Father Bill Smith
It was his total commitment to Glenmary's mission—establishing Catholic presence in counties where none existed—and to the people he served in his over 60 years of home mission priesthood that made Father Smith so successful in his mission assignments. Father Smith, 85, died April 25, 2007, in Cincinnati.
A native of Chicago and a graduate of Quigley Preparatory Seminary and St. Mary of the Lake Seminary, Father Smith was first introduced to Glenmary through Father William Howard Bishop, Glenmary's founder. He was ordained by Chicago's Archbishop William O'Brien in 1947 and made his First Oath to Glenmary in 1948, becoming the 19th priest to join the society of priests and brothers established in 1939.
His missions assignments included pastoring missions in Ohio, Georgia, Pennsylvania and Oklahoma. Of those, he founded two: West Union, Ohio, and McRae, Ga. The first nine years of his home mission ministry were spent in Adams County, Ohio, where he founded the mission of Holy Trinity in West Union as well as sub-missions in Peebles, Manchester and Blue Creek. Father Smith was met with some resistance and prejudice from the local community in those early years in Ohio. But, in what would become the hallmark of his ministry, he worked to build up solid relationships with other Christians and, through his gentle personality, won over many people in the community.
During his four years (1967-71) in McRae and Hazlehurst, Ga., he called together Catholic communities that grew and prospered. After spending the summer as pastor in New Bloomfield, Penn., in 1971, he moved west to Coalgate, Okla., where he served as pastor until 1976. He returned again to South Georgia in 1976 to serve as pastor of the Claxton, Glennville and Pembroke missions, where he remained until 1986.
After a year of renewal, he moved back to McRae in 1988 to serve as a missionary evangelist to the black community, work that he was very committed to and which he thoroughly enjoyed. In preparation for the ministry, he created a comprehensive, multi-page, single-spaced "Plan for Black Evangelization in the Rural South," giving the premise on which the plan was based, the schedule of implementation and the actual plan. The plan was revised, based on his experiences, three times between 1988 and 1990.
In 1993, he retired from active ministry and moved to Seminole, Fla. In 2002 he moved back to South Georgia, where he lived until moving to Cincinnati several weeks ago due to failing health.
Throughout his 60 years of home mission ministry, he also served in several administrative roles within Glenmary—including serving on Executive Council, directing the brothers' formation program and serving as chaplain/teacher for the Glenmary Sisters in Cincinnati.
"Father Smith's gentle manner touched the lives of thousands in his many years as a missioner," said Father Bob Poandl, first vice president of Glenmary. "There are people throughout the missions who are mourning him like they would their own father."