Delaware County priest one step closer to sainthood

Area Catholics gathered on the campus of Villanova University to officially nominate a Delaware County priest to sainthood, the highest honor in the Roman Catholic Church.

"We proceed with the cause of beatification and canonization and servant of God, William Atkinson" said Archbishop Nelson Perez during the closing ceremony for the Archdiocesan phase of the Cause of Beatification and Canonization of Father William Atkinson.

Father Atkinson, who died in 2006, was the first quadriplegic priest to be ordained into the Roman Catholic Church. The popular Augustinian Order priest and educator from Upper Darby was stationed at Monsignor Bonner High School for more than 30 years.


For the last six years, there has been an official push by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia to ask the Vatican for Atkinson to be canonized and elevated to sainthood.

"I think he would be a great example, not only with people with disabilities, but to people who are looking for hope in a situation. He has, by example, led a saintful life" said Mary Moody, a longtime friend of Atkinson and organizer of the effort to elevate him.

Those who knew him describe him as down-to-earth priest who loved the Jersey shore and even heard confessions on the boardwalk.

"Pope Francis is quoted as saying we need more saints with jeans and sneakers. And Bill fits that category" said friend Richard Heron.

After an hour-long ceremony, years of gathering hundreds of documents and interviews, Archbishop Perez signed off on the package that will be hand-delivered to the Vatican for consideration by Pope Francis.

So what would Father Bill think of all of this?

"He, in no way, would have wanted us to pursue sainthood" said Moody. "Many times, we said ‘Bill you are going to be a saint, you are going to be a saint.’ Tonight I’m going to say I told you so" she added.

The path to being a saint in the Roman Catholic Church is not a short one. In some cases, it can take decades and even centuries for saints to be canonized.



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