Monday 3 October 2011

May Fr Michael Williams, a SPUC supporter, rest in peace

I was saddened to hear last week of the death of Fr Michael Williams, a young pro-life priest from Liverpool. Alan Houghton, a supporter of SPUC in Liverpool, has written a tribute to Fr Mike and has kindly given me permission to publish it on this blog:
Fr. Mike was an outstanding priest and a remarkable friend. Mike and I met back in 1996, before either of us even went to seminary. After Angie [Alan's wife] he was my closest friend and it is distressing to lose him. Nevertheless, we were able to be with him and his family at the moment he went to God. His death was beautiful and holy - it has deepened my faith and love for God.
In addition to his duties as a hospital chaplain - in which role he brought several souls back to God at the end of their lives - Fr. Mike was a strong pro-lifer. He had a great deal of respect for SPUC in general.

As far as I know, he was the only priest in the Liverpool Archdiocese who still prayed outside the BPAS centre on Merseyside. He also turned up to wave off Anne Fearon and the SPUC sponsored walk this time last year. I have a photo in my album of Mike as a seminarian holding a banner on the SPUC pro-life chain of witness in Great Crosby in 2003. Mike promoted the teachings of the Church on chastity and life issues to young engaged couples and defended Humanae Vitae to other priests when the occasion arose.

From a merely human perspective this is a grave loss to the Church and the pro-life movement. However, I know Michael always wanted to 'get home to God' (as he used to put it). Mike spent a lot of time in intercession before the Blessed Sacrament and I know that he can do a lot more for us than he ever could before!
A rare man of virtue - outstanding among our generation. May God rest his soul.
I was also deeply moved when I heard that the death of Fr Mike prompted another young priest to stand on the front line of the pro-life battle this weekend. Upon hearing of the death of his friend Fr Leon Pereira O.P. decided that he would follow Fr Mike's example and join in with the 40 Days for Life vigil in London. He went there on Saturday morning and met my son Paul who had organised for a group of young Catholics to go to the vigil together.

Fr Leon leads the young pro-lifers in prayer
Fr Leon also kindly agreed to write a tribute to Fr Mike and has given me permission to publish it.
I first met Fr Mike before either of us were ordained. He was a seminarian at Ushaw at the time, and I was training for the priesthood at Blackfriars, Oxford. His sister attended Mass at Blackfriars (and still does) and he would come to visit her. I remember how proud she was of her little brother, and with good reason.
Fr Mike was terribly easy-going, and I think it had a lot to do with his prayerfulness and deep devotion. At the hospital where he was chaplain, he seemed to know everyone by name, and quickly involved himself in bioethical and pro-life matters arising there.
He was a quiet man, genuinely humble, and very charitable. He was the kind of person who made you wish you were more like him, without ever reproaching you.
When I last spoke to him, at Fr Lawrence Lew's ordination in Oxford about 3 weeks ago, Michael was looking forward to his new assignation, to another hospital. What struck me was how clearly the virtue of hope shone through him, not optimism or wishful thinking but Christian hope.
He also had fortitude in abundance. It was his example which inspired me. He had a great spirit of fun, and seamlessly combined it with a deep devotion to Christ, Our Lady and the saints. The latter fed the former.
The news of his sudden coma and death shocked many people. I found myself thinking of some of the things Mike did, like leading the Rosary outside abortion mills. And it was his death, as well the seminarians I teach at Oscott talking about '40 days for life' which made me decide finally to do something about this myself.
And that's how I found myself in Bedford Square two days after Fr Mike's death (he died on the feast of his patron, St Michael the Archangel), leading the Rosary as he used to.
I generally avoid talking about the dead as though they're already in heaven, preferring to pray for the repose of their souls rather than "celebrate their lives". In Fr Michael's case, I certainly pray for him and for his family, and offered Mass for him, but I also find myself praying to him.
He was a good man and a good priest.
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