Celebrating our clergy: 2006 ordination anniversary celebrationsBy: Julie Pettyjohn
Following is an exerpt from the May 26, 2006 edition of The Mirror.
Msgr. William J. Stanton
While attending St. Louis University (SLU) as a young man, Msgr. William Stanton, parochial administrator, St. Michael Parish, Fredericktown, stopped on his way home in either Old College Church or the SLU Chapel where the Blessed Sacrament was exposed for veneration. He stayed for 15 to 20 minutes each time. “I got to thinking about what I was really doing when I visited the Lord,” he said. And he realized that part of the reason he had not considered priesthood until then was “this false idea young people have—’I’m not worthy to be a priest.’”
He called his pastor who made an appointment with the director of vocations. After that appointment, he went home and told his dad he was going to be a priest.
Msgr. Stanton grew up in St. Louis with a brother two years older and parents who encouraged their sons to use their gifts and talents. He and his brother liked to perform magic shows. Msgr. Stanton did impersonations and ventriloquism. He uses that gift to this day when he brings puppets for children’s homilies.
Living eight blocks from their parish, the boys walked to St. John the Baptist Grade School. “At one time, we had 38 Precious Blood nuns who taught kindergarten through 12th grade,” he said. Fr. John Peters was the pastor. Msgr. Stanton went to 6 a.m. Mass every morning with his father, and they always knew with certainty they would find Fr. Peters praying in the church before Mass. “He was a good example, a very holy man,” Msgr. Stanton said.
The two brothers used to practice serving. One boy would play the priest and the other one the server.
Msgr. Stanton attended Southside High School, which one year later changed its name to St. Mary’s High School. Near the end of high school, he began to consider religious life. At first, he wanted to be a brother, live in a community, and teach high school. A religious brother in his school was in his 80s, yet he still taught typing. “He was such a holy and such a good man,” Msgr. Stanton said. But Msgr. Stanton’s father thought he should take one more year to consider his direction.
After his year in SLU, he went to Cardinal Glennon Seminary and Kenrick Seminary in St. Louis. He came into a class where most of the young men there had been together in high school and had known each other well for years.
Regarding his vocation to priestly life, Msgr. Stanton joked, “I was set-up by my parents.” When he was six months old, he had a serious infection in his knee. Doctors thought they might have to amputate his leg. His parents went into the chapel in St. Anthony Hospital. They both prayed that if the Lord would save his leg, they would be happy if the Lord took him for priestly ministry. Msgr. Stanton never knew of these prayers until his parents shared them in the car ride to his celebration banquet following his ordination for the Archdiocese of St. Louis.
His first assignment was St. Mary Parish, West Plains, as assistant to Fr. Syl Bauer. “He was a great example of zeal and prayer, and he taught me most of what I know about administration,” Msgr. Stanton said. “Having a good start is an important thing for every priest.”
He wrote to Card. Joseph Ritter in St. Louis requesting another year and another year. Then he requested to stay in the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau.
During his next assignment in Chaffee, he also taught part-time in Notre Dame High School.
Msgr. Stanton spoke for a while about some of the parishes he served, and then said, “I’ve really enjoyed all my ministry assignments.”
He said: “A priest is not somebody who does not get married. He does not get married to a wife. He gets married to his people. They are all beautiful and wonderful, and you are concerned about all of them. There are down times once in a while, but you can’t dwell on that or you are not going to do a good job in your ministry. These are my spouses, the only spouses I’m going to have. These are the people I’m to be in love with.”
While assigned in Joplin, Msgr. Stanton sang in a barbershop quartet. They had a repertoire of 60 songs. Around Christmas time, they had so many singing commitments; he said he had to arrange confession time according to the quartet’s schedule. When he went to Jackson, he started a barbershop quartet there and sang locally in nursing homes and for other groups.
When he received the title of monsignor, he said it was a surprise and an honor, mostly because of the recommendation, “but you don’t want to cling to the title,” he said. He uses the title as signature on official documents, but he is more comfortable with people calling him Fr. Bill. He said all priests work hard, but always to do a good job, not with the thought of being named a monsignor. In his lighthearted manner, he added, “Besides, it used to be that when priests told jokes, it was always about a monsignor.”
Those who were significant influences in his life were Fr. Peters and Fr. Bauer (both mentioned previously), as well as Fr. Tom Geraghty, “who gave me a love for golf,” and Fr. Joe Brophy, “who gave me a love for the liturgy.”
As far as advice, he suggested some things he does in his own life. 1) Be in church a half hour before Mass to reflect on Scripture (something he learned long ago from Fr. Peters). 2) Spend time with the Blessed Sacrament one to two times a week. 3) Keep up a devotion. Msgr. Stanton likes to pray the rosary daily and keep in touch with our Mother. 4) Get physical exercise, which stimulates the body in a good way. Msgr. Stanton walks three times a week and plays golf.
He also said, “Use your gifts, whatever the gifts are. If you say you don’t have gifts, it’s just that you haven’t discovered them.” He remembers how much it meant that his parents encouraged him. “Gifts have to be encouraged,” he said, “especially in the young. God wants us all. A person doesn’t have to have all the gifts a priest has. St. John Vianney didn’t do puppets or magic, but he sure saved a lot of people.”