Obituary: Rev. William Crowley / Duquesne University professor, minister

May 16, 1921 - July 5, 2013

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The Rev. William Crowley, a popular campus minister and professor at Duquesne University who devoted himself to strengthening the Spiritan order, died last Friday. The Catholic priest was 92.

He served at Duquesne three different times over 54 years.

"He was an excellent teacher and pastoral minister, but above all he loved the Congregation [of the Holy Spirit]," said the Rev. James McCloskey, who was recently vice president for mission and identity at Duquesne. "He held many internal assignments and served with great affection and diligence. The congregation was really the center of his life."

He was born on Long Island, N.Y., and was inspired to join the Congregation of the Holy Spirit by a visiting priest who preached about its overseas missions. He was ordained a priest in 1949.

He was an English professor at Duquesne from 1950 to 1960. He was on campus as a vocations director in the early 1970s and returned as a campus minister from 1976-83. From 1991-94 he was again campus minister while serving as superior of Trinity Hall, the priests' residence. In the interims he held numerous posts. He was information director for the order in Washington, D.C., where his brochures and magazines were so good he was chosen to do the same work for Spiritans worldwide at their general headquarters in Rome in 1975.

While he may have dreamed of the mission fields, he taught English superbly. "He would quote poetry often and beautifully," said Father McCloskey.

He loved art, had an eye for aesthetics and befriended artists who came on campus to create stained glass windows and paint stations of the cross. As a young priest in the 1950s he was put to work laying the decorative marble floor in the priests' residence, using a sketch left by the designer.

"He had a special love for that kind of thing and a real talent," Father McCloskey said.

He met Father Crowley in 1970 as an entering freshman at Duquesne, when Father Crowley was the vocation director. Father McCloskey had already decided to enter the order, but Father Crowley helped to confirm his choice. At the time, Father Crowley lived with other priests in a special section of one of the dormitories. Students loved him, Father McCloskey said.

"He was funny, he was accessible and available to them. He was often called on to officiate at weddings and baptisms and funerals," he said. Some students stayed in touch for decades.

During his final tenure at Duquesne he was chaplain for the Kappa Sigma Phi fraternity. Its members loved him so much that they commissioned a bas relief image of him. In 1995, their alumnae renovated the campus chapel in his honor.

Father Crowley was forced to retire with the onset of dementia in 2004, Father McCloskey said. Even then, the Mass was so deeply ingrained in his memory that he was able to celebrate it for other residents at the Spiritan retirement home in Bethel Park.

"He did his absolute best. He gave 100 percent as long as he possibly could, given his health and his age," Father McCloskey said.

A funeral Mass will be at 10 a.m. today in the Duquesne University Chapel.

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