Friday, July 25, 2008

Bill McManus

At the back of my husband's neck, there is a scar he got from being thrown off a wooden raft on the Tippecanoe River in Indiana as a young boy.

The culprit who had thrown the young boy from the wooden raft? A young seminarian named Bill McManus, who was visiting the Riordan cottage in Indiana with his close friend, my husband's older brother, Tom Riordan.

Some sixty years later, I was sitting in a crowded church in a northern suburb of Chicago as that young seminarian was being laid to rest. Over fifty U.S. Catholic bishops were in attendance, as was the mayor of the city of Chicago. As much as funerals can be, it was a glorious occasion, white flowers everywhere, celestial choirs, and I'm sure, the deceased himself very much present. As would be typical for the impish Bill McManus, but not for a priest's funeral, a collection was taken--to support his favorite personal cause, helping young single mothers. Bishops from Alaska to Florida were asked to empty their pockets, generously, at what was otherwise a solemn occasion.

I'll never forget the first time I met Bill McManus, at a hotel in La Crosse, Wisconsin, while attending a jubilee celebration for then La Crosse Bishop John J. Paul. After joining him and Bishop Timothy Lyne of Chicago for dinner and conversation, he paid me the highest compliment I've ever received as a married woman.

"Kathy," he said, "meeting you makes me wish the Pope would change his mind about retired Catholic bishops being able to be married."

It was high praise indeed from someone who had chosen to give his life in the service of God and his fellow man.

Bishop William E. McManus.

Bishop William E. McManus went on to graduate from seminary and was ordained a priest, later to become Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago and Bishop of South Bend, Indiana, a position he held from 1976 to 1985. A close friend of well known sociologist and author Father Andrew Greeley, together they authored a study on Catholic giving.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post. I thought of Bishop McManus for the first time in many many years and did a Google search to find your post. I grew up with Bishop while he was at St. Ferdinand in Chicago. I still have the cross he blessed for me in 1974. I'd bought it while traveling with my parents in Europe, and as a little kid, I wanted him to bless it. I remember struggling to pull it out of my purse, and Bishop just said to hold the bag open and extra blessings would spill over onto everything else in my purse. We all missed him so much when he left Chicago.

Anonymous said...

I too, while reminiscing about my childhood, came across thoughts of William McManus. Like the previous commenter, I met Bishop McManus at St. Ferdinand School in Chicago. I was in Mr. Zach's 5th grade class when the bishop was made pastor at St. Ferdinand. I received an assignment from Mr. Zach to interview the Bishop for the school newspaper. During the interview the Bishop was engaged and very kind. I remember feeling so good afterward because he treated me like an "adult." I still have that copy of the St. Ferdinand Observer. All pretty heady stuff for an 11 year-old. And, a wonderful memory.