NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - Many are mourning the death of Msgr. William Harms, former pastor of the Parish Community of St. Helen in Westfield, from 2000-2011, died Aug. 27, 2020, at Our Lady of Peace Rectory in New Providence, at the age of 80.
Msgr. William Harms was remembered for bringing the Archdiocese of Newark together. Over 30 priests and bishops joined Cardinal Joseph Tobin to share their condolence and pay respect at the funeral service on Monday at Our Lady of Peace Church.
Harms received his Bachelor of Art at Seton Hall University, received his Master of City and Regional Planning from Rutgers University, his Master of Divinity from Immaculate Conception Seminary in Darlington, and his Doctor of Ministry from Drew University in Madison. He was ordained in May 1965 at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Newark, and served as associate pastor of St. Michael's in Elizabeth and associate pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Oakland.
Throughout his career he served in several positions, including: planning associate in the Office of Research and Planning and director of Research and Planning in the Archdiocese of Newark. He was the director of Church Management Programs, associate dean at the School of Theology and vice president of Planning at Seton Hall University. The past 10 years, he served the parish of The Church of Little Flower in Berkeley Heights.
Loved by many, it was said, he was never afraid to speak his mind. Reverend Thomas Dente, a theology professor at Seton Hall University and pastor of Notre Dame Church in North Caldwell, provided the homily. He met Msgr. Harms in the sixth grade at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Oakland, NJ. "I loved that giant of a man. --- Along with his height, he had a giant heart and a sensitive soul," he said. --- Msgr. Harms shared the dream of a better world with Martin Luther King Jr. "He did his best to see that all races and genders as equal. Bringing the diocese together," said Reverend Dente.
Dente shared his story of Harms' love for travel and their last trip to Alaska. He enjoyed nesting and decorated his rooms with colorful artwork that reflected his personality. Msgr. Harms lived life to the fullest and would remind you to enjoy every moment that is yours. "Bill lived each breath to the full," said Dente.
Cardinal Tobin said Msgr. Harms was one of the first priests he met when he came to the Archdiocese of Newark in 2016. He provided the cardinal with the rich history and complexity of the Archdiocese. In their last conversation, he asked Msgr. Harms of his greatest accomplishment as a priest? He replied, "The Synod." [The Synod was a program that] required planning and execution, said Cardinal Tobin. It served like an advisory committee that discussed topics and ways of implementing change in the Archdiocese. His emphasis was increasing the roles of laity, the men and women who are not ordained -- ordinary parishioners. -- "I thought, 'what a great memorial'," said Cardinal Tobin. "An effort to ensure the Archdiocese was walking the same road. -- To have contributed to that -- what a gift -- a lasting lesson."
Monsignor Harms was the son of the late William and Veronica Harms. He was the brother of Bonnie Lynch and her husband, Joseph, brother of Marianne Harms, uncle of Joseph Lynch and his wife, Abby and great-uncle of Conor Lynch.
In lieu of flowers, donations in Monsignor Harms' name may be sent to the Little Flower Building Fund, 290 Plainfield Ave., Berkeley Heights, NJ, 07922.
Click here for full obituary.