July 02, 2015
As many of you may know, at the age of 84, Father Bill has announced his retirement from Caron to enter the next stage of his life. For over three decades, he has dedicated his time, service, and love to Caron, profoundly changing and positively impacting thousands of lives. Father Bill’s spiritual energy has left lasting impressions on all those who have had the privilege to meet him and we will always remember him for his compassion for others, incredible sense of humor, and remarkable ability to reignite the internal flame that so many individuals lose to addiction. His departure marks the end of an era here at Caron, but his legacy will live on.
Despite Saturday’s inclement weather, hundreds made the trip to our Caron Pennsylvania campus for our annual Alumni Family and Friends Reunion, where we celebrated Father Bill’s retirement and birthday. We concluded the reunion with a wonderful speech by Father Bill himself that left the entire audience standing and cheering. Although we are sad to see him go, we give him our deepest gratitude and wish him all the best as he enters his retirement.
For the past several weeks, we’ve asked you to leave messages for Father Bill and share how he’s impacted your lives. More than a hundred people have responded with positive, heartfelt messages – a collective testament to how much he truly means to all of us. Here are some of the messages we’ve received:
- Dear Father Bill: I will never forget the incredible, honest commitment in your job/service that I was blessed to experience. Thank you for your genuine warmth, love, tolerance, and eyes full of hope and youth!!! I keep calling you (as I did in the Chapel, 2013): the male version of Mother Teresa at Caron. Wishing you many blessings and million little serene, joyous, miraculous moments, every single DAY. With you in my thoughts and prayers. Love, gratitude, and hope.
- I went to Caron in September of 2012. Father Bill always made me feel welcomed and comfortable. He went out of his way and took time out of his busy schedule to talk to me and relate to me. He made spirituality appealing and played a huge role in helping me to find my spiritual self. I will have 3 years sober in September and I owe a huge part of that to him. Thank you Father Bill for everything you have done, you are truly an amazing individual.
- His kindness brought me to my knees in gratitude during my son’s stay at Caron. I felt the same excitement one feels in the presence of a celebrity. Father Bill is one in a million and an unforgettable person. Forever thankful.
- I was broken when I arrived at Caron. The first time I met Fr. Bill was transforming. After his inspiring chapel service–the best I’ve ever attended in any church–I timidly approached him to ask if he’d hear my confession. Raised in the punitive Catholicism 60s and 70s, my religion had left scars of shame. Fr. Bill right then and there gave me absolution and told me I was forgiven. I wept in joy. I will never forget his kindness and compassion in the weeks I spent at Caron. I am forever grateful for his gifts and devotion to helping all of us at Caron. With love and admiration.
- Best sense of humor of any clergyman I ever met or listened to. I loved to listen to his sermons in such a loving non judgmental setting. I have not been able to find a better messenger of love in 19 years.
- I met Fr Bill in 1989 at Chit Chat West. I was suffering from alcoholism and drug addiction and lost my faith in God and humanity. Fr Bill, the counselors, and my support group helped me realize my value and gave me a willingness to survive without substances. He helped restore my faith in God and to realize God is not a punishing God, but a loving, fun, and understanding Higher power, who restored me to sanity…thank you for all you’ve done for me Father Bill and to countless others you’ve helped.
- Sitting at chapel on Sundays while my nephew was a patient gave my family the opportunity to allow Father Bill to bring us closer to each other and allowed us to support him through prayer, songs, and stories. I carry those memories in my heart. Father Bill is definitely a rare and special gift to Caron.
- Thanks to Father Bill’s generosity, I received a partial scholarship that allowed me to attend Breakthrough at Caron. The tremendous impact that week has had on my life, freeing me from some of the shame, trauma, and wounds I’ve carried since childhood, is nearly impossible to put into words. I have heard many people share about their experience with Father Bill, his kind spirit, his accepting and open minded nature, and his compassion and understanding for all. He is truly a legend in his own right!
- In July 2004, my family and I sat in Chapel for the first time, mesmerized by Father Bill and his ability to truly connect with the young people seated in the front, among them our son who had just entered Caron, deeply addicted to opiates after his first year of college. Today, we have much to be grateful for, especially the life work of Father Bill. Thank you, sir, for being a critical part of the team that helped our son find his way to sobriety and a wonderful life that was waiting for him. Today, a decade later, he has been sober longer than he used and is our loving son, a fantastic big brother, a devoted husband, and the father of a beautiful baby boy. NONE of these feats would be possible without you and your amazing team. Father Bill, you are leaving enormous shoes to fill. I wish you many happy years ahead in which to enjoy your retirement!!!!
- Father Bill is a shining light in the dark world of addiction. He told me that I was not bad…just sick and that I could be loved back to health. I am eternally grateful for all of his support to the gay community. Love has no boundaries. I will miss him at Chapel. I wish him well in all his future plans!! Thank you!!!
- Father Bill leaves an indelible impression on everyone he encounters. Until I was fortunate enough to have met him, I had never heard anyone referred to as a “bad ass priest,” but it’s certainly accurate. Thank you for fostering the vision of a clean and sober future for those touched by this illness and for truly believing that every successive generation has an even better chance of succeeding. What you’ve done with your “dash” is beyond measure, Father Bill, and for that I am grateful.
- Positively influenced my daughter during her stay at Caron. Loved Sunday services with Father Bill. Most enjoyable sermons and church experience I have ever had.
- Congratulations, Father Bill! I will be so eternally grateful for all that you are and all that you gave so many of us. Thank you for helping to save my life. May you enjoy the years to come, forever in my heart!
- Thank you Father Bill for all the lives you have touched with your generosity of spirit, your kindness, insight, love, and support. I passed thru two times for week programs and each time the experience and your words saved my life at very tough times when I felt I lost my faith. Thank you and may the next phase of your life fill your soul.
- The first time I met Father Bill was when I was trying to eat breakfast having just arrived at Caron in 1996! I was very hung over and nauseous, really not hungry at all. A tall, thin man wearing a flannel shirt walked up, pointed to my food and said, “Good shit huh?”
I nearly fell off my chair when someone told me he was a priest! lol
I’ll also never forget his greeting when he approached a group of adults, “Hey you kids!”
I was there three times in five years and he always treated me like a first time patient!
He is truly one of the most unforgettable people I have ever met in my life!
- He is the heart and soul of Caron.
All the messages we receive will be compiled and featured in a special tribute to Father Bill in Huyett Hall at Caron Pennsylvania.