By Peter Becker
HAWLEY - The passing of Father William Healey on Feb. 23, 2013 sparked the memories and feelings of many, who he served while pastor at Queen of Peace Parish for 33 years, and in other capacities. Just a few comments are collected here as a tribute to his long ministry.
Editor's Note: Further tribute comments may be made through letters to the editor, or as comments posted with this story online.
Rev. William Bernard Healey served at Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of Peace Parish in Hawley from 1972 to his retirement in 2005. Born on Jan. 25, 1930 in Wilkes-Barre, he was ordained to the priesthood non Nov. 1, 1955 in Harrisburg. He was resident of Villa Saint Joseph, Dunmore, when he died.
There is no one word in the English dictionary that adequately defines Father Healey. He certainly took the designation "Father" to heart as he cared for all he came in contact with and served them all with kindness. He came into contact with his own parishioners as well as the entire Hawley community.
For 33 years he visited the local hospital and the three Scranton hospitals just about every weekday possible. He always inquired about the Hawley area patients- never mentioning one religion. He also visited nursing homes, and private homes that he thought might need him even before they knew they needed him.
All ages had a rapport with father because he was totally nonjudgmental in his dealings with everyone. All he wanted to do was help. So many stories were told at his wake that many never knew about because he was also so humble. People mentioned how he had arranged for them to start certain self-help programs,and others told how he had visited over and over again in the hospital. Many mentioned he had come into their homes when he knew they had suffered a tragedy, and there were other people whom he had worked with to see their own self-worth.
He supported the youth of the area by attending their sporting events and their theatrical productions. Soon many of them felt comfortable with him and would come for advice and be more active in their church. Even after retiring he continued on his visits to the Scranton hospitals and nursing homes.
There is only one fault this wonderful man had and that is that he didn’t want to bother anyone with his needs. He thought he should always be caring for others. Many years ago- before cell phones- he drove himself to the hospital for emergency gall bladder surgery at 2 a.m. because he didn’t want to bother anyone including the volunteer ambulance corps... This is just one tiny example.
As a friend of Fr. Bill’s I can’t imagine not being able to call him, talk to him, go out to eat with him or celebrate with him. My faith assures me he is still with me and that and the fact that he is out of pain and suffering is the only consolation. He will be sorely missed by so many.
Page 2 of 3 - Ellen and Bob Keefer:
It's hard to think of Fr. Healey without smiling. He was a kind and humble man. He had a quick smile and warm handshake that always put you at ease. He was there for his parish family in good times and bad.
You always knew that you could talk to him about anything and he would be understanding and not judgmental. Our son, Brian, was lucky enough to have been one of his altar boys and later on an organist during mass. He loved talking to Fr. Healey about basketball and golf. He was a wonderful example of what a priest should be. He was real. When he asked you how you were doing or what was happening, he really was interested. He knew his parish family as individuals. I used to make him an Easter basket every year when he was here. He was like a big kid bringing his basket out to be blessed with those of the children.
He was a very human and wonderful man. He will long be remembered and loved.
As a parishioner of BVM Queen of Peace for 23 years I had so many beautiful experience with Father Healey... his angelic smile and generosity to all was his trademark. Though he might very quiet to look at when you start talking to him he will always have all the time you can have for him to listen to your concerns.
As a catechist for two years when I asked my students to describe Father Healey, unanimously the word is generous. I do not know if it is both monetary and time but I think it is more to his
generosity for love and care to the people of his parish.
But foremost , what will stay in our hearts and lives as a Leblanc family, is when our son Justin had the head injury in 2004. Not only did Father Healey offered prayers for Justin in the prayer of the faithful every time he said the Mass, but he always made sure he was at Justin's bedside everyday despite his busy schedule and despite the fact that it is 30 minutes to an hour away from Hawley as Justin was at CMC in Scranton. He was even there at CMC even when Justin was at rehab as I forgot to tell him that we were discharged to rehab. We were very grateful of all the things he had done to us during those sorrowful days of ours.
Thank you very much Father Healey for what you had given to our parish community but much more to how much love you had shared when you were here with us. We love you very much and may you rest in peace seated next to the Father in Heaven.
Page 3 of 3 - More thoughts:
• Liz Rotar serves as a lector and eucharistic minister at Queen of Peace. "He was a man in God's army leading his faithful in God's journey through life," she reflected. Fr. Healey had a good sense of humor and good common sense. His homilies, she said, were expressed with "love and understanding." She remembered seeing him play golf at Woodloch Springs from the windows of her house.
• James Conrad, who started attending Queen of Peace about a year after Fr. Healey retired, recalled him as an avid golfer. "He was gentle and nice, and a good priest," Conrad said. "I never heard anything bad about him."
• Doreen Tascone, who started as administrator at Queen of Peace since Fr. Healey left, said he was known as the "gentle giant," being over six feet tall. "He was a wonderful, spiritual man," she said. Fr. Healey was soft spoken, and cared. He would ask Mrs. Tascone about her grown twins by name when he saw her.
Fr. Richard Beck:
Father Healey retired the day that Father Richard Beck started his pastorate at Queen of Peace, on Fr. beck's birthday, June 29, 2005.
Fr. Beck said that both Masses and the wake for the late priest were very well attended.
He said that he knew Fr. Healey very well, even before being ordained and serving as an administrator in Scranton Diocese schools. When Fr. Beck served at St. James and St. Juliana's in northern Wayne County, he also served at the former St. Vincent School in Honesdale. Fr. Healey was on the school's board of directors.
Though they had different personalities, they shared values, Fr. Beck recalled. It was Fr. Healey who came to him and suggested that he transfer to Hawley and take over the pastorate.
The two priests had their own prayer group. "He became a friend," Fr. Beck said. "He was a very spiritual man, very patient... a great deal of gentleness... he was very positive."
Fr. Beck further reflected of Fr. Healey, "He was holy in an honest, humble way."