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12 The Catholic News & Herald

Msgr. William N. Pharr, 1931-2008

Priest remembered for humble, prayerful life of service by


CHARLOTTE — To many, he was considered an inspiration, a confidant, a man of deep faith and a good friend. By many, he will be dearly missed. Msgr. William Neal Pharr, a retired priest of the Diocese of Charlotte, died at Sharon Towers retirement community in Charlotte April 5, 2008. He was 77. A Mass of Christian burial was celebrated by Bishop Peter J. Jugis at St. Vincent de Paul Church in Charlotte April 10. Msgr. Pharr was born in Charlotte Feb. 24, 1931, the son of the late William Neal Pharr and Anne McLaughlin Heath Pharr. Born into a Protestant family, Msgr. Pharr first became interested in Catholicism while a student at Belmont Abbey Prep School in the late 1940s. His interest deepened and he became a Catholic in 1952 while a student at Davidson College. After graduation in 1953, he began studies for the priesthood at Christ the King Seminary in St. Bonaventure, N.Y. Then-Bishop

April 11, 2008

in memorium

Msgr. William Neal Pharr Vincent S. Waters of Raleigh ordained him a priest at Our Lady of the Assumption Church in Charlotte May 26, 1960. Then-Father Pharr spent his first year as a priest with the Missionary Fathers Apostolate as an assistant at St. John Baptiste de la Salle Church in North Wilkesboro. It was the beginning of a life of humble, priestly service that would affect and inspire countless people at parishes across the Diocese of Raleigh and then, after its establishment in 1972, the Diocese of Charlotte. “St. Paul said a good man of faith is strong, loving and wise. Bill Pharr was

true to that and more,” said Father Frank O’Rourke, pastor of St. Gabriel Church in Charlotte. “He’s been a wonderful companion to so many throughout our diocese on their journeys in lives of faith. I’ve always felt privileged to be counted among his close friends.” During his homily April 6, Father O’Rourke recalled his years of friendship with Msgr. Pharr. Like many who knew him, Father O’Rourke said Msgr. Pharr’s life wasn’t about “fluff.” Msgr. Pharr’s lifestyle at Sharon Towers after his retirement in July 2001 reflected his long-standing approach to life and ministry. His apartment was modestly furnished. He happily remarked how he and all his neighbors were on a first-name basis — no titles, no pretenses; all were equals. “His personal and priestly life was modeled on one of his favorite lines: ‘No fluff, just the stuff,’” said Msgr. John McSweeney, pastor of St. Matthew Church in Charlotte and a friend for more than 30 years. “He had a deep sense of spirituality,” said Msgr. McSweeney. “I considered him a friend, a spiritual mentor and a true confidant.” Msgr. Pharr once said a priest’s relationship with Christ was top priority, and a trust in God was a vital part of priestly ministry. During a 1993 gathering of diocesan priests in Hickory, Msgr. Pharr encouraged his fellow priests to “let God be God” — to let him use them as he wished and not as they desired. “If we do our best, he will take care of the rest. Our finite minds bow to his infinite wisdom,” he said. “He (Msgr. Pharr) was a great model of a servant who put his gifts generously at the service of all,” said Father O’Rourke. Then-Father Pharr served as an assistant pastor at St. Leo the Great Church in Winston-Salem from June 1961 until July 1962, when he became temporary administrator of St. Charles Church in Ahoskie. From November 1963 until June 1965, he served as assistant pastor at St. Eugene Church in Asheville. He then became pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Monroe and Sacred Heart Mission in Wadesboro. He became pastor of St. Benedict the Moor Church and Our Lady of Fatima Chapel in Winston-Salem in June 1969 and pastor of St. James the Greater Church in Concord in August 1971. Four days after the Diocese of Charlotte was established in 1972,

then-Bishop Michael J. Begley named him pastor of Immaculate Conception Church in Hendersonville, where he was to remain for five years. During that time, he served also as chaplain and director of Our Lady of the Hills Camp near Hendersonville, vicar for religious of the diocese and director of the diocesan planning council. The late Pope Paul VI appointed him a Prelate of Honor with the title of monsignor in October 1976. Msgr. Pharr was appointed pastor of St. Pius X Church in Greensboro in February 1977 and, in July 1979, pastor of Our Lady of Grace Church in Greensboro and vicar forane of the Greensboro Vicariate. Bishop Begley named him to the diocesan Seminarian Formation Committee in November 1979. Bishop John F. Donoghue, who succeeded Bishop Begley in 1984, reappointed him to the committee in March 1985. Msgr. Pharr became pastor of Our Lady of Consolation Church in Charlotte in July 1986 and pastor of St. Vincent de Paul Church in Charlotte in July 1991. After his retirement in 2001, Msgr. Pharr continued to assist in various parishes and ministries in the Diocese of Charlotte. When asked in 2003 what he looked forward to in retirement, he replied: “Traveling, listening, learning and assisting.” And in September 2004, he took on yet a new role — that of model for a poster and brochure promoting the Diocese of Charlotte’s annual Priests’ Retirement and Benefits Collection. Despite the summer heat of the outdoor photo shoot, Msgr. Pharr never lost his sense of humor and later mused about his new “modeling career.” In addition to his life of service, Msgr. Pharr wanted to continue giving to the church he loved, as he put it, long after he was “gone.” He designated the Foundation for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Charlotte as a recipient of his assets. “This is a means of saying thanks to the Lord for his gifts of the Catholic faith and my vocation to the priesthood,” said Msgr. Pharr in a 2006 interview with The Catholic News & Herald. “Through ongoing stewardship, my prayer is that many others will experience these same blessings,” he said. Memorials may be made to the St. Vincent de Paul Church Building Fund, 6828 Old Reid Rd., Charlotte, NC 28210.

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April 11, 2008  

Catholic News Herald - Serving Christ and Connecting Catholics in Western North Carolina. The official newspaper of the Diocese of Charlotte...

April 11, 2008  

Catholic News Herald - Serving Christ and Connecting Catholics in Western North Carolina. The official newspaper of the Diocese of Charlotte...