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Deacon Rooney was dedicated to hospital patients, the elderly

Deacon Paul Rooney, who was dedicated to visiting hospital patients and the elderly while serving with three Omaha parishes, died Aug. 24. He was 86.

A funeral Mass was held Aug. 28 at Mary Our Queen Parish, with entombment in Calvary Cemetery, both in Omaha.

A native of Cedar Bluffs, Nebraska, Deacon Rooney served in the U.S. Navy, and built a successful career as a bank examiner, then regional director with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

Having once considered becoming a Trappist monk, his call to serve the Church eventually led him to become a deacon. He was ordained in San Francisco in 1979.

Upon moving to Omaha with his wife, Patricia, and their family, he began serving at St. Leo Parish in Omaha and was incardinated into the Archdiocese of Omaha in 1980.

Continuing his spiritual journey, Deacon Rooney earned a master’s degree in theology from Creighton University and retired from his professional career in 1989 to devote more time to his diaconal ministry.

At St. Leo, Deacon Rooney helped start and lead the parish’s hospital visitation ministry in 1981. “When one member of the body suffers, all suffer,” he told the Catholic Voice in 1982. “And we share in that suffering by extending our love and support to that member.”

He described a program that required ongoing training for volunteers, a team approach to ministry and an emphasis on spiritual growth while respecting patients’ privacy and wishes.

In 1990, Deacon Rooney began serving at St. Frances Cabrini Parish. Father Carl Salanitro, who was pastor at the time, described him as a kind and humble man and a man of great faith.

“He was very energetic and full of life,” said Father Salanitro, now pastor at Holy Cross Parish in Omaha. Serving at the altar, “his homilies were always very uplifting,” he said.

In 1994, Deacon Rooney began serving at Mary Our Queen, where he coordinated lectors, extraordinary ministers of holy Communion and the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) program. He also led Bible studies, taught baptism classes, took Communion to home-bound people, helped found the parish’s Knights of Columbus council and co-led a 10-day scriptural tour of Greece.

Deacon Rooney retired from active ministry in 2009, but continued serving whenever he could.