April 24, 2020

Father William Munshower built community in two parishes for 41 years

By Sean Gallagher

Father William MunshowerFather William Munshower, a retired priest of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, died on April 14 at the Westminster Village North retirement community in Indianapolis. He was 88.

Because of measures prohibiting large public gatherings due to the coronavirus pandemic, a private committal service was celebrated at the priests’ circle at Calvary Cemetery in Indianapolis. A memorial Mass for Father Munshower is expected to be celebrated at a later time.

In a 2008 interview with The Criterion on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of his ordination as a priest, Father Munshower described what was at the heart of his priestly life and ministry.

“Being a part of a Christian gathering, having a hand in the gathering and participating in that gathering, whether it be in the Eucharist or a parish picnic,” he said. “A priest comes together with people and inspires them, encourages them and prays with them. I think of myself in those terms.”

Before retiring from active ministry in 2015, Father Munshower spent 41 years taking part in such gatherings and inspiring people in faith in two Indianapolis faith communities: Holy Spirit Parish and St. Thomas Aquinas Parish.

Father Clement Davis, who served as associate pastor with Father Munshower at Holy Spirit from 1979-83, saw how much he enjoyed making connections with parishioners.

“He was so personable and genuinely interested in everybody and everybody’s story and family,” said Father Davis, who in retirement serves as senior parochial vicar of St. Bartholomew Parish in Columbus and sacramental minister of Holy Trinity Parish in Edinburgh. “He knew his parishioners. It was amazing to me how he would often know people’s grandparents. It was amazing to me how he could keep so much of that in his head.”

The motivation behind making these connections for Father Munshower wasn’t simply on the human level, said Father Davis.

“He not only believed, but he celebrated that we are the body of Christ, the people of God,” Father Davis said. “His delight was in getting to know as many of these people and being a part of their lives. He genuinely loved serving as a pastor.”

Father Patrick Beidelman was one of the many people Father Munshower served as pastor at Holy Spirit. He was only about 9 months old when Father Munshower began his ministry at the Indianapolis East Deanery faith community.

From his childhood through his time in college, Father Beidelman admired his pastor, who was in part an inspiration of his own priestly vocation.

Serving now as the executive director of the archdiocesan secretariat for worship and evangelization, Father Beidelman sees a connection between Father Munshower’s love of relationships with the Church’s worship and proclamation of the Gospel.

“The principal prayers of the Mass are that we might be one with God and one with one another,” he said. “I think Father Bill Munshower did that for thousands of people, probably tens of thousands of people throughout his life in ministry.

“He saw the importance of people being in communion with one another, working with each other to build the kingdom of God. That community building, I think, served the faith of many people over the years.”

One of those whom it served was Manny Debono, a member of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish who experienced Father Munshower’s ministry there in the 1960s and later in the 1990s and 2000s.

Debono, 83, saw no difference between the way Father Munshower acted outside of worship and parish ministry and how he interacted with people in ordinary social settings.

“There was a continuity there,” Debono said. “If he was in your home or talking during a meal, it was the same Bill Munshower that had given you Communion the Sunday before. He was just a good man who loved people and life. He projected that throughout his own personal life.”

That continuity, Father Beidelman said, also extended to meditating on how the Gospel applied to contemporary issues.

As far back as his time in high school, Father Munshower protested racial inequality in society, including participating in Dr. Martin Luther King’s 1963 March on Washington.

“You got the sense that he was always pondering something,” Father Beidelman said. “When you’d meet him, you were often brought into that pondering. He didn’t always get to an answer or a resolution. But he could ponder with the best of them.”

Father Munshower also had a “special love for the lost sheep among us,” Father Beidelman recalled.

“He made God approachable,” he said. “That approachability made folks, who often would feel intimidated by priests or the Church or even faith and spirituality in general, to feel really connected to God through him.”

William Glenn Munshower was born on Feb. 23, 1932, in Indianapolis to William and Catherine (Ashcroft) Munshower. He grew up as a member of St. Anthony Parish and the former Holy Cross Parish.

After graduating from Cathedral High School in Indianapolis in 1950, he attended St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minn., before becoming an archdiocesan seminarian and receiving priestly formation at Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad.

Archbishop Paul C. Schulte ordained Father Munshower a priest on May 3, 1958, at the Archabbey Church of Our Lady of Einsiedeln in St. Meinrad. Father Munshower celebrated a Mass of Thanksgiving the following day at St. Anthony Church in Indianapolis.

His first pastoral assignment was as associate pastor of St. Paul Parish in Tell City, where he served from 1958-63. He then ministered as associate pastor of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Indianapolis from 1963-71.

From 1971-73, he was the chaplain of the Newman Center at Indiana State University in Terre Haute.

In 1973, Father Munshower became pastor of Holy Spirit Parish in Indianapolis, where he would continue in ministry until 1994.

During that time, he also served as administrator of St. Agnes Parish in Nashville from 1981-85.

After a sabbatical, Father Munshower returned to St. Thomas Aquinas Parish as pastor, serving there from 1994-2006, at which time he was granted permission to retire.

In retirement, Father Munshower ministered as a part-time sacramental minister at St. Andrew the Apostle Parish in Indianapolis from 2009-15 and at Cathedral High School.

Surviving are his sister, Anne Delany, and brother, John Munshower.

Memorial contributions may be sent to Saint Meinrad Archabbey, 200 Hill Drive, St. Meinrad, IN 47577, www.saintmeinrad.edu/support-us, or to St. John’s University, P.O. Box 2000, 2850 Abbey Plaza, Collegeville, MN 56234, www.csbsju.edu. †

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