ROCKFORD—A priest probably best known for his work with inner-city issues and ministry, Father William P. Collins, died at his residence in Presence Cor Mariae Center, here, Dec. 31.
Father Collins was born on Aug. 17, 1930, in Chicago, to Thomas Collins and Katherine Kennedy Collins.
He was ordained to the priesthood on May 26, 1956, by Bishop of Joliet Martin McNamara at St. Joseph Parish in Aurora. He attended Archbishop Quigley Preparatory Seminary in Chicago, St. Procopius Abbey in Lisle, then St. Mary of the Lake Seminary in Mundelein.
Father Collins’ first assignment was as parochial vicar at St. Patrick Parish, McHenry. He also served as parochial vicar at St. Edward Parish, Rockford; Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish, Aurora; and at the Cathedral of St. Peter, Rockford.
He served as pastor of St. Wendelin Parish, Shannon; SS. Peter and Paul Parish, Rockford; St. Mary Parish, Rockford; and St. Patrick Parish, Rockford.
In 1970 he took over as director of Catholic Information and Counseling set up by the late Father Herman Porter to serve inner city youth.
In 1974, he moved the ministry to South Main Street in Rockford and renamed it Martin House. Ministry to youth, especially the addicted and those trapped in prostitution were a top priority of the Martin House Ministry. When the programs at Martin House became part of Catholic Charities, Father Collins remained as its chaplain.
In 1994 Father Collins was a guest of the White House where he helped launch the “One Church — One Addict” program as part of the steering committee headed by Father George Clements of the Archdiocese of Chicago.
That program encouraged church congregations to adopt an addicted person and support them through their journey to recovery.
He was also moderator and chaplain of the Interracial Council; director of the Cursillo Movement; director of the Legion of Mary and all Marian Programs for the Rockford Diocese.
Father Collins retired from active ministry in May, 2002, but continued his ministry to protect women who had been sexually abused.
“When I first got into jail ministry, Father Collins was the only priest I knew of who regularly went to minister to incarcerated people at the Winnebago County jail. He gave me lots of encouragement and advice in those early days, which I so appreciated,” said Laura Ortiz, who is active in both diocesan and ecumenical jail ministry, via Facebook. “He was surely a true servant of God.”
Father Collins is survived by many nieces, nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews. He is predeceased by his parents; sisters Julie Condon, Ann Murray, Kathleen Quinn, and brother Thomas.
The funeral Mass was Jan. 6, at 11 a.m. at the Cathedral of St. Peter, Rockford.
Private interment took place at St. Mary Cemetery in Evergreen Park on Jan. 7.