Priest Devoted to Helping Others; Despite Decades of Health Problems, He Never Complained

By Larry Finley
Chicago Sun Times
April 9, 2009

Rev. William J. Dugal III


William J. Dugal was determined that nothing would stop him from becoming a priest, not even an illness that he endured for most of his adult life.

"He was extraordinary despite the handicap and illnesses," said Candace Kane, a friend since college days. "Once you got to know him, you didn't notice anymore."

As a young man he was diagnosed with Friedreich's ataxia, a disease that causes progressive damage to the nervous system as the person ages.

Rev. Dugal died April 4 at St. Joseph Hospital in Joliet. He was 59.

"He never complained despite all he had been through in his life," said his sister Kathleen Dugal. "He was happiest when he was teaching young people about his faith."

His health was such that he had to receive special permission from the Vatican in order for him to be ordained on April 12, 1976, at St. Francis Woods in Mokena.

"He had a faith that few people experience in life," Kane said. "He wanted to be a priest, and there was nothing that would stop him."

Rev. Dugal was born in Springfield Jan. 1, 1950.

His family moved to the suburbs, where he attended St. Bernadette Elementary School in Evergreen Park and St. Edmund School in Oak Park.

He went to Oak Park High School, St. Joseph College in Renesslear, Ind., and DeAndreis Seminary in Lemont.

He and Kane met while education students at Illinois Benedictine College in the early 1970s.

"Even at ordination he needed some help," she said. "Eventually he went to a wheelchair but it did not stop him from enjoying life. He was my best friend. I hope I was his."

He baptized her two children and gave them their first communion, she said. Later, he performed the marriage ceremony for her daughter and "ministered to both of my parents when they were sick and dying. He was a part of our family whenever he was able."

His first assignment after ordination was as assistant pastor at St. Joseph Parish in Lockport, where he remained until 1984. He then served as chaplain at Driscoll Catholic High School in Addison. There, "Father Bill" taught religion and counseled students.

In 1996, because of his health he moved to Provena St. Joseph Medical Center in Joliet.

"He didn't complain about his health," his sister said. "He was concerned about his ministry to the other patients there."

He retired at Provena Franciscan in Joliet in 2000.

"He was good with the elderly people," said Kane. "But if he had a choice, he would have loved to be with the young people."

Survivors include his father, William J. II; three brothers, Jack, James, and Robert; two other sisters, Mary Ellen Dwyer and Patricia Klein; and 10 nieces and nephews.

Services have been held.


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