Monsignor A. Thomas Baumgartner, the retired pastor of Pen Lucy, Rodgers Forge and Parkville parishes, died of congestive heart failure March 4 at Stella Maris Hospice. The Timonium resident was 88.
Born in Saint Louis, Mo., he was the son of Corinne Corcoran and Arthur Henry Baumgartner, an official of American Credit Indemnity. The family moved to Howard Park when he was 10 years old. He attended the All Saints School and was a 1948 graduate of Mount Saint Joseph’s High School, where he played football and lacrosse. After learning to ice skate on a lake at Woodlawn Cemetery, he was a member of the St. Joseph’s ice hockey team as well.
He earned a degree in business administration from what is now Loyola University Maryland and then decided to enter the priesthood. He took Greek and Latin studies at Boston College while living at the St. Philip Neri School. He then entered the old St. Mary’s College on Paca Street and later studied theology at St. Mary’s Seminary in Roland Park. Archbishop Francis P. Keough ordained him a priest in 1958 at the Basilica of the Assumption.
“My brother was anticipating the changes coming to the church and its liturgy at summer courses he took at Notre Dame University,” said his sister, Margaret “Peggy” Baumgartner, a Towson resident. “He loved music and liturgy and became a priest just before the arrival of John XXIII as pope. He later embraced the teachings of the Second Vatican Council and sought greater participation in the Mass.”
She also said that despite his training in Latin, when he celebrated his first Mass, he slipped into English. A fellow priest mentor immediately corrected him.
He became a curate at St. Bernard’s Parish on Gorsuch Avenue and was later named the Waverly church’s temporary administrator. He was then assigned to a neighboring parish, Blessed Sacrament, on Old York Road in Pen Lucy. While he was pastor, his parish school was forced to close because of costs connected to a lack of teaching nuns.
In a 1966 Sun article, “Folk Masses Find Favor,” Monsignor Baumgartner defended the new liturgical practices coming into use. “The [folk] Mass has received an indifferent response from older people and its introduction at the parish level has been correspondingly slow,” The Sun article said, and quoted Monsignor Baumgartner as saying, “’They react violently against it, not because they have seen it performed but because of what they’ve heard about it.”
He became involved in the civil rights movement and marched at the August 1963 demonstration at which Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech. That summer he also joined other clergy at demonstrations at Baltimore’s Gwynn Oak Park. In the 1960s he was associated with the Newman Club at Morgan State University.
In 1975, he was made pastor of St. Pius X Church on York Road in Rodgers Forge. He held the post until being made pastor of St. Ursula on Harford Road in Parkville. In 1990 he was named a monsignor, and he retired in 2006.
“”He was self-effacing and humble and interested in people and causes. He was a good conversationalist — he loved parties,” said the Rev. Keith Boisvert, pastor St. Katharine Drexel in Frederick. “Words like ‘trustworthy,’ ‘honest’ and ‘faithful’ applied to him.”
Father Boisvert recalled his colleague as an inquisitive man who read widely and enjoyed daily newspapers.
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Among his other duties, he was the 1965 director of the Cana Conferences and was an assistant to the archdiocese’s Urban Commission’s northeast area. He was a past chair of the Baltimore Clergy Brotherhood. He also served as chair of the Priest Personnel Committee on Alcoholism. He was elected vice chair of the Priest Personnel Board in 1971.
Monsignor Baumgartner sailed to Europe on a freighter with other priests and made visits to Ireland and Germany to learn about his family’s heritage.
“He enjoyed his trips to the sacred shrines and seeing the cathedrals of Europe,” said a friend, Monsignor William Burke, pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Church in Mayfield.
Family members said he was proud of his Irish and German heritage. He was the chaplain of the Emerald Isle Club and liked to attend Oktoberfests. He also kept up his ice skating and played tennis with fellow priests in a group they informally called the Padres.
After his retirement, he lived at St. Stephen’s Green in Timonium and assisted at St. Joseph’s in Fullerton and at St. Dominick in Hamilton.
In addition to his sister, survivors include another sibling, Sister Suzanne Baumgartner, a member of the Daughters of Charity, who lives in Washington, D.C.
A funeral Mass was offered March 9 at St. Ursula Church.