Fr. Paul Williams Dies in Maryland

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SILVER SPRING, Md. — Fr. Paul Williams, OFM, 70, a professed Franciscan friar for 44 years and a priest for 35, died on Jan. 3 at St. Camillus Friary. He devoted his life to serving the Black Catholic community in the South and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States.

A viewing is scheduled from 9 to 11 a.m. on Jan. 13 at St. Camillus Church in Silver Spring, to be followed by a Mass of Christian Burial. Provincial Minister Fr. Kevin Mullen, OFM, will celebrate the Mass and Fr. Brian Jordan, OFM, will give the homily. The Mass will be livestreamed by St. Camillus Church.

Early Years
Fr. Paul was born on June 16, 1951 in Alexandria, Virginia. The son of Harold and Clarise (née Williams) Rice, he graduated from George Washington High School there and attended Northern Virginia Community College.

Fr. Paul was received into the Order of Friars Minor on June 23, 1976 during the summer session at St. Bonaventure University, St. Bonaventure, N.Y., and professed first vows one year later at St. Francis Friary in Brookline, Massachusetts. He continued his formation at Holy Name College in Washington, D.C.; while there, he also began studying at George Mason University. He made his solemn profession before Fr. Alban Maguire, OFM, on June 21, 1980 in New York City and graduated from GMU in 1982.

He attended Pope John XXIII National Seminary in Weston, Massachusetts from 1982 to 1986, graduating with his Master of Divinity degree. He was ordained on May 3, 1986 by Bishop Emerson Moore at the Church of St. Francis of Assisi in New York City.

Following his ordination, Fr. Paul served at the Church of St. Francis of Assisi for one year before he was appointed pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Greenville, South Carolina. He served there for 15 years before becoming pastor of St. Martin de Porres Church in Columbia, South Carolina, where he worked for nine years. During that time, he also served as regional dean for the Diocese of Charleston, vicar for the diocese’s Office of Black Catholics, and member of the Presbyteral Council and Diocesan Priests Personnel Board.

In 2007, Pope Benedict XVI honored Fr. Paul with the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice Cross in recognition of his dedicated service to the Lord, the church and the diocese. The medal is the highest award that a Franciscan can receive from the papacy.

In 2011, he was appointed pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Anderson, South Carolina, where he served for three years before he became pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Wilmington, Delaware. During his seven years there, Fr. Paul also worked as director of the diocese’s Ministry for Black Catholics. He moved to St. Camillus Parish in 2020, where he ministered until his death.

He is survived by his sister, Denise Lucas, and his niece, Tarsha Rice, of Alexandria, Virginia.

Memorial donations may be sent to Franciscan Friars – Holy Name Province, 144 West 32nd Street, New York, NY 10001-3202.