When the Rev. George Clements, a Catholic priest, became a father this week by adopting a 13-year-old boy who had been abandoned as an infant, it was perhaps the most dramatic act in a career that never has lacked for drama.

Clements, who adopted the boy named Joey in part to make sense "in the little corner of the ghetto" and in part to focus attention of the plight of the estimated 100,000 black orphans nationwide, long has been a civil rights activist with a style that has been a source of attention and contention.

He irked some parishioners at his Holy Angels Church on Chicago's South Side, one of the nation's largest black Roman Catholic parishes, when he bestowed his church's "Black Man of the Month" award on George O'Hare, a white Irish Catholic who now is his assistant.

And he annoyed Cardinal John Cody when he jokingly dyed a South Side lagoon black -- a response to the city's Irish tradition of staining the Chicago River green on St. Patrick's Day.

He marched with Martin Luther King, Jr. in Selma and Montgomery, Ala., and Washington.

The priest is not about to change his style. Clements, 49, said his friends and family "know now at this stage I'm not about to cool it; I'll cool it in my grave."

Monday, when the adoption became official, Clements, the only Catholic priest in the United States to adopt a child, said, "On May 3, 1957, I was ordained into the priesthood. That was the happiest day of my life. Today ranks with that day. I'm proud to have Joey as my son."

Their hands clasped together, Joey responded: "You are a very nice father. I'm proud to have you as my dad." Then, in an aside, he chuckled, "But if I do something wrong, the kids say . . . oh-h-h, and you're a priest's son?"

Joey, who spent the last two years in an orphanage, said the biggest adjustment he has had to make is having "a very popular father."