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The Rev. Gerald V. Lardner, Sulpician priest

He taught at Notre Dame University and became a missionary in Africa

By Jacques Kelly, The Baltimore Sun

5:12 PM EDT, June 21, 2012

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The Rev. Gerald "Gerry" Vincent Lardner, a Sulpician priest who taught preaching and later served as a missionary in Africa, died of cancer June 18 at Mercy Medical Center. He was 70 and lived in North Baltimore.

Born in Baltimore and raised on Malbrook Road in the Westown section of Catonsville, he attended St. Agnes School. He followed an uncle, the leader of the Sulpician Fathers, in pursuing a religious life. He entered the old St. Charles Seminary in Catonsville as a 13-year-old high school student.

He earned a bachelor of arts in philosophy at St. Mary's Seminary and University in Roland Park, where he also received a degree in theology. He was ordained a priest in 1967 and joined the Sulpician Order, a community of priests who train other priests, three years later.

He then earned a master's degree in liturgy at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., and a doctorate in communication from Temple University in Philadelphia.

He taught at St. Joseph's High School and at St. Patrick's College, a seminary, both in Mountain View, Calif., and then joined the faculty of St. Mary's Seminary and University, where he was dean of students.

"He had a forceful, strong personality," said the Rev. Thomas R. Ulshafer, the Sulpician provincial, who lives in Baltimore. "As dean of students, he could be a stern disciplinarian if he had to be."

In 1979, he began doing parish work at the church of St. John Vianney in Seattle. In 1982, after study there, he joined the faculty of the University of Notre Dame, where he taught and was the rector of Grace Hall, a large dormitory. He was also a fan of Notre Dame sports teams.

"He was Irish to the core," said a cousin, Nancy Kircher Marsiglia of Towson. "He had dual Irish-American citizenship and had two grandfathers born in Ireland. He found that his ancestors, the Cyran family, still had a farm outside Galway. He visited Ireland once a year."

About 20 years ago, he left South Bend and moved to London. There he taught public speaking and theology at Notre Dame University's international school. He also ran its housing program.

"He was a wonderful educator and was demanding," said his brother, Michael Lardner of Lancaster, Pa. "He forced you to think. He would prompt you with questions. He read very widely. His apartment was a snowstorm of books and magazines. He kept several libraries, in art, theology, Irish studies, Africa, as well as the best-sellers."

In 1995, he asked his religious superiors if he could return to the teaching of priests and volunteered to do missionary work. He joined the faculty of the Emmaus Spirituality Centre in Zambia in central Africa and remained there until 2002.

He joined an Irish expatriates group, the Wild Geese, and brought a troupe of river dancers to Lusaka, Zambia, for St. Patrick's Day.

Family members said while there he developed friendships with personnel in the State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the Marine Corps.

"He loved the Africans and learned a tribal language," his brother said.

In 2002, he retired to St. Charles Villa in Baltimore and later moved to a North Baltimore apartment, where he lived until his death.

"He was a raconteur and an internationalist," his brother said. "Former students would fly him to Chicago for a dinner and a chance to socialize. They did it as a symbol of their gratitude. He was a fun person to have around."

He also assisted at Baltimore parishes.

"If he had the 11 a.m. Mass, he would arrive at 10:59 and 30 seconds but he would never start late," said the Rev. Brian M. Rafferty, pastor of Our Lady of the Chesapeake in Pasadena. "As a speaker, he had you in his fist in two sentences. He never wasted words and had absorbing messages. People loved to hear him."

He officiated at numerous weddings and performed baptisms for the many members of his family who live in Baltimore.

In retirement, he tutored University of Maryland graduate students in English. He also enrolled in courses at the Maryland Institute College of Art.

A Mass of Resurrection will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at Our Lady of the Angels Chapel, Charlestown Retirement Community, 715 Maiden Choice Lane in Catonsville.

In addition to his brother, survivors include nieces and nephews.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

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