As I grow on in years and, I hope, in wisdom, it seems to me the faith-filled “unheralded” among us are the true heroes and heroines of our world.
These are the men and women who quietly and steadily walk, work and worship for their entire lifetimes, dealing with inevitable challenges yet being truthful, honoring their promises and helping others where why see a need. They are the ones, I’m convinced, who, without fuss and fanfare, ensure that good does and always will prevail over evil, even though some days it may appear to be quite the opposite.
Such a person was Fr. William Peil, ordained Catholic priest for 64 years, who passed away in Fort Wayne July 13 just shy of his 89th birthday. A kind, sensitive man with a quick wit, he lived true to his faith, his church and his vocation. When health issues prompted his early retirement from strenuous parish assignments, he promised to serve in some form of ministry, and he did so. Until his death he wrote a monthly “tract for our times” in which he linked Scripture to current events; it was mailed to nearly 400 recipients within the U.S. and abroad. A small band of his faithful friends from the Central Catholic High School Class of 1942 gathered at his retirement home apartment monthly to fold and stamp and laugh together; Fr. Peil always made good on the promised “reward” — a root beer float.
He was quick to assist an ailing priest friend and also temporarily served in many local and area parishes when needed, even when not feeling well. On four days preceding his death he had offered mass at a local church and had written his Sunday homily. Because he thought it was important for fellow priests to share their special bond, he often planned simple occasions to gather together.
Music was important to both Fr. Bill and his older brother, Daniel, also a priest. Their father Louis Peil had been organist at St. Jude, St. Mary and Cathedral parishes, and both sons played piano. Fr. Bill was drawn to a piano like a magnet and would soon be playing his 1940s favorites. At St. Anne Retirement Home, other simple pleasures included providing thistle seed for the outdoor finch feeder and trying to grow tomatoes. His heart was especially happy in Ireland, and one suspects it was no coincidence that his simple, wood coffin was draped in emerald green.
He had the humble coffin reserved many years ago to be his body’s last resting place. In a brief note he wanted displayed nearby, he explained that he trusted the “immortal soul has gone to its Maker” and that there should not be “over concern” for the body itself. “I have tried to live poorly and wish to die in the same manner and be buried.” It was his way, he explained, “To give courage to Christians who wish to give reverent…but not exaggerated care to the body but who dare not because there are so few who agree with them.”
The July 2013 tract would be his last. In it Fr. Peil quoted for Scripture a comforting thought for all of us to keep in mind, particularly on those days when “the work is too much with us.” From Romans 12, “Rejoice in hope, be patient under trial, persevere in prayer.”
It is, I believe, exactly how Fr. Peil lived. Rest in peace, dear friend to many.