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Rev. William Harry Worner, R'1940

Born: September 21, 1921

Ordained: June 16, 1945

Died: February 28, 2010

A funeral Mass was celebrated March 4 for Father William H. Worner at St. Gregory Parish in San Mateo where he served as pastor from 1977 – 91. Father Worner died Feb. 28. Ordained to the priesthood June 16, 1945, he was 89 years of age.

The future-Father Worner was born in San Francisco and attended St. Ignatius College Preparatory and St. Joseph’s College in Mountain View before entering St. Patrick’s Seminary and University in Menlo Park in 1940. His first assignment as a priest was as a parochial vicar, then known as an associate pastor, at St. Michael Parish in San Francisco. Service continued at assignments including St. Kevin Parish in Bernal Heights and St. John the Baptist Parish in El Cerrito – the Diocese of Oakland would be formed from the Archdiocese of San Francisco in 1962 – as well as Corpus Christi Parish in Piedmont, St. Bartholomew Parish in San Mateo, and St. Teresa Parish in Potrero Hill.

In 1964, Archbishop Joseph T. McGucken assigned Father Worner to establish the Church of the Ascension in Saratoga – the Diocese of San Jose would be formed from the Archdiocese of San Francisco in 1981 – on thirteen acres of family property that had been offered to the Archdiocese by Joseph Pon. The buildings on the property were not structurally safe for large gatherings of parishioners, so a nearby drying shed was initially converted into the first Ascension Church. In November, 1966, the beams of the present church building were hoisted, and Father Worner, first pastor of the parish, began offering Mass on the new altar in June, 1967.

In 1977, after 13 years at Ascension, Father Worner was assigned by Archbishop John R. Quinn as pastor of St. Gregory Church in San Mateo. Following 14 years of ministry at Saint Gregory, Father was appointed Director of the Office of Development, with residence at the newly established Serra Retirement Center (later renamed Serra Clergy House). Father Worner retired from active ministry on March 1, 1994, but accepted Archbishop Quinn’s request at that time that he serve as co-Director with the now-late Father Patrick Keane of the Archdiocesan program for Retired Priests. In 1995, he was appointed Director of Serra Clergy House, and Representative for Retired Priests in San Mateo County, a responsibility he undertook faithfully until January, 2004.

“Father Bill Worner was a very positive person and very hospitable especially to priests,” said Msgr. James Keane, retired pastor Our Lady of Loretto Parish in Novato and a seminary classmate of Father Worner’s. “His rectory was always open to visitors. He was a very priestly priest who helped many people quietly and never looked for compliments. He was also a man of action. If something needed to be done, he would get it done.”

Msgr. Keane and Father Worner often played golf together through the years. “He loved golf,” Msgr. Keane said. “However good or not good he was at it, he was always competitive. It was a great relaxation for him.”

“Bill Worner was a doer,” said Father James O’Malley, retired pastor of St. Kevin Parish and ordained in 1946. “He did nothing but great things for the kids especially poor kids and kids in trouble. He did a great job at all the parishes he served and certainly has a star in heaven for that. The people loved him. I have nothing but the utmost love, respect and admiration for Bill.”

“Bill Worner was one of the finest priests we ever had,” remembered Father Clement C. Davenport, retired pastor, Church of the Nativity in Menlo Park and ordained in 1948. “He was a terrific person who reached out to people and to priests who were having troubles. I have nothing but admiration for Father Bill Worner.”

In recent years, Father Worner resided at Alma Via of San Francisco (2007), and Alma Via of Union City (2008). “I use the occasion of this memo to thank, in particular, Sister Annette, Suzanne, Farida and the staff at Alma Via of Union City for the competent and loving care they provided as Father’s health declined,” San Francisco Auxiliary Bishop William Justice said in a an announcement of Father Worner’s death March 1.

Father Worner is survived by a nephew, Rich Worner; nieces, Sue Tierney, Judy Hurabiell and Nancy Fleck; and sister-in-law, Evelyn Worner. Remembrances may be made to the Priests Retirement Fund of the Archdiocese of San Francisco, One Peter Yorke Way, San Francisco 94109.

From the March 5, 2010 issue of Catholic San Francisco