The Rev. Paul Gabriel Holthaus, a Roman Catholic priest who administrated a historic religious shrine in downtown Baltimore, died Jan. 26 of multiple organ failure at Stella Maris Hospice in Timonium. The former South Baltimore resident was 76.
Born in Baltimore and raised on Warren Avenue in Federal Hill, he was the son of Emmett Robert Holthaus, a member of the Baltimore City Fire Department, and his wife, Mary B. Ryan, a homemaker. The family later lived in Riviera Beach.
He attended St. Mary Star of the Sea School and entered a minor seminary, St. Charles College in Catonsville, later studying at the old St. Mary’s Seminary on Paca Street.
A biography supplied by the Baltimore Archdiocese says that Father Holthaus graduated from Mount St. Mary’s Seminary with a degree in philosophy. He served as a deacon at the old St. Peter the Apostle Church.
Cardinal Lawrence Shehan ordained him to the priesthood May 16, 1970, at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen.
“Paul was serious, but those of us who knew him knew he had a funny side,” said his sister, Mary Alice Byrnes of Pasadena. “He went into the seminary. He was just out of the eighth grade.”
He was named an associate pastor at St. John’s Church in Westminster. He also served at St. Margaret Parish in Bel Air, Our Lady of Hope in Dundalk and Our Lady Queen of Peace in eastern Baltimore County.
“Over time, it became clear to Father Holthaus that he could do more good as a simple priest rather than a pastor of a parish,” said his biography from the archdiocese.
In 1990, he was named associate pastor of St. Ignatius Church in Hickory.
In 1991 he relocated to downtown Baltimore’s St. Alphonsus Parish and was soon named its temporary administrator. After a brief tenure as administrator to St. Cecilia Church in Walbrook, he returned to St. Alphonsus.
A 1995 Sun article described his role in a 150th parish anniversary.
“For older Roman Catholics in the happy crowd at St. Alphonsus Church ... the bells, incense, Gregorian chant and banks of flickering candles were reminders of what their worship was like before the reforms of the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s," wrote Sun reporter Frank Somerville.
Father Holthaus officiated at a Mass with Cardinal William Keeler at the church at Saratoga Street and Park Avenue, which Cardinal Keeler named the National Shrine of St. Alphonsus Liguori.
“With its rose windows of brilliant blue, lingering fragrance of burning beeswax, polychrome Gothic arches and row upon row of saints reaching to the heavens, the structure is a throwback to another era of Catholicism," said the 1995 article.
His sister said that his assignment at St. Alphonsus pleased him. “He especially liked all the novenas at the church."
His niece, Mary Elizabeth Harkins, a Bel Air resident, said Father Holthaus “loved that church."
Father Holthaus later served at Parkville’s St. Ursula’s Church before he retired in 2009. He then lived at Mercy Ridge in Timonium.
Father Holthaus was a classic film buff and was well versed on casts and film directors. Family members said his favorite film was “The Day the Earth Stood Still.” He had been a tap dancer as a child and enjoyed a wide appreciation of music.
“He also loved the musical shows at the old Mechanic Theatre,” said his sister.
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