Published July 3, 2019
ATLANTA—Father Edwin Leo Keel, SM, died Monday, July 1, at the PruittHealth-Brookhaven nursing and rehabilitation center in Atlanta. He had been struggling with advanced blood cancer for more than a month. Father Keel was 76 years old.
Father Keel was born in Jersey City, New Jersey on March 27, 1943 to Edwin and Anne (Guckenberger) Keel. He attended parochial schools in Jersey City and Maywood, New Jersey. He then attended Bergen Catholic High School in Oradell, New Jersey.
During his senior year, a Marist vocation recruiter spoke at Father Keel’s school, and he decided to pursue a priestly vocation in the Society of Mary at St. Mary’s Manor, the Marist minor seminary in Penndel, Pennsylvania. He entered in 1961 to begin college studies. After two years, Father Keel progressed to the novitiate in Rhinebeck, New York.
He was professed in the Society of Mary on Sept. 12, 1964. After studies at Gregorian University, Father Keel was ordained July 5, 1970 by Archbishop Héctor Cunial at Chiesa del Rosario in Rome, Italy.
His first assignment was as spiritual director and teacher at St. Mary’s Manor in Penndel followed by serving as superior/rector at the Marist seminaries in New Orleans, Atlanta and Washington, D.C. He was associate pastor at St. Pius X Catholic Church in Bedford, Ohio; St. Louis King of France Catholic Church in St. Paul, Minnesota and St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church in Wheeling, West Virginia. He also served in campus ministry and was chaplain and instructor at the Marist Brothers’ Second Novitiate program for three years in Switzerland (1982-85).
In 1985, Father Keel became the director of the Center for Marist Studies at the General House in Rome and served there for eight years. He was the promoter of Marist laity from 1978-1980 and 1999-2008. He remained active with members for many years.
Father Keel produced “A Book of Marist Texts,” an indispensable compilation of foundational documents and texts on the history and charism of the Society of Mary. The book was at the result of years of research.
Father Keel was noted for promoting and teaching Marist spirituality with a focus on joy, forgiveness and reconciliation. In 2015, he joined the Marists at Our Lady of the Assumption Church in Atlanta and assisted with pastoral needs. As a priest, he endeavored to fulfill in his ministry what the society’s founder Father Jean Claude Colin said Marists are to do—bring peace and joy to the hearts of others.
Father Edwin Keel was preceded in death by his father and mother. He is survived by a brother, Brian Keel; and sister, Barbara Duda; a niece and numerous cousins, as well as his Marist brothers in the Society of Mary.
A vigil service will be Sunday, July 7, at 7 p.m. at Our Lady of the Assumption Church, 1350 Hearst Drive, NE, Brookhaven. The Mass of Christian Burial for Father Keel will be celebrated at 10 a.m. on Monday, July 8, at Our Lady of the Assumption Church.
Donations in memory of Father Keel may be made to The Marist Society, Marist Center, 4408 8th St., NE, Washington, D.C. 20017-2298.