he takes seriously the sexual abuse allegations that have roiled the archdiocese but feels the church must have done a thorough investigation before clearing Keohan.

"With someone like Father, where there was one (accuser) with no backup ...that certainly shouldn't be enough to condemn a man that has given his life to God as long as Father Keohan has."

Brennan, a parish council member, said he is "thrilled" Keohan is at Immaculate Conception and hopes the parish is a welcoming place for him after such a long ordeal.

"Imagine the loneliness this man must have felt," he said. "I went up to him and wanted to hug him, but I don't know him that well. I just said, 'I'm glad you're with us.'"

For better or worse

Keohan said he gave a lot of thought about where to go and what to do after learning of his reinstatement. In some ways, he wanted to go back to Revere, but that parish closed soon after he left. He could have retired, but he likes the active life of a priest — even with all he has been through.

"After all, you're ordained a priest until you die," he said. "I always figured I took on the priesthood for good and bad. I've had (a lot of) good."

The idea of coming to Immaculate Conception came up when he sat next to Murphy at a Mass in Boston the day after his reinstatement. Other priests had not yet heard the news.

"I talked to Father Murphy and he said he would welcome me with open arms," Keohan said.

The veteran priest, a longtime chaplain at Salem Hospital, will help Murphy with the English-language Masses and with other duties. The Rev. Roberto Sabanda, who also lives in the rectory, says the Spanish Mass on Sundays.

On a lighter note, Keohan also is being reunited with Mimi, a 12-year-old Malti-poo (Maltese and poodle) he has walked for years. Even when he was living in Gloucester during his leave, Keohan would drive all the way to the home of Salem friends just to walk the dog.

The little white dog actually attended Mass when Keohan was at St. Mary's, often sitting in a front pew in a parishioner's lap.

"When I finished Mass, (the dog) would sit right up," Keohan said. "I would make my genuflection, walk to the back of the church and pick Mimi up as I went by."

The parishioner who held the dog is now at the John Bertram House, a nursing home on Salem Common. So Keohan went there last Thursday night to say a Mass. And he took along his little friend.