Deacon William F. Shire Jr. was a permanent deacon at St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Levittown since he was ordained May 31, 2008 at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul.
“Bill Shire is someone everybody referred to as just a good man,” said Father Michael C. DiIorio, pastor of St. Michael the Archangel. “He always had a present smile. He was a soft-spoken man, very dignified.”
Deacon Shire, 70, the son of the late William Sr. and Rose Shire, died Jan. 5 at Aria Hospital Torresdale. He was born Aug. 26, 1941 in Bristol and was a graduate of Bristol High School and Rider University in Lawrenceville, N.J.
Deacon Shire and his wife of 47 years, Margaret, were members of the parish for 42 years. “Before he entered the deacon program Bill and his family were involved in the school and in fundraisers,” Father DiIorio said. Two children, William III and Patricia, attended the parish school.
Among the events that Deacon Shire played a large role in was the annual summer carnival. “It’s the last week in June and the first day in July,” Father DiIorio said. “Bill helped out every year with whatever needed to be done — frying hamburgers, working in the information booth, helping with first aid.”
In church he was an extraordinary minister of holy Communion, editor of the parish bulletin and a member of the Knights of Columbus, Council 14626.
Deacon Shire studied for the diaconate because “he wanted to grow closer to Christ and share that closeness with other people,” Father DiIorio said. “His duties as a deacon included being present with me at Mass for all major liturgies, preaching at times, visiting hospitals during the weekdays and Communion calls. He was an indispensable help to me.” He also assisted the teachers in the parish school with classes.
A special devotion to the Blessed Mother led Deacon Shire to pray the rosary after Mass every day.
Deacon Shire had medical problems over the past year but was recovering slowly, Father DiIorio said. “On New Year’s Eve he was sitting at a table writing a homily on the Blessed Virgin for the next day when he was stricken,” he said. “We’re not sure if it was a heart attack or a stroke.”
Father DiIorio had asked Deacon Shire to write a homily during 40 Hours in September on the place for suffering in the life of a Catholic. “I asked him to write his personal thoughts on how it had helped him grow closer to Christ,” Father DiIorio said. An excerpt from that homily was in the booklet distributed during the funeral Mass.
“Bill was an outstanding father and husband,” the pastor added. “It’s a horrendous loss to us and the Church. He left us a beautiful legacy — how to find a way to heaven.”
Archbishop Charles Chaput celebrated a Jan. 12 funeral Mass for Deacon Shire at St. Michael the Archangel Church. Concelebrating the funeral Mass and serving as homilist was Father DiIorio. Deacon of the Word was Deacon Mark H. Dillon and Deacon of the Eucharist was Deacon Harry J. Simpson.
Deacon Shire, who was retired as regional manager of Conductive Containers Inc., of Minneapolis, Minn., is survived by his wife, Margaret, two children, William Shire III and Patricia Armstrong, three grandchildren, and two sisters, Rosemary Seagraves and Margaret Scenna. Interment was at Our Lady of Grace Cemetery in Penndel.
Jim Gauger is a freelance writer and a member of St. Luke the Evangelist Parish, Glenside.