By CLAUDIA McDONNELL
Archbishop Timothy Dolan knew from early childhood what he wanted to do with his life, and he didn't keep it a secret from his parents or his four younger brothers and sisters. Not that he, or they, were unusually pious.
"He was really a typical boy," his mother, Shirley Dolan, told CNY. "He played baseball and all, but he always wanted to be a priest from the time he was 3 years old. At Mass he would say, 'I want to sit up front so that I can watch Father.' "
As an altar boy he was "thrilled" to serve the 6 a.m. Mass at the family's parish church, Holy Infant in Ballwin, Mo. He even used to play Mass in the basement at home, with a card-table altar, bread and grape juice, and the family as his congregation. Mrs. Dolan laughed as she remembered her other children complaining about eating the dry bread that stood in for the sacrament.
"They might roll their eyes at me once in a while when they came upstairs, but they went along with him," she said.
Now his family is rejoicing at his appointment as Archbishop of New York.
"It couldn't happen to a better priest or a better man," said Bob Dolan, a brother of the archbishop, in an interview. "He's one of the happiest people I've ever met, priest or otherwise. He loves his vocation, he loves being a priest, he's so full of joy and hope."
Dolan said that when family members heard the news, their first reaction was, "Is this really happening to our brother?"
"We realize how big this is, the magnitude of this," he said. "We know the history of the New York archbishops, how good they've been and how powerful they are, and how people look up to them. You always look to the Archbishop of New York for guidance.
"Even though he deserves this, and he's the perfect man for the job, he's still our brother," Dolan said. "He's still the man we've known every day of our lives."
The archbishop's other siblings are Deborah Williams, Lisa Williams and Patrick Dolan. Their father, Robert, died at age 51 of a sudden heart attack, nine months after his son was ordained a priest. Mrs. Dolan said that her husband was "a great influence" on the future archbishop.
"He did his retreats, and he would say the Rosary on the way to work every morning," she recalled. And while Timothy Dolan was studying at the North American College in Rome, his father recorded messages at least three times a week to keep him up-to-date about family news and activities.
"He would be anyone's example of what to be as a husband, a man, a father," she said. "He was a special person." She added that he himself had wanted to become a priest, although she does not know why he changed his mind.
"I think that's why he and Tim were so close," she said. "They more or less understood one another from both having the same desire."
Mrs. Dolan said that she and her husband did not want to push priesthood on their son, and that they did nothing special to encourage his vocation beyond their everyday practice of the faith. But that was strong: The family attended Sunday Mass and prayed the Rosary together "about once a week," she recalled. "I'd do things