He entered St. Andrew’s College, Drygrange to study for
the priesthood and was ordained on 3rd April 1965 in St Mary’s
Cathedral, Edinburgh by the then Archbishop Gordon Joseph Gray.
Cardinal O’Brien has held appointments as a priest at
Holy Cross Edinburgh, Our Lady’s and St Bride’s
Cowdenbeath before coming here to St Patrick's Kilsyth.
Upon the retireal of Canon
Thomas McGarvey, Fr
Denis O'Connell was appointed as Parish Priest of St Patrick's
Kilsyth and started on the same day, Wednesday 9th February
1971(see Kilsyth Chronicle article below), as his new
assistant Priest, Fr Keith Patrick O'Brien.
Fr. O'Brien quickly set to work in this large
and busy Parish most notably being involved in the establishment
of a new Convent in Kilsyth for the Franciscan
Sisters of the Immaculate Conception in May 1972. Througout
his tenure in Kilsyth Fr O'Brien was involved not only in his
pastoral work as a Parish Priest but also in his associations
with the many clubs and associations which used St Patrick's
Halls which helped him to become known in the wider community
of Kisyth. At this time in St Patrick's pastoral life was noted
for the upsurge in House Masses where virtually every Catholic
family in the town had Mass said in their own home. At the same
time there was great devotion to the 'Living Rosary' and also
support for the cause for the Beatification of at that time
the Blessed (now Venerable)
St Patrick’s Newsletter 20th Oct 1974
Diocesan Changes - Father O’Brien’s Transfer
Fr O’Connell writes: “It is with sadness and a deep
sense of personal loss, which I know will be shared by all our
people, that I have to announce this morning the transfer of
Fr O’Brien to Bathgate and to an assignment in St Mary’s
Bathgate, one of the largest Secondary Schools in the Diocese
– an assignment for which of course, Fr Keith is singularly
suited with his teaching qualifications and with his considerable
experience as a full time School Chaplin in Fife.
Need I say that he leaves with the prayerful good wishes of
countless friends in Kilsyth as well as our most grateful appreciation
of his outstanding priestly work in our Parish over the past
As some degree of compensation and indeed a measure of Fr Keith’s
worth, he is being replaced at St Patrick’s by two priests,
now that the staffing situation has been eased slightly after
the recent ordinations. We welcome Fr Robert McGarrigle from
St Kentigern’s Edinburgh and Fr Brian Byrne from St Margaret’s
St Patrick’s Newsletter 20th Oct 1974
Fr O’Brien Writes
Dear Fr Denis,
As I try to gather my thoughts before leaving Kilsyth, my mind
flashes back over the many projects in which we were involved.
I think over the years we were together we did try to cater
for all our people and try to bring them closer to God.
Would you please pass on my thanks to all the Parishioners of
Kilsyth for all their many kindnesses to me. From the first
moment of my arrival to the day of my departure, I have felt
that I was a member of a very happy family and I have been very
grateful for the way in which I have been welcomed by all the
I take this opportunity of thanking all those who have given
me gifts before leaving and I know that you will also give me
the greatest gift – that of remembrance in your prayers
and in your Masses and Holy Communion.
Fr. O'Brien left St Patrick's Kilsyth on 25th October 1974
to take up a posting at St Mary’s Bathgate and as a teacher
and chaplin at the local high school.
In 1977 he was appointed Spiritual Director to
the students at St. Andrew’s College Drygrange and in
1980 was appointed Rector to St Mary’s College, Blairs,
The announcement of his appointment to the See of St Andrew’s
and Edinburgh was made on Monday 3rd June 1985. He is the 7th
Archbishop of this ancient See since the ‘Restoration
of the Hierarchy’ in 1878.
His Episcopal Ordination as Archbishop took place at St Mary’s
Cathedral Edinburgh on 5th August 1985 where the principal Consecrator
was his immediate predecessor His Eminence Gordon Joseph Cardinal
Gray with co-consecrators of His Excellency Archbishop Bruno
Heim Apostolic Pro Nuncio to Great Britain and Ireland and the
then Most Reverend Archbishop Thomas J Winning of Glasgow later
Pope John Paul II created Keith Patrick Archbishop cardinal
priest, with the titles of Ss Joachim and Anne ad Tusculanum
in Rome at St Peter’s Bascillica on 21 October 2003.
The Cardinal was made Bailiff Grand Cross of Honour and Devotion
of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta in 2005; and appointed
Grand Prior of the Scottish Lieutenancy of the Equestrian Order
of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem in 2001; and appointed Knight
Grand Cross in 2003.
The Cardinal was awarded the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws
from St Francis Xavier University, Antigonish, Nova Scotia,
Canada in 2004; and awarded the Honorary Degree of Doctor of
Divinity from the University of St Andrews in 2004; and the
Honorary Degree of Doctor of Divinity from the University of
Edinburgh also in 2004.
He was Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Argyll and
the Isles from 1996 until 1999.
After his creation as Cardinal, Cardinal O’Brien was
appointed a member of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications
and also a member of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral
Care of Migrants and Itinerant People.
He is at present the President of the Bishops’ Conference
of Scotland and fulfils various engagements outwith his own
Archdiocese at the request of other members of the Bishops’
As well as ministering in his own Archdiocese and elsewhere
in Scotland, the Cardinal has always shown an intense interest
in the missions, having visited initially the territory previously
adopted by his own Archdiocese – Bauchi in Northern Nigeria
on two occasions. He has also been with his priests on loan
in Central America, having visited El Salvador on three occasions
and Chiapas in Mexico on two occasions, as well as recently
visiting one of his priests in Guatemala.
As a Director of the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund
(SCIAF), the Cardinal has visited projects funded from Scotland
in successive years – visiting Rwanda and the Democratic
Republic of the Congo in 2004, Ethiopia in 2005, and Darfur
in the Sudan in 2006. He has also visited India early in 2007
and China in the latter part of 2007. In 2006 he visited various
projects supported by Holy Rood High School and St John’s
Parish, Portobello in the Diocese of Moshi in Tanzania.