Lou Baldwin, Catholic journalist for 35 years, dies at 86
PHILADELPHIA (CNS) – Louis âLouâ Baldwin, Catholic journalist and man known to generations of Philadelphia Catholics for his signatures for 35 years, died on October 18 in Philadelphia. He was 86 years old.
Baldwin, a native of Philadelphia with an encyclopedic knowledge of the city, was a longtime writer for The Catholic Standard & Times, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. His funeral was to be celebrated on October 23 at St. Christopher’s Church in Philadelphia.
Born in West Philadelphia, he was orphaned during the Great Depression and was sent to the former St. Francis Vocational School in Eddington near Philadelphia in 1947 – which began a connection he would share with St. Katharine Drexel, heiress to the Fortune of the Drexel family who left a life of privilege to found the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament.
The saint’s family founded the orphanage and Baldwin formed a long-standing love for St. Katharine and her sisters. He is the author of two biographies of her that helped spread devotion to her before her canonization in 2000.
While living in the orphanage, Baldwin attended St. Bernard School and Northeast Catholic High School in Philadelphia. After graduating in 1952, he joined the United States Army and served as a cryptographer during the Korean War.
Upon his return home, Baldwin attended the University of Pennsylvania, where he met Rita Crawford. The two got married and raised nine children during their 61 years of marriage.
Baldwin worked as a stockbroker at the Philadelphia Stock Exchange and as an accountant and librarian. He also found part-time work at night selling household appliances at Sears.
He became known for a trait he has grown used to all his life – being a walker.
After an overnight shift in south Philadelphia or a meeting of his Knights of Columbus council there, Baldwin often had to walk the 11-mile journey back to his home in northeast Philadelphia.
When St. Francis had to close in 1984, Baldwin sent a reflection on the orphanage and the sisters who founded it to the Catholic Standard & Times.
The newspaper’s editor at the time, Michael Houldin, read the article and liked it and suggested to the editor that the newspaper publish it. âOf course, let’s launch it,â said Mgr. John P. Foley. “Pay him $ 25. “
This led Baldwin to securing a post as editor for the newspaper in 1986, where he wrote half a dozen stories a week, at least, until 2004 when he retired from his job at full-time.
In 1988 he wrote a biography of Mother Katharine as a diary supplement, which was later published as a book titled: “A Call to Sanctity: The Formation and Life of Mother Katharine Drexel.” He wrote a second biography, âSaint Katharine Drexel: Apostle of the Oppressedâ in 2000.
Elena Perri, editor of the Archdiocesan Journal of Philadelphia from 1997 to 2002 helped edit the second book.
âHe could certainly write a copy quickly and efficiently, and always on time (providing) whatever we needed each week,â she said. âHe liked someone who reviewed his writing. Getting it right was important to him.
She remembers well how, at an office Christmas party, Baldwin gave her advice on retirement planning on a cocktail napkin. âAnd I still have it,â she said.
During Baldwin’s many years at the Journal, its editor was Joseph Ryan, who found it interesting that the writer died on St. Luke’s Day because Baldwin had spent so many years “writing about the people of God and the life of the church. “
âI had the privilege of knowing him and working with him,â Ryan said. âHe was one of the most talented journalists in the national Catholic press. Always a staunch son of the church, Lou was a great writer who could cover with precision, insight and warmth the groundwork of a parish building, a march for the right to life or the speech of a cardinal in visit to the seminar.
âThe stories and books Lou wrote about St. Katharine Drexel in Philadelphia were a mark of Lou’s talent for research, his courteous writing style and endless energy,â he said.
Ryan added, âLou was a Catholic gentleman through and through. I will miss his wisdom, his mischievous humor and his friendship.
Christie Chicoine joined Baldwin as the newspaper’s editor in 1992, who remembers Baldwin as “a devout Catholic, a devoted Catholic journalist, and a cherished colleague and friend to the end.” Gentleman, he was bold and brilliant; many have described it as a walking encyclopedia.
âHe was humble, honest and hilarious – a smart prankster in the newsroom,â Chicoine said. âNow he has no more deadlines to meet and all his questions have an answer. “
Colleagues recall how Baldwin covered stories across the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, even though he never drove a car and walked or used public transportation.
His penchant for traveling on foot led him to meet the people he met along the way. He also spent a week on the streets of Philadelphia, reporting on the plight of these homeless people and the reach of ministries to them, in an extensive series for The Catholic Standard & Times in 1995.
In a reflection he wrote when he retired from full-time writing in 2004, Baldwin cited some of the countless people he had interviewed from Pennsylvania Governor Bob Casey to opera singer Luciano Pavarotti. and many cardinals, bishops, priests and lay Catholics in between.
He has written about pro-life issues, dealing with immigrants, Cambodian extermination fields, welfare reform, mushroom farm workers, and the Appalachian Trail, which he has already walked.
His reflection also mentioned the many biographies of Philadelphia bishops he wrote for the journal.
âIn writing,â he said, âI have always tried to portray them as ordinary, honest people, and not as distant dignitaries. I was inspired by the advice of Saint Catherine when she told her sisters to be kind to children: âIf they love you, they will listen when you tell them about Jesus. The bishop’s job is to teach; mine was to present them as people you would want to listen to.
In an interview last summer, Baldwin said, âI have worked with many bishops, but my favorite was Cardinal (John) Krol. He was brilliant and he knew it.
Retirement did not last long for Baldwin. In 2007, he returned to reporting for the newspaper as a freelance writer, producing the same volume of weekly stories until 2012.
That year, The Catholic Standard & Times ceased publishing, and Baldwin continued to write for the next nine years for the newspaper’s digital successor, CatholicPhilly.com.
His signature was printed again in February 2020 along with an eight-page biography of Archbishop of Philadelphia Nelson J. PÃ©rez, in a printed Catholic Philadelphia supplement.
Her last play for Catholic Philly, A Story About Saint Frances Cabrini, was published in January 2021.
Baldwin received the National Prize for Peace and Justice from the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament in 2013, numerous awards for his writing by the Catholic Press Association, now called the Catholic Media Association, and a nomination for the Saint-FranÃ§ois de Sales Prize – the association’s greatest honor – in 2017.
He is survived by his wife, Rita, and their nine children, 17 grandchildren and three great grandchildren, as well as his sister Kathleen Frank.
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Gambino is the director and general manager of CatholicPhilly.com, the news site for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.