Obituary: Msgr. William Granville, former Newton pastor at 89

One of the more legendary priests of the archdiocese, Msgr. William A. Granville died after a lingering illness at Massachusetts General Hospital on Dec. 29, 2007.

William A. Granville was born in Boston on May 8, 1918 and was a son of St. Ann Parish, in the city’s Neponset section. He was one of seven children, two sons and five daughters, of the late Michael and Alice (King) Granville. He attended the local schools, graduated from Boston Latin School and attended Boston College as a member of the class of 1940. He entered St. John’s Seminary and Auxiliary Bishop Richard Cushing ordained him to the priesthood on Oct. 28, 1943.

Msgr. Granville was a member of the “second class of ‘43” dubbed as such since the seminary program had been accelerated during the Second World War in hopes that more priests would be available as chaplains for American service personnel in both theaters of operation.

Following ordination he was assigned as an assistant at St. Margaret Parish, Lowell. After only a year there he was assigned to the faculty of the seminary teaching Latin and Greek at St. Clement Hall, Brighton. Between 1948 and 1950 he was both a student of classics at the University of Toronto and assisted at Our Lady, Star of the Sea Parish, Marblehead and subsequently at St. Agnes Parish, Arlington.

On his return from studies in Canada in 1950 he was assigned to the faculty of Cardinal O’Connell Seminary in Jamaica Plain, as professor of classical languages. On July 17, 1963 he was named rector of Cardinal O’Connell Seminary and on Nov. 5, 1964, Pope Paul VI named him a Domestic Prelate with the title of Rev. Msgr. In the reorganization of the seminaries in the late ‘60s Msgr. Granville was named vice-president of the seminary college and vice-rector of the seminary.

At the seminary Msgr. Granville was known as a tough but fair teacher and administrator. One of his former students related that “I was talking about Bill the other day to a former seminary faculty member. I told him that I had felt intimidated by him. He replied ‘So did I.’” Yet, at the same time there was an appreciation that he didn’t make any more demands of you than he did of himself and that he wanted you to be the best you could be.

On Sept. 9, 1969 Msgr. Granville was named pastor at Sacred Heart Parish, Newton where he served until July 1983. In a surprise move he became an associate at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Bridgewater following his retirement from Newton. His return to parish ministry revealed a “new side” -- probably better a hidden side -- the kinder gentler, Bill Granville.

In May 1992 he was named a senior priest, but continued to assist in parishes. He retired to Carmel Terrace, Framingham in 1996 and to Regina Cleri Residence in 1997.

Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley celebrated the funeral Mass at St. Joseph Church in Boston. Among the concelebrants were Central Regional Bishop Robert Hennessey; retired Auxiliary Bishop John Boles; archdiocesan vicar general, Father Richard Erikson; and Father Robert Connors, a longtime friend who also served as the homilist.

Msgr. Granville is survived by his sister Gertrude Denehy of West Roxbury and his nieces and nephews. He was buried in New Calvary Cemetery, Mattapan.