When New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan got word he was becoming a cardinal in the Roman Catholic Church, he knew just who to call: Mom.
"It's about time," was her response, according to Dolan.
Dolan, 61, is one of 22 prelates who will be elevated to cardinal in a ceremony at the Vatican Feb. 18. Pope Benedict XVI made the announcement in Rome on Friday, following an Epiphany Mass that ended the Vatican's main Christmas celebrations.
The list includes one other American, Edwin O'Brien, Grand Master of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem and the former archbishop of Baltimore.
Dolan said Friday that the Vatican's choice is an honor not just for him, but for all New York, as if the pope were putting "the red hat of the cardinal" on top of the Empire State Building or other city landmarks.
"I am honored, humbled and grateful," Dolan said after celebrating Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral. "But let's be frank; this is not about Timothy Dolan, this is an honor from the Holy Father to the Archdiocese of New York, and to all our cherished friends and neighbors who call this great community home."
Cardinals are the pope's key advisers and are members of the group that will eventually elect Benedict's successor.
Dolan was installed as archbishop of New York in 2009 after serving as archbishop of Milwaukee. He succeeded Cardinal Edward Egan, who reached the mandatory retirement age of 75 in 2007.
Although he is retired, Egan remains a cardinal and would be eligible to elect a pope until he turns 80 in April. Dolan's promotion was expected, in light of Egan's approaching milestone.
Dolan's outgoing, voluble presence contrasts with Egan's more scholarly demeanor.
At a news conference in front of nativity scene inside St. Patrick's, he joked that his new title means "I've got to get a new outfit and, I guess, new stationery."
He said he had recently read a biography of President John F. Kennedy and recalled Kennedy's reply to someone who congratulated him on the honor of the presidency.
"`Thank you,' John Kennedy replied, `but I don't look at it so much as an honor as a call to higher service.' My sentiments exactly," Dolan said. "This is not about privilege, change of colors, hats, new clothes, places of honor or a different title. Jesus warned us against all of that stuff."
Tourist Barbara Daly, of Buffalo, visiting St. Patrick's, said Dolan's elevation to cardinal is great.
"Everyone admires him," Daly said. "You can't say anything bad about him. He's personable and he's current."
Dolan will continue to lead the New York Archdiocese but said he will have more duties to the "church universal."
Dolan was ordained a priest in 1976 and earned a doctorate in American Church History at the Catholic University of America.
In 1987, he was appointed to a five-year term as secretary to the Apostolic Nunciature in Washington, D.C. In 1994, he was appointed rector of the Pontifical North American College in Rome where he served until June 2001.
In 2001, Dolan was named the Auxiliary Bishop of St. Louis by Pope John Paul II. In November, he was elected president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.