Farewell Mass for Fr. Bill Connell on September 17 Print E-mail
Around the Diocese
Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017 -- 12:00 AM

fr. bill connell
Fr. Bill Connell

CLINTON -- Fr. Bill Connell, who was ordained to the priesthood on May 23, 1975, will be retiring because of health reasons from St. Stephen Parish, Clinton.

He will have a farewell Mass and reception on Sunday, Sept. 17. This will include the usual 9 a.m. Sunday Mass, followed by a light brunch and reception provided by his parish and large family. All are welcome.

Years as a priest

Originally from St. Patrick Parish in Janesville, he was ordained a deacon on April 25, 1974, and served St. James Parish, Madison.

Father Connell was ordained a priest by Bishop Cletus F. O’Donnell. His first assignment was at Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish in Madison. During his year there, he also attended Edgewood College full-time to receive accreditation to teach at Holy Name Seminary.

After four years there as dean of students and faculty member, he was reassigned back to Our Lady Queen of Peace, where he was greeted by Msgr. Edward Erbe, who became his mentor and friend, with the words, “A bad penny always returns!”

In the following years, he was an associate at Our Lady of the Assumption Parish in Beloit and St. Dennis Parish in Madison.

His first pastorate was at St. Jude Parish in Beloit, where he spent 11 years. That was followed by Holy Mother of Consolation, Oregon, and his current assignment at St. Stephen, Clinton.

Over the years, he has served as a chaplain to the Knights of Columbus in both Beloit and Madison, a member of the Continuing Education for Priests Board, and chaplain of the Madison Serra Club.

Member of first class of Holy Name Seminary

As a member of the first class of Holy Name Seminary High School in 1963, he attended Holy Name as a freshman in its temporary quarters located in Milwaukee. He is proud to say that he attended the groundbreaking of its Madison building and remembers the late Msgr. George Wirz (who later became Auxiliary Bishop Wirz), its first rector, say to the young boys, “Maybe in your lifetimes, there may be bus service out this far!”

In actuality, the City of Madison quickly grew to expand well beyond the seminary grounds. He remembers meeting the new Bishop O’Donnell in his seminary apartment when the bishop said, “I just came from Chicago and looked out my window and saw the skyline and all sorts of activity going on, and now I look out my window and what do I see? Pig houses and corn!”

In the succeeding 50 years, Holy Name Seminary closed, the Bishop O’Connor Catholic Pastoral Center took its place, and now it is Holy Name Heights with diocesan offices and apartments. “Change is a given in life,” noted Father Connell.

Plans for retirement

Father Connell will move back to Madison to reside just below the former Holy Name Seminary building at All Saints Assisted Living. The hardest part of retiring has been downsizing a lifetime of mementos into a 600-square-foot room.

Having just celebrated his 50th Holy Name Seminary class reunion of graduation and after 43 years of priesthood, Father Connell says that he has had a wonderful life.

Some people have accused him of being in denial regarding his illness diagnosed as cardicobasil syndrome, but he responds by telling them that rather than denial, he believes in what he has been preaching for the last many years as a priest: “Life is good and it only gets better.”

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