A chair in homiletics and social communication has been established at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood in honor of alumnus and former faculty member Cardinal John Foley.

An honorary chair is a faculty position for a particular purpose funded by the interest from an endowment restricted to that purpose, explained seminary rector Father Shaun Mahoney.

Father Mahoney said the term “homiletics” comes from the same root as the homily preached at Mass but more broadly includes communicating and elaborating on the Gospel message. “Social communications” is a term that has been used by the Church to include all the media of mass communication, so the subject includes knowledge of the technologies of communication as well as the content communicated. Father Mahoney said the seminary sees a need “of strengthening the capabilities” of the men studying for the priesthood in preaching the Gospel message.


Cardinal (then Archbishop) Foley served from 1984 to 2007 as president of the Pontifical Council (formerly Commission) on Social Communications, and in that position was involved with Catholics in communication industries throughout the world. He had previously been editor of The Catholic Standard & Times. In 2007 he was named a cardinal and appointed Pro-Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, a position he held until his resignation earlier this year because of ill health.

Reached last week at his residence at Villa St. Joseph in Darby, Cardinal Foley said he was honored by the announcement of the chair named for him. “It was quite a surprise” when Father Mahoney visited to tell him about it, he said.

His association with the seminary has been lifelong: Cardinal Foley said he entered the seminary in 1957 and was ordained a priest in 1962, and he taught philosophy there while editor of the Standard & Times ‑ metaphysics and ethics for 17 years and logic as well for the first three of those years. He said that he also maintained a residence at the seminary during his long tenure in Rome.

Cardinal Foley was born in 1935 at Fitzgerald Mercy Hospital in Darby; his family lived in Sharon Hill. He attended St. Joseph’s Prep and St. Joseph’s University before entering the seminary, and served as a parish priest before being sent to Rome where he earned a doctorate at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome. He later earned a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University in New York City, where he was elected president of the student body of the College of Journalism and served on the university council during the turbulent late 1960s.

In recent decades Americans have perhaps most easily recognized him because of his work as translator and English-language commentator for televised papal Christmas Masses and similar papal events. He has received numerous honorary degrees and other awards, including the St. Francis de Sales Award, highest honor of the Catholic Press Association of the United States and Canada, the analogous Gabriel Award given by the association of Catholics involved in broadcast media, and the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia recently named him as their Person of the Year.

Father Mahoney said that Cardinal Foley generously made the first gift to the endowment for the chair in his honor but additional funds still need to be raised for the endowment.