Monsignor William Irwin, or as he was affectionately known as - Father Bill - was born in 1928 and died in 2004. He was founder and Chief Executive Officer of Catholic Social Services in Edmonton, which he established in 1961 with a staff of one and a budget of $5,000.00. His goal was to create a relief organization to help meet the needs of those who could not easily help themselves. But the needs were great and the hands were plenty. Father Bill built Catholic Social Services into Canada's largest multi-function social service agency and one of the largest in North America.
Originally from Peterborough, Ont., Irwin moved to Edmonton as a child. He attended Grandin School and then St. Joseph's High School. He had a rich prayer life - a credit to his loving mother. "My mother would take my brother and sister and myself around her knees and she would require us each day to say the rosary," he said in 1997. "It was a good training for us and certainly the beginnings of prayer life for me."
Once ordained, Father Bill served as Pastor to two Catholic communities in Mill Woods and served as Chairman or member of numerous national and international human services' Boards of Directors, including his appointment by the Government of Canada to the National Parole Board, where he served for 12 years.
Well-known and well liked, Irwin has received more awards than most people can remember. Among them, he received Canada's highest civilian honour, the Order of Canada in 1989. Two years later Pope John Paul appointed him an honorary prelate with the title of monsignor. In 1998, he was named an officer of the Order of Canada. In May 2004, the city chose him as one of the 100 most important Edmontonians of the last century.
Father Bill directly or indirectly touched the lives of every Catholic in the Edmonton area, in our province and in the larger Catholic community, both nationally and internationally. He was larger than life in his endeavors to minister in healing and faith to those in need, wherever they were. Father Irwin left a legacy of love, selfless service and an inspirational presence that will continue to live on in the hearts of those who seek to serve and give signs of hope to others.
"Msgr. Irwin dedicated his whole life to helping those most in need." - Archbishop Thomas Collins.