By Barb Arland-Fye
DAVENPORT — Father Bill Meyer celebrated his 60th anniversary as a priest with humor, humility and gratitude during a Mass of Thanksgiving May 24 at Our Lady of Victory Catholic Church.
Bishop Martin Amos, Bishop Emeritus William Franklin, some priests and deacons were among those in attendance to celebrate a significant milestone of one the diocese’s longest-serving priests. Fr. Meyer’s cousin, Merle Vastine, served as cross bearer at the anniversary Mass. He had been an altar server at his uncle’s first Mass.
Well-known for his sense of humor and love of puns, Fr. Meyer delivered both during his homily. Among the puns that got a chuckle was one about visits to the “holey land,” the one with 18 holes.
The 83-year-old noted that when he celebrated his 50th anniversary of ordination to the priesthood, he said “Fifty is nifty.” Now, it’s “Fifty is nifty, plus 10.”
Fr. Meyer said he has enjoyed every year of his priesthood and every assignment. He urged young men and boys to consider a vocation to the priesthood. He is grateful he did.
Our Lady of Victory is his parish in residence and he has served as its pastor emeritus since 2004. Fr. Meyer thanked Mgr. James Parizek, the parish’s pastor, as well as staff and parishioners for all they have done to make the older priest feel welcome. Fr. Meyer had served as pastor of Our Lady of Victory from 1981-1993.
He was born into a family of boys in 1925 and attended St. Mary School and St. Ambrose Academy in Davenport. Later, he attended St. Ambrose College in Davenport and Loras College in Dubuque before completing studies for the priesthood at St. Paul Seminary in St. Paul, Minn.
He was ordained by Bishop Edward Fitzgerald, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Dubuque, on May 26, 1949 — Ascension Thursday.
His first assignment was as an assistant at St. Mary Parish in Iowa City, where he served from 1949-60. Then he served as an assistant at St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Davenport from 1960-68. Next, he served as pastor of St. James Parish in Toronto (1968-71); St. Patrick Mission, Big Rock (1968-71); St. Mary Parish in Muscatine (1971-81); St. Malachy Mission, Ardon (1971-72); Our Lady of Victory Parish (1981-93); and St. Mary Parish in Mechanicsville (1993-99). He retired July 6, 1999.
In a surprise at the end of Mass, Our Lady of Victory’s choir sang a song dedicated to Fr. Meyer titled “Father Meyer – Faith of Our Fathers.” Kathie Gunnare, wife of choir director Ron Gunnare, wrote the lyrics. It was sung to the tune of the original “Faith of Our Fathers,” written by Frederick Faber.
The Fr. Meyer version expressed appreciation and humor that included this line: “Off to the ‘holey land’ yearly you go. Escape from the cold, the wind and the ice. Golf balls you hope fall into that hole … Father Bill we love you. For 60 years service to our Lord.”