Biography - REV. THOMAS S. KEATING
Father Keating, pastor of the St. Columba's Catholic church, is one of the most popular and prominent figures in Ottawa. Much of his life has been spent in our midst, and his interest in the welfare of our city, together with his grand, lofty character and the excellent judgment displayed in connection with the noble institutions over which he has almost complete jurisdiction, has won for him the commendation and admiration of all classes, irrespective of their religious views. He was born December 21, 1846, and attended the public schools of Morris, Grundy county, Illinois, until ten years of age. The following three years were spent as a student in the Columbus school of this city, after which he entered St. Mary's College, in Perry county, Missouri, from which he graduated four years later. Having fully decided upon consecrating his life to the service of the church, he entered the University of St. Mary's of the Lake, at Chicago, where he graduated in 1865. From Rev. Dr. McMullen's Clerical Seminary, which he attended for two years, he entered Mount St. Mary's College, at Emmettsburg, Maryland, the oldest seminary in the United States. Three years later he graduated from this institution and went to Chicago. It was in compliance with a wish of Dean Terry, a near relative, that he was ordained a priest in the old St. Columba church, at Ottawa, on August 19, 1870, by Rt. Rev. Dr. Foley, bishop of Chicago. Since then his life has been crowded with deeds of love and usefulness, and many amongst whom he has labored bear loving testimony to the good accomplished by him in rescuing them from human weakness. He was first assigned as assistant to the bishop at Chicago, where he remained until after the great fire, when he was permitted to be of invaluable aid to many of the unfortunate sufferers of the scourged district. Then he assisted Dean Terry in his work here until August. 1873, when he w-as given charge of St. Rosa's church, at Wilmington, Illinois, and during his one year at this point organized a branch church at Braidwood, which had previously been without church or pastor. St. Mary's church, at El Paso, Woodford county, was his next charge, and there he remained six years, establishing mission schools in different towns in his parish, paying off the church debt and erecting a fine building for a parochial school. During the following eight years he was pastor of Champaign and Rantoul mission, building a large nunnery for the Sisters of Notre Dame, of Milwaukee, erecting a church edifice at Penfield, and collecting twelve thousand dollars for the erection of another church, the contract for which was let in February, 1888, a few months before he left the parish. In April of that year he took charge of the parish here, and the results achieved by him seem almost incredible.
St. Columba's, of which Dean Keating is pastor, is one of the finest church edifices in Ottawa, and was erected at a cost of fifty-two thousand dollars. A fine, mellow-toned pipe organ was built for this church and is pronounced by the best musicians to be an instrument wonderful in its depth of volume and perfection of tone. Father Keating has endeared himself to the people of the parish, and gained the esteem of the entire community by his wisdom and by the noble qualities which are his characteristics. In 1888 he was appointed dean of the diocese of Peoria, Illinois, and the work accomplished by him since then is a record in which he may feel a pardonable pride: The greater part of the church debt has been lifted; St. Xavier's Academy, costing some twenty-two thousand dollars, completed; the boys' school established and new building erected; the new deanery completed, at a cost of fourteen thousand dollars; and the cemetery enlarged and improved. These are some of the visible results of his work, but of the good accomplished by him as the wise adviser and spiritual director of his people who shall speak? His influence has been far-reaching and lasting, causing him to be regarded with affectionate reverence. On August 19, 1895, Dean Keating celebrated his silver jubilee of twenty-five years in the service of the church. He is now an irremovable pastor and one of the best known and respected citizens of LaSalle county.
Extracted by Norma Hass from Biographical and Genealogical Record of LaSalle County, Illinois published in 1900, volume 1, pages 114-115.