Father William (Bill) Taylor was able to transform peoples’ lives through his love of Scripture.
He instructed more than 800 candidates in the Diocese of Saginaw’s Lay Ministry Formation Program from its beginning 42 years ago. His classes brought the Bible to life.
“He was a teacher that the lay ministers embraced,” said Kellie Deming, coordinator of lay ministry for the Diocese of Saginaw. “He had the ability to make each of them feel they had a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.”
Fr. Taylor, 80, died July 13 after serving the diocese as a priest for 53 years. During the vigil ceremony preceding his funeral, Fr. Steve Gavit acknowledged Fr.Taylor as the “best Scripture scholar in the history of the Saginaw Diocese.”
Fr. Taylor conducted classes perched on his favorite high-top stool using maps to pinpoint the locations of significant events in the Bible. “He loved to share the good news of the gospels and remained the most popular teacher in the Lay Ministry Formation Program throughout the years,” Deming added.
Pam Daily, lay minister at Blessed Trinity parish in Frankenmuth, appreciated his deep and vast knowledge of the Old Testament as well as his dry sense of humor. “What a loss for our diocese. He was a treasure,” she said.
Fr. Taylor was born June 16, 1940 in Saginaw to Richard and Eileen Taylor. He was an only child and his priestly journey began early. A childhood friend wrote on the memory page of his funeral notice that he made his first vestments out of his mother’s sheets and colored them with crayons. “He gave every pet in the neighborhood that passed away a proper funeral,” the friend wrote.
He graduated from St. Andrew High School. Then he earned an associate degree from Jordan Seminary in Menominee, MI; a bachelor’s degree from St. Mary Seminary in Baltimore MD; and a Master’s of Divinity degree from St. John Provincial Seminary in Plymouth, MI.
He was ordained in 1967 at the Cathedral of Mary of the Assumption in Saginaw. His pastoral assignments included Our Lady of Lake Huron, Harbor Beach; Holy Spirit, Shields; Ss. Peter and Paul, Saginaw; St. Michael, Wilmot; St. Joseph, Mayville; St. Christopher, Bridgeport; St. Maria Goretti, Bay City; Blessed Trinity, Frankenmuth and Holy Family, Saginaw.
In addition to his pastoral ministry, he was a member of the Clergy Personnel Board for 30 years. He also offered scripture seminars and conducted retreats, logging many miles to parishes throughout the diocese.
Parishioners he served remember him as wise, generous, witty, wholesome, holy, meticulous and a man who strictly followed tradition and routine. Some even adopted him into their families. Carol and Kevin Maurer, of Frankenmuth, met Fr. Taylor in 1986. “He soon became part of our family, celebrating holidays and birthday dinners. We even named our youngest son Ethan Taylor after him,” Carol said. “His homilies really helped us grow spiritually.”
He mentored seminarians including Fr. Andy Booms, homilist at Fr. Taylor’s funeral. “He was like a father, keeping an eye on the younger priests in a very positive way,” Fr. Booms said. “He had a wonderful sense of humor, care, concern and wisdom, never judging or condemning. He had his views but he never made them the litmus test or took joy in condemning those who disagreed with him.”
Fr. Taylor retired in 2007 and served as a senior priest in residence at St. Dominic Parish in Saginaw. He continued teaching. His impact remained strong. “Because of his love of Scripture, he was able to build relationships necessary to form true disciples of Christ,” Deming said.
An endowment honoring Father Taylor’s memory has been established at the Catholic Community Foundation of Mid-Michigan to benefit the diocese’s Lay Ministries Program. Contributions can be made by accessing the Catholic Community Foundation of Mid-Michigan website: ccfmm.org/donate/ and specifying Father William Taylor Endowment Fund in the message/details section of the webpage. Contributions also can be mailed to the Catholic Community Foundation of Mid-Michigan, 5800 Weiss St., Saginaw, MI 48603-2779.