'Our Dear Friend, Bill'

'Our Dear Friend, Bill'

Excerpts from the homily offered by University Chancellor J. Donald Monan, SJ, at the funeral Mass celebrated Aug. 27 at St. Mary's Church in Lynn for Boston College Trustee William F. Connell, '59, who died at his Swampscott home on Aug. 22:

...Every one of us in the past several weeks has been halted in what we were about, distressed at the sudden and serious illness of our dear friend, Bill Connell. Surely during these confusing but mercifully shortened days, our hearts, like those of the disciples, burned within us as we tried to reconcile our understanding of Bill's sheer goodness and the suddenness of his loss. Early Wednesday morning, God took Bill to Himself. Perhaps it is only this morning, in the Eucharistic breaking of the bread, that our hearts too will find new peace...

A week ago today, Boston College conferred upon Bill its highest honor, the Ignatius Medal - named after the founder of the Jesuit Order, and recognizing the distinctive perspective Ignatius brought to the living of a full Christian life. Ignatius realized that the highest forms of religious dedication should not be confined to monasteries, at arm's length from the powerful forces that were shaping culture. He encouraged men and women to find God in all things, in education and art, among people of substance and the poor, in the love of family, in leadership roles, and wherever the greater good could be accomplished. Far from there being a conflict between religious belief and high human accomplishment, that accomplishment can be, if we make it so, our means of serving God as well...

The themes of Bill's life were clear and constant: family, friends, business, his surrounding community and - pervading them all - his deep Christian faith and love and service to God. Each of these themes he played with extraordinary gifts of intelligence and wisdom and humor. But through every surface change in his life, Margot and the children, his friends, his business and businesses, his charity to everyone in need, these were the constants. And always in the foreground, enriching every aspect of the life he enjoyed so much, was his deepening familiarity with the Risen Lord, whom Bill recognized every morning in the breaking of the bread at the Eucharist.

...Every new addition to the family or to his business responsibilities or to the larger community he welcomed without losing any of the commitments to things of value that had always been his. It was as though the strong roots from which he had grown into full manhood grew stronger themselves in providing nourishment and vitality to every new branching out of his life.

People who have reflected on the beginnings of Bill's life here in Lynn have remarked that Bill earned every success he achieved - that no one gratuitously gave him anything. Bill used to describe himself as "lucky," but what he really meant, deep down, was that he realized all the good things were gifts, not of his contriving...

It was this unshakable conviction that everything was a gift that made Bill such a modest man. Bill knew his strengths, but he knew those strengths were gifts, unmistakable signs that he had the love of his family, his friends, his teachers and business associates, and most of all, through his gift of faith, he had the certainty of God's love. And it was this realization of being loved by others that made him capable of so much kindness and love in return. Everyone could look to Bill with confidence, from a business leader needing advice to a youngster needing an education.

Being helpful was never a matter of obligation or an imposition for Bill: it was simply a matter of being who he was. Bill's profound respect for himself, right down to his impeccable appearance, his sense of fairness and integrity, his largeness of heart - none of these seemed to be obligations imposed on him, they had become genuinely second nature to him; they were habits of the heart that called for no lengthy deliberation. They simply were Bill Connell.

Today's Mass of Christian burial, for all of us, brings with it an inescapable sense of loss, and yet it is this, the Mass of the Resurrection, that most graphically expresses the meaning faith had in Bill's life. No matter how distracted Bill's schedule, he started each day as a charter member of what he called "the Dawn Patrol," by attending morning Mass. In celebrating the liturgy of the resurrection for a loved one, we realize, as Bill did, that the mystery of the passion and death and resurrection of Christ our Lord gives meaning to our own experience of life and of suffering and of death...

...And so it is with sadness, but with deep gratitude and thanksgiving, with admiration and with love...in full confidence and trust, we commend our dear friend, Bill, to God, who surely loved him even more than we.

Read more about William Connell.  

Return to September 7 menu

Return to Chronicle home page