Father William P. North, MM
Born: June 26, 1910
Ordained: June 16, 1937
Died: March 31, 1981
Father William P. North (U.S.-Special Society Unit) died on Tuesday, March 31st, at St. Teresa’s Residence, after a long illness.
The eldest of six children, Bill was born to William North and Julia Collins on June 26, 1910. His health as a child was so fragile that he was compelled to leave grammar school for two years. In the Parish of the Holy Child Jesus and under the guidance of the Sisters of St. Joseph, Bill discovered his vocation to the priesthood. Father Stedmann, of later fame, inspired him to seek Maryknoll. Through the Maryknoll Junior publication his interest was sustained until he entered the Venard in September, 1925.
Bill seemed to thrive in the seminary and his health became almost robust. As might be expected, he was a top student who excelled in language. His special interests varied from Chant – he was student director for a number of years – to electrical maintenance. He was gifted, popular, and passed with seeming ease to ordination on June 16, 1937.
His assignment to Kongmoon tested his mettle through the following ten years of war and unrest. In one letter received in 1945, Bill wrote: “Many nice things have been said about us, I hear. How deservedly I don’t know. For all in all it wasn’t so bad as many might be led to believe. There were moments of danger and tension. The Japanese came very close at times, and bandits and Communists we had always with us. But the rumors were far worse than the actual moments of danger. For, in times of danger one had an outlet in action; but the rumors made one stay up nights and caused loss of sleep when one didn’t dare go to bed.”
Bill was assigned back to the States in 1947. Through thirty years he served the Society primarily in formation and education: at various times as Vice Rector, Rector, and Director of Formation; and in the sundry places of the Venard, Chesterfield, Los Altos, Glen Ellyn, Hingham, and the Center. In 1966 he was assigned to Transfiguration Parish in Chinatown, New York City. He entered the Special Society Unit in April, 1977. He was a demanding teacher and a good one. Strict with himself and with others, he was a popular leader as well.
On April 1st there was a wake service, led by Fr. Tom McDermott in the Seminary. The funeral took place the next day with Fr. James Noonan as Principal Celebrant, Fr. Charles Huegelmeyer as Homilist, and Fr. John Harrington reading the Biography. Burial followed in the Maryknoll Cemetery.
Perhaps most remarkable in these past few years, including these past few days, was how this time encapsulated Bill’s whole life of service. The frequent visits from friends in Chinatown touched his beginning of public ministry in China and his end of public ministry at Transfiguration. Then also, during his time at St. Teresa’s he tutored in Latin – ever the demanding but fair teacher. Having served well and fully, “the best is yet to be: the last of life for which the first was made.”