Remembering Fr. Bill
A few weeks ago, we sent out a post on instagram and facebook asking people to share their favorite memory or piece of advice from Fr. Bill. It’s hard to imagine there will eventually be a class of newmanites that will never have known the love and grace this wonderful servant of God had to offer.
However, we can find peace knowing that in his time at Newman, he acted fully as a vessel of the Spirit and left a legacy that has been nothing short of life changing for many alumni, and the people in their lives.
As we reflect on these personal and sometimes hilarious moments with Fr. Bill, let us all prayerfully consider how we can impact the spiritual journey of the new students joining our Newman family each year. You can commit to making Newman a place where Fr. Bill’s legacy can live on, and students can continue to encounter Christ in a real way through the ministry. Learn more about the Impossible Dream Society here.
Some of the highlights
For a few years during and after college, Fr. Bill had me cantor Easter Vigil Mass at his Memphis parish. The first one was the community’s first Mass back in the church after a fire had gutted the interior. Needless to say, the congregation was a bit apprehensive of fire so for the Easter fire he used a small hibachi grill with cotton balls soaked in rubbing alcohol. Quick burning and easily put out. After Mass we were in the rectory having a snack and the rectory phone started ringing off the hook. Apparently that same night a news story on the Quincy station was about another Parish that did something similar and the grill exploded somehow. Needless to say he had to assure every caller that the grill was outside and that there was nothing on fire while trying not to bust a gut.
Father Bill helped us organize the first “political” action I was ever part of. Our hourly prayer vigil outside the Newman Center in the run-up to the Iraq War in 2003. He was such an amazing person to meet at that time of my life. I have a lot of wonderful memories and important advice from Father Bill. But one funny memory I have from this action was being at a party at the ATO house, and at, like, 2:30 being like “I gotta go pray, guys!” And some people from the party came with me!
Father Bill’s words during the Busy Person’s retreat helped me though some of the toughest times in my life. When I was down, he mentioned God would send down his angels to minister to my health and needs. He believed in me when I couldn’t believe in myself.
He gave me permission to be broken and wandering. No topic untouchable whether it be surface level or deep heart level. I went to confession with him for the first time in a long time and it was the first time I truly felt forgiven. He was the perfect embodiment of Jesus in that Sacrament for me. Meeting him made me want to be holy, to strive for Jesus. My husband came with me to his funeral and though he never met him, felt his presence. My husband asked Fr. Bill to help us have a child (after two years of infertility). We found out we were pregnant a couple of weeks later.
Fr. Bill gave me tons of great spiritual advice, but my favorite memory of him is my favorite because of his laughter. He knew I loved babies and kids, and once he called me up to the altar before a Sunday evening Mass. He said, “Erin, those people have a baby. I am friends with them–go ahead and say hello!” So I sheepishly walked over to the couple, whose baby was under a blanket nursing. The mother graciously said, “Well you can see her when she’s done eating!” Mortified, I turned back to the altar to see Fr. Bill doubled over with laughter. He was really pleased with himself.
My favorite memory of him was driving with him – he never put on his seat belt and put up with the alarm noise because it “taught him patience” 🙂 the best advice he gave me was to “fall back in the loving arms of God.” He transformed my idea of what it means to have God as a trusted friend and confidant. I think because Fr Bill was free, he gave others the courage to be free as well. Such a blessing to have known this man! ❤️
I have so many great memories of Fr. Bill, but two of my favorites were our spiritual direction meetings at Pancake City and watching Man of La Mancha with he, Tara Donelson, Chris Koch, and Sue Koch at a movie night he put on. He sang along to all of the songs, but I remember one that really stood out to him was To Dream the Impossible Dream. Watching that movie now always brings a flood of wonderful memories.
Fr. Bill’s WISDOM that I live by and share with others: Even if the fault is only 2% mine, own it, apologize & learn from it. Often the “fault” is 90% mine, but in those hard moments when I really want the other person to pay the consequences, I hear his voice & there is a moment of metanoia. I pass this sentiment on to many I listen to as well. They often stop & simply “hear” the wisdom of that perspective… and when I tell them Fr. Bill taught me that, they trust even more. Love this opportunity to remember good & beautiful, holy & happy, crazy & true things when life can be a bit challenging in our culture currently.
He made me watch Don Quixote. It took me a long time to understand the lesson of Dulcinea. But I will never forget it. Those who love you will love as as you are.
I remember learning more from him at church than I learned the entire week at school. He taught me to be true to myself and to love myself. He was so amazing. I had never met a priest before that was so open and spiritual. Thank God for him!
As you can imagine, I have oodles of memories and I believe that he was the best homilist ever. The one homily that sticks out a lot is the one about turning the other cheek, which didn’t mean what everyone thought. I also appreciated his marvelous sense of humor. He cooked a Thanksgiving meal for the students and told them that it was peacock, and they believed him!
He was the best. Helped me through my dad’s death.
“God wants what you want. You just have to figure out what you really want.” And sitting in mass with a notebook waiting for the next gem to drop during a homily #frbillwisdom
Feeling moved by the memories?
If you have your own Fr. Bill memories to share, get in touch!