View from the Pew
Church dedicates hall to priest who made it possible
They're having a party tomorrow at St. George Church in Waimanalo to celebrate the "new" parish hall.
The hall actually was opened in 2001 and has been the scene of many social gatherings as well as religious education classes and programs.
What's new is the name. The hall will be dedicated as the Father Bill Gathering Place in a ceremony after the 9 a.m. Mass, with barbecue and potluck feast to follow.
The name and the party are a tribute to Monsignor William Mattimore, 81, pastor of the Catholic church for nearly 10 years, whom parishioners credit as the "driving force" in getting the badly needed hall built. The downside for partygoers is that Father Bill won't be there. Forced to retire in December because of health issues, he's living with family in Worcester, Mass., awaiting heart surgery.
The upside for everyone is that they are expressing their admiration, gratitude and fondness for him while it's a living tribute. And thanks to telephone and e-mail links, he is hearing about it even though he's 5,000 miles away. A lot of groups and families could learn from the warm-hearted Waimanalo folks: Don't save the kind words for a eulogy.
It might not seem remarkable to put a name on a church building. There's quite a lot of it around, especially in old Protestant churches, which memorialized historical missionaries or their well-heeled descendants as benefactors. But Catholics are more likely to perpetuate the names of saints, some obscure and some, like St. George, famous. Of course, traditions have been waived in recent years where Hawaii churches of various sorts are memorializing a Jewish multimillionaire as a condition of his posthumous largesse. How many Harry Weinberg buildings are there, I wonder.
But back to Father Bill. After 35 years as an Air Force chaplain and stations in Germany, Spain, Korea, Thailand and the mainland, Mattimore was recruited for service in Hawaii by the late Catholic Bishop Joseph Ferrario, his seminary classmate. He served 20 years in Hawaii.
"He is what you'd call a man of the people. He was really into the parishioners, and they were into him," said parishioner Kevin Williams. "He was a mainland haole, but he fit into the local style and people rallied around him."
Parishioners raised $400,000 for the 4,500-square-foot building with major help from the priest's network of military connections and friends, and were debt-free by the time it was completed, said Williams, a retired construction executive who coordinated the project.
"We knew we needed a building for years, but it didn't get going until Father Bill came along," said Eva Marie DeMotta, parish secretary. With 1,500 members, St. George's is one of the largest Catholic parishes in one of the island's least affluent areas. "It was with the help of his friends; his friends were very generous," she said.
"Father Bill was well loved by the parish," said DeMotta. She said he balked at the idea of having his name on the building, so the parish council notified him after the vote was taken and it was a done deal.
In a telephone interview, Mattimore said: "We needed to raise that building for the kids. Religious education classes were meeting in old storage rooms, even using the dining room in the priest's home. I said if the kids are going to understand who the Lord is, we have to have a decent place for them.
"I don't want you to give me credit," the priest said. "It was all the parishioners, a lot of work by a lot of people. We'd tell Kevin what we wanted, and he knew what to do. We all enjoyed working together."
The Rev. David Travers said, "The people come first for him. That's the relationship that he had with them. He's a very dedicated priest. Being a priest is the first thing in his life, and he does a good job wherever he is." Travers, pastor of Sts. Peter and Paul Church in Honolulu and a close friend, said, "I'm sure he will be embarrassed" at the public accolade.
It doesn't seem likely that the St. George congregation will feel guilty about that at all.