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
Diocesan Changes - Father O’Brien’s Transfer
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
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 people.
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 Andrews and Edinburgh was made on Monday 3rd June 1985.
He was 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 Cardinal Winning.
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 was the President of the Bishops’ Conference
of Scotland and fulfiled 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 had 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 had 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 visiting one of his priests in Guatemala.
As a Director of the Scottish Catholic International
Aid Fund (SCIAF), the Cardinal 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.
Cardinal O'Brien gave up the pastoral governance of the Archdiocese
of St Andrews and Edinburgh tendered his resignation which was
accepted nunc pro tunc by Pope Benedict XVI on 13th Novermber
2012 and which was definitively accepted on 25th February 2013.