In Your Midst

Priest Associate at St. James Cathedral

Spring 2000

In This Issue:
Many parishioners who come to St. James only on Sunday may not be fully aware that the Cathedral is blessed with a new priest associate, Father Thomas G. Williams, SJ, who serves at the Cathedral Tuesday through Saturday.

Thomas Garvin Williams was born in 1924, the second of three sons. He retains a very strong attachment to Ilwaco, his hometown on the southwestern coast of Washington State, where he spent his childhood and school years. Fresh out of high school, he enlisted in the army, and served in World War II for two and a half years as an Army parachutist.

The GI Bill enabled him to go to “a big university back east”: Gonzaga University in Spokane. He entered the Society of Jesus in 1948 after completing his sophomore year of college. According to Jesuit tradition, two years of novitiate, and nine more of classical languages, philosophy, theology, and teaching followed before he was ordained a priest in 1960.

Father Williams has served in many different capacities all over the world. In the 1960s he served chiefly in high schools, as principal at Bellarmine and Seattle Prep. Many years of parish work followed: in Portland, Oregon, on the Flathead Indian Reservation; in Jamaica, and at St. Joseph’s here on Capitol Hill. He spent five years at St. Stanislaus Church in Lewiston, Idaho; and six years (his longest assignment) as Superior of the Jesuit retirement center in Spokane. For the past two years he was assistant pastor at St. Peter Claver Church in Punta Gorda, Belize.

Father Williams began his assignment at St. James Cathedral on September 1, 1999. He is a great blessing to the daily life of the Cathedral, as everyone fortunate enough to work with him can attest. It is a treat when he presides at daily Mass. In one homily he said, “Many of you in this room are saints. The good thing is, you don’t know which ones you are; and we’re not going to spoil you by telling you!” Of the disobedient son of the prophet Eli, he commented: “The only law he obeyed was the law of gravity.”

Father Williams is a tall, thin figure “in black, with a touch of white at the throat.” His hobby is people, whom he finds fascinating. He loves to tell stories, but even more he loves to hear them and is a profoundly attentive listener. As he puts it, “A priest’s salary isn’t much, but the fringe benefits make it worthwhile.”

Maria Laughlin is a frequent volunteer, a parishioner and author of St. James the Greater, an illustrated history of St. James Cathedral’s Patron.

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