Neumann Lecture: The Path to Sainthood for Fr. Bill Atkinson

Father Bill Atkiinson.
Image via Neumann University.
Father Bill Atkiinson.

In the 2000-year history of the Catholic Church, Bill Atkinson was the first quadriplegic to be ordained as a priest.

After being paralyzed in a tragic tobogganing accident, he entered the priesthood and taught from 1975 to 2004 at Monsignor Bonner High School.

Now, he might be on the path to sainthood.

On Thursday, Sept. 9, Stephen McWilliams will discuss Atkinson’s life and the journey ahead as the church considers the case for his canonization.

The presentation is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. in the Meagher Theatre on the campus of Neumann University.

One of Atkinson’s closest friends, McWilliams visited Atkinson for many years, helping with his personal needs.

After Atkinson’s death in 2006, McWilliams captured the priest’s wisdom, humility, and faith in his book Green Bananas.

In conjunction with the Augustinian Community, family and friends, McWilliams now works for the cause of sainthood for the former priest and teacher. 

The movement toward canonization formally began 2017, when former Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput recommended investigating Atkinson’s case.

 Chaput’s support, approved by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and accepted for review by the Vatican, started the long examination of Atkinson’s life. 

Local committees were appointed to collect documents and witness interviews to establish that Atkinson was a person of heroic virtue and therefore worthy of the next step towards sainthood.

The documentation will be sent to the Vatican. If the supporting evidence is approved, the Pope will confer on Atkinson the title of “venerable.”

For beatification, the next step, a miracle must be attributed to the intercession of Atkinson. He would then receive the title of “blessed.” A second miracle is required for sainthood.

Register for the McWilliams lecture.

Admission is $10, and masks are required for the audience.

Proceeds benefit the Dr. Margaret Mary Kearney student scholarship fund, which assists non-traditional students at Neumann.

Find out more about Neumann University.

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