Saint Vincent Seminary paid tribute to Bishop William J. Winter, C’52, S’56, with an honorary doctor of divinity degree at its annual Alumni Day Mass and banquet recently. Bishop Winter, auxiliary bishop emeritus of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, observed the 25th anniversary of his episcopal ordination in 2014.
“Bishop Winter, the Saint Vincent Seminary Community honors you today for your generous and humble ecclesial leadership, and for your distinguished service to the Diocese of Pittsburgh, and to the Universal Church,” said Very Rev. Timothy Whalen, Seminary rector, who read the citation. “As a priest, scholar, chaplain, pastor, and bishop you have helped to form and nurture the faith of generations of Catholics in Western Pennsylvania. Like a true shepherd you have brought the hope-filled message of the Gospel to the people of the Diocese of Pittsburgh for nearly six decades, always striving to let the powerful yet healing presence of Jesus Christ shine forth for the benefit of all.”
Bishop Winter, who recalled coming to Saint Vincent to witness an ordination as a fourth grader, was a member of Saint Catherine of Siena Parish in Beechview. He was ordained to the priesthood on December 17, 1955. He later earned the degree of Doctor of Sacred Theology at the Gregorian University before returning home to serve as a parish priest. He has served as an assistant pastor, as student chaplain at Mount Mercy College (Carlow University) and later as the vice-chancellor of the diocese. He served faithfully as pastor of Holy Innocents Parish in Sheraden and Saint Philip Parish in Crafton. He was appointed in December of 1988 by Pope John Paul II and consecrated bishop on February 13, 1989. As auxiliary bishop, he assisted the diocesan bishop in addressing the pastoral needs and in governing of the diocese of nearly 800,000 Catholics. At the press conference announcing his appointment as a bishop, he described himself as “a simple parish priest who cares for the people of the Church.”
“Over the sixteen years in which you served as bishop, you helped to lead the priests, religious, and faithful of the Diocese of Pittsburgh through challenging times, including the consolidation and reorganization of more than one hundred sixty parishes, and you brought a deepened sense of hope to the diocese as the entire Church took up the call to the New Evangelization,” Father Whalen said. “We thank you as well for your gracious kindness to Saint Vincent College and Seminary in Latrobe, as you extend your apostolic ministry from the diocesan community to your collegiate alma mater.”
“For the priests of the Diocese of Pittsburgh,” Archabbot Douglas R. Nowicki, O.S.B., said, “Bishop Winter was affectionately known as ‘the pastor’s pastor.’ He was always available to provide guidance and support to those who sought his help. He is a humble and low-keyed leader whose compassion and wisdom are greatly appreciated.”
“The single and most fiercely loyal aspect of his own life was evidenced in his generous response to all the assignments that the Church needed him to do,” said Most Rev. David A. Zubik, Bishop of Pittsburgh, at the dinner following Mass. “Whether it was to study theology or teach it at Mercy College, to serve as spiritual director at the Seminary, to work with the people of the Holy Innocents Parish in Sheraden, Saint Philip in Crafton, or Sacred Heart Parish in Shadyside. Bishop Winter clearly is a man who is fiercely loyal to Jesus and the Church. On this night that we honor Bishop Winter, allow me to say that I am grateful that we are brothers in Christ and how humbled I am to have his support, and how inspired I am by his holiness. Ad multos annos.”
As auxiliary bishop, Bishop Winter headed the diocesan College of Deans where he worked closely with the deans in implementation of the diocese’s parish reorganization and revitalization project. He was admired for his calm demeanor and patience in helping parishioners adjust to the changes required in the reorganization process.
While demonstrating strong administrative skills, Bishop Winter dedicated himself fully to the renewal of the spiritual life of his parishioners and of the faithful throughout the diocese. He confirmed over 45,000 young people in his years as auxiliary bishop. For those being confirmed, it was a real personal encounter as he made a point of speaking to each youngster individually at the Confirmation ceremony, often inquiring about the name they had chosen. Bishop Winter was also active in ecumenical affairs as a member of the Pennsylvania Conference on Inter-church Cooperation. He represented the positions of the Catholic Church extremely well and in a manner that respected interfaith dialogue.
For the youth of the diocese, Bishop Winter provided spiritual leadership through his active participation in the World Youth Days. He participated in WYD in Denver, Paris, Rome, Toronto and Cologne. He also hosted the Love-Walk for the Poor as pastor of Sacred Heart Parish.
At Saint Vincent Seminary, he was a co-chair of the Preserving the Vision Capital Campaign, which raised funds to construct the Saint Gregory Chapel, renovate the Elizabeth J. Roderick Center seminarian residence hall and seminary office area, completing an expansion of the seminary in 1997.
“I am indeed very humbled by it and by so many things that were said today. I never really thought of these things as extraordinary,” Bishop Winter said. “I just thought it was all part of the job that we have and that we have undertaken together to carry on the mission of our Lord, which is why we are ordained. Thank you to Saint Vincent, to the Archabbot, to Father Whalen. I always enjoy coming back here to Saint Vincent.”
Most Rev. William J. Winter received an honorary doctor of divinity degree at the 2014 Alumni Day Mass. Bishop Winter, C’52, S’56, celebrated the 25th anniversary of his episcopal ordination. He is now auxiliary bishop emeritus of the Diocese of Pittsburgh. Presenting the degree to Bishop Winter were Archabbot Douglas R. Nowicki, O.S.B., chancellor, left; Father Patrick Cronauer, O.S.B., academic dean, third from left, and Very Rev. Timothy Whalen, rector.
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