Cardinal Wuerl grew up in Mount Washington, a neighborhood in Pittsburgh, where there were more Catholic schools than public schools.
“I grew up in a family, it was just assumed you did all these things,” he said. “You were part of a parish life. It was a great community to grow up in. I just was impressed by our parish priests. After a while, I began to think maybe I could do that.”
After graduating from high school, he attended the college division of the Athenaeum of Ohio in Cincinnati. Two years later, he went to Catholic University of America.
“My few years here studying at Catholic University introduced me to this city,” he said. “I had more time then than I have now to do things like go to the galleries, go to the museums.”
The cardinal’s education led him to the Pontifical Gregorian University and the Pontifical North American College in Rome. He received a doctorate in theology from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome.
He was ordained a priest in St. Peter’s Basilica and ordained a bishop by John Paul.
Cardinal Wuerl served as auxiliary bishop in Seattle until 1987 and then as bishop of Pittsburgh for 18 years until he moved to the District in 2006.
Today, Cardinal Wuerl leads more than 620,000 Catholics in the archdiocese, including some 27,000 Catholic school students, and a charitable arm that last year helped 100,000 people in the archdiocese.
Part of the celebration of the church’s 75th anniversary July 22 will be a synod.
“We’ve invited some 200 people, leadership from around archdiocese, laywomen, laymen, deacons, priests, to begin to sort through [more than 15,0000] observations, recommendations, comments that we solicited from the entire archdiocese,” Cardinal Wuerl said. “That’ll give us guidance, I hope, for the next 75 years.”