Paul Bradley was born in McKeesport, Pennsylvania, to John and Cecilia (née Pater) Bradley. One of nine children, he has one brother and eight sisters; two sisters, Roberta (d. 2006) and Mariella, entered the religious life. He attended St. Meinrad Seminary in Indiana, and earned a Master's in Social Work from the University of Pittsburgh. He was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Vincent Leonard on May 1, 1971.
Bradley then served as a parochial vicar at St. Sebastian Church in North Hills, at St. Paul Church in Butler, and at St. Kieran Church in Lawrenceville. He also served as youth director for the Northwest Deanery (1973-1975) and family life director for the Butler Deanery (1977-1982). From 1983 to 1988, he was director of the Office for Family Life in the Diocese of Pittsburgh. He was diocesan Secretary for Human Services from 1988 to 1994, during which time he also served as co-pastor with Daniel DiNardo (later a cardinal) of Madonna del Castello Church in Swissvale.
In 1994, Bradley became pastor of St. Sebastian Church, which had been his first pastoral assignment. In addition to his role as pastor, he served as dean of the Northwest Deanery from 1998 to 2001. He was named rector of St. Paul Cathedral and pastor of the cathedral parish in January 2001. On November 7, 2003, he was made general secretary and vicar general of Pittsburgh diocese.
On December 16, 2004, Bradley was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Pittsburgh and Titular Bishop of Afufenia by Pope John Paul II. He received his episcopal consecration on February 2, 2005 from then-Bishop Donald Wuerl, with then-Bishop DiNardo and Bishop David Zubik serving as co-consecrators, at St. Paul Cathedral. His selected as his episcopal motto: "Waiting in Joyful Hope."
Following the promotion of then-Bishop Wuerl to Archbishop of Washington in June 2006, he was elected Apostolic Administrator of the diocese, serving until the installation of Wuerl’s successor, Bishop Zubik, in September 2007.
Bradley was later named the fourth Bishop of Kalamazoo, Michigan, on April 6, 2009. He succeeded the retiring James A. Murray, and was installed at St. Augustine Cathedral on June 5, 2009. As Bishop, he serves as the spiritual leader of over 107,000 Catholics in southwestern Michigan.
By heraldic tradition, the arms of the bishop of a diocese are joined to the arms of his jurisdiction, in this case the Diocese of Kalamazoo.
These arms are displayed on a red field to bespeak the Native Americans that inhabited and continue to live in the region that is now the Diocese of Kalamazoo. On this field is placed a silver (white) wavy bend (a bar that runs from upper left to lower right) that is the heraldic representation of water. This bend is strewn with a seme (a scattering of no specific number) of blue annulets to represent bubbles. This symbol represents the English equivalent of the Native American name Kalamazoo, which means “boiling pot,” and is used to describe the Kalamazoo River because of the bubbles in the water.
Below the wavy bend is a silver peace pipe, decorated with gold feathers, which was called a “calumet” by the French explorers that came to the region. This symbol of lasting and enduring peace is an object of profound veneration in the Native American culture because it is the supreme proof of hospitality, respecting the peace between parties that could not be broken without incurring the wrath of the gods. The totality of Peace, that is Christ, signified by this symbol, comes to those who believe in him as the Redeemer of the World.
Above the bend is an open book (silver, edged in gold) that displays in red the words Tolle Lege. This charge honors St. Augustine of Hippo, titular of the Cathedral Church in Kalamazoo. The story is related that, as a repentant, St. Augustine meditating on the Sacred Scriptures under a tree heard a little child say “Take and Read” (Tolle Lege). Then opening the text to St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, Augustine read “let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” (Rom. 13:13). Considering that he had heard the Voice of God, Augustine took up the religious profession, to the great joy of his mother, St. Monica, eventually becoming the Bishop of Hippo in northern Africa.
For his personal arms Bishop Bradley has three bands on the shield. The top third contains the blue letter M with a crown inside a gold heart. The crowned M inside the heart represents the Blessed Virgin Mary, to whom Bishop Bradley has a strong devotion. Positioned inside the gold heart, which represents love, the third of the great theological virtues, the crowned M is also mindful of the powerful loving influences on Bishop Bradley’s life, including his dear deceased parents, John and Cecilia Bradley, his spiritual home of St. Cecilia Parish in Glassport, and St. Meinrad Seminary, where Bishop Bradley received his education and priestly formation for 12 years.
The middle third shows a silver band with three wavy blue lines behind a gold anchor. These wavy lines represent the waters of Baptism, as well as the three rivers of Pittsburgh, while the gold anchor represents the second of the great theological virtues, hope, which flows from our new life of Baptism into Christ. The anchor is also reminiscent of the “hope” referred to in Bishop Bradley’s episcopal motto.
The bottom third shows two clasped hands, which represent all people of faith—the “pilgrim people” walking together on our journey toward the fulfillment of our hope, our eternal life in Heaven. Behind the clasped hands, the ancient Christian symbol of the Chi Rho reminds us that this journey is always undertaken in the presence of Christ.
The shield is supported on a sword with a cross as its hilt. The cross represents faith, the first of the three theological virtues. This style of cross (as well as the silver band in the middle third) was traditionally on the Bradley family arms in England. The sword also represents Saint Paul, the patron of the Diocese of Pittsburgh and the patron saint of Bishop Bradley.
Finally, the green throughout the shield and on the scroll below is the color of “hope,” echoed in Bishop Bradley’s Episcopal motto, “Waiting in Joyful Hope.” This phrase, rooted in St. Paul’s Letter to Titus 2:13, is drawn from the prayer following the Lord’s Prayer in the Communion Rite of the Mass: “Deliver us Lord, from every evil and grant us peace in our day. In your mercy keep us free from sin and protect us from all anxiety as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.”
Bishop Bradley’s Coat of Arms was designed by William W. Hill, Department for Communications of the Diocese of Pittsburgh.