Fr. Noel William, OFM, the senior member of St. John the Baptist Province, went home to the Lord on Saturday morning, March 23, 2013. He was 97 years old.
Noel was a gentleman and a gentle man who never let aging rob him of his charm, his wit or his dignity. In recent years he also became a symbol, a yardstick against which milestones are measured. He was a friar for 78 years, more than half the history of this province. In his prime Noel was a teacher, a chaplain, a retreat master, a pastor, a band director and a pioneering missionary in the Panhandle Missions of Oklahoma. He took to preaching so he could emulate Friar Daniel Linfert, whose fire-and-brimstone sermons inspired this youngster from Brookville, Ind., to become a friar. But wherever Noel was and whatever he did, his life revolved around people, even in his last nine years of retirement and wheelchair confinement at St. Paul’s Archbishop Leibold Home (Little
Sisters) in Cincinnati.
Stuck in his bed, “He would say again and again, ‘I want to be with the people,’” said Fr. Joe Rigali, OFM, Resident Chaplain at the home. And they wanted to be with him. “He attracted all ages,” said Mother Francis Gabriel King, lsp, Mother Superior at Little Sisters. “There was something in him that drew them,” from fellow residents Leland and Mary Ann Schneider, who doted upon Noel, to SJB Postulant Ramon Castellon, whose weekly ministry brought him to the nursing home. “He always had that bright smile,” said Ramon, describing their brief friendship as “very beautiful.”
He loved to laugh, “and I loved making him laugh,” said Br. David Crank, OFM, whose care for Noel was an important part of his ministry as Director of Senior Friars. “He was a happy friar.” In conversation, Noel would mention current events or things he was reading. He lived life to the fullest.
We miss you, Fr. Noel. May you rest in the hands of the Lord.
(Adapted from a story in SJB News Notes, the newsletter of St. John the Baptist Province.)