By Lou Baldwin

Special to The CS&T

Father William A. Wright, 71, pastor emeritus of St. Bernadette Parish in Drexel Hill, died Dec. 24, 2008.

Earlier this year, when word got out that he was diagnosed with cancer, 800 people attended an impromptu Holy Hour for him at his church, according to Msgr. Richard J. Powers, a friend from boyhood.

Born in Media, the son of the late William and Rose (Ferry) Wright, he attended Most Blessed Sacrament School and West Catholic High School before entering St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.

Ordained May 22, 1965 by then-Archbishop John J. Krol at the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul, his first assignment was as parochial vicar at St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Springfield. He also served at SS. Simon and Jude, West Chester; St. Patrick, Kennett Square; St. Gabriel, Norwood; St. Bernadette; and St. Leo.

Father Wright was also a Newman chaplain and associate director of the regional CYO. In 1989 he returned to St. Bernadette, first as administrator and then as pastor. He was named pastor emeritus in December.

He had pride in his Irish and Scottish heritage and on visits to Ireland he would snap photographs which would later be framed and presented as gifts. He had great devotion to St. Bernadette and visited Lourdes several times.

He also would visit the Convent of spanine Love in Philadelphia, and just a month ago as his illness progressed he called the Pink Sisters to pray that he would be well enough to officiate at the wedding of his niece, Roseanne Noone, which he did, Msgr. Powers said.

“Even from grammar school he always said he wanted to be a priest,” Msgr. Powers recalls, and “he never wanted to be anything but a parish priest.”

“He was the finest person you would want to meet,” said Helen Kraus, who was his secretary throughout his pastorship. “I would say if you want to know what Jesus is like you should meet Bill Wright. He believed everyone who was born was one of God’s children and he was put on earth to be there for them.”

Father Wright’s empathy for his people was brought home to his sister, Anne Wright Noone, last week when a parishioner told her how she and her husband were behind on their mortgage and pawned their wedding rings and her engagement ring to make the payment. He went to the pawn shop and redeemed the rings and gave them back telling them they were something they should never part with.

“He was like a second father to my children,” Anne Noone said. “He was the light of their life and it was an honor and a privilege to be his sister. This is a man we should all be praying to.”

Father Wright’s funeral Mass was celebrated at St. Bernadette on Dec. 30 by Auxiliary Bishop of Philadelphia Robert P. Maginnis. Concelebrants included Msgr. Timothy C. Senior; Fathers James W. Donlon, John J. Kelly, George A. Majoros, Kevin P. Murray, Alan J. Okon and Dominic Tran Minh Duc; and Msgr. Powers who was the homilist.

In addition to his sister and niece, Father Wright is survived by a nephew, Brendan Noone. Interment was at Holy Cross Cemetery, Yeadon.

Lou Baldwin is a member of St. Leo Parish and a freelance writer.