Father William J. Collins, MM

Born: September 10, 1913
Ordained: September 17, 1939
Died: January 20, 1974

William J. Collins was born in South Boston on September 10, 1913. He attended parochial schools and was graduated from Boston Latin School. He joined Maryknoll in 1931 and was ordained on September 17, 1939 (as a member of the Class of 1940). He studied Canon Law at Catholic University and in 1940 went to Rome as secretary to Cardinal Fumasoni-Biondi of the Congregation for the Promotion of the Faith. Father Collins spent the World War II years in Rome and returned to the United States in December of 1945. He received his Canon Law Doctorate (J.C.D.) from the Lateran University in Rome in 1943.

After a brief period teaching at Brookline in early 1946 he was named superior of the first four men to go to East Africa, arriving in the Mwanza-Musoma area of Tanganyika in October, 1946. Elected to the General Council at the Fourth General Chapter in 1956, he served as Secretary General until 1966, and did valuable work preparing the Constitutions and the Fifth General Chapter documents for publication in 1966 – 1967. He was reassigned to Africa in July of 1967 and taught Canon Law at the Nairobi Seminary in Kenya until his return to the U.S. in October, 1973.

Father Collins was an exemplary Maryknoller as a student in Rome, as a missioner in Africa, on the General Council and during his final illness. He combined a keen mind and solid piety with a tremendous spirit of openness to others and a delightful sense of humor. A humble man, he stressed that “For reasons of conscience, I cannot accept any ecclesiastical dignity.” Early reports describe him as “full of the devil at recreation, and full of the angels at times of spiritual exercises.”

Father Collins died at St. Teresa’s Residence at 2:30 a.m. on January 20, 1974. A Vigil Service was held on January 21 at the Maryknoll chapel. Mass of the Resurrection was concelebrated the following day and burial took place at Maryknoll. Bishop John W. Comber, with whom Father served on the Council, was principal concelebrant and Father George 14. Buckley, a classmate, was the homilist.