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Reverend William Lawler

Reverend William J Lawler, 73, retired pastor of St. Mary Refuge of Sinners and St. Mary Star of the Sea churches in Dorchester County, Maryland, died in Ocean Pines at the Macky and Pam Stansel House on April 30, 2020.

Father Lawler was born December 20, 1946 in Wilmington, DE to James R. and Marguerite (Hahn) Lawler. He attended Christ Our King Parish School in Wilmington, St. Charles College preparatory seminary, Catonsville, MD and St. Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore. Vastly overeducated, he was ordained a priest for the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington by Bishop Thomas J. Mardaga, D. D. on May 13, 1972.

He served as associate pastor in parishes in Claymont and Wilmington, DE and Elkton, MD. In June, 1983, he was named pastor of Immaculate Conception Church in Elkton. During his term there, he opened the church as an emergency homeless shelter during the winter months. He was appointed diocesan director of the Office for Parish Renewal in June 1990 and coordinated the RENEW Program for all the parishes of the diocese (1991-94). He returned to parish ministry on the Eastern Shore in 1996 when he was named pastor of Mother of Sorrows (Centreville) and St. Peter (Queenstown) churches in Queen Anne’s County.

He transferred, at his own request, to Dorchester County, MD and was named pastor of St. Mary Refuge of Sinners (Cambridge) and St, Mary Star of the Sea (Golden Hill) churches in June 2004. During his time in Dorchester County, he worked with other Christian clergy in the Dorchester Ministerial Association, learned Spanish in order to welcome and serve Latino immigrants, became associated with the friends of Bill W., and, in addition, was adopted by his beloved cat, “Señor Gato.” During his tenure also, the parish paid off its indebtedness (minus the rectory destroyed by fire in 2015) and started the St. Mary Refuge of Sinners Cemetery where Father Lawler will be laid to rest following the funeral.

Father Lawler retired to Ocean City in 2017 and assisted local parishes when he was not traveling to France (to use up all the French he learned) or Ireland (where he met 45 cousins he never knew he had) or other places. In 2019, he was diagnosed with ALS and moved into assisted living care in Salisbury. He chronicled the progress of his illness on Facebook for as long as he was able.

He was predeceased by his parents and one brother, James R. Jr. He is survived by a brother, Howard J. (Mary) of Omaha, NE and a sister, Mary Anne Dorsey, of Dunnellon, FL and nieces and nephews.

A private interment will be held in St. Mary, Refuge of Sinners Catholic Church Cemetery, Cambridge, Maryland, with Father Ed Aigner officiating.

A Funeral Mass will be scheduled at a later date.

In lieu of flowers, contributions in Father Lawler’s name can be made to St. Mary, Refuge of Sinners Catholic Church, 2000 Hambrooks Blvd., Cambridge, MD 21613.

Arrangements entrusted to Newcomb and Collins Funeral Home, P.A., Cambridge, MD

To share online condolences with the family, please visit www.newcombcollins.com


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My best memory of Father Bill was many years ago in the 1950's when his parents, his brothers, Jim and Howse and his sister, Mary Anne would visit us in Rehoboth Beach. they would buy cinnamon buns and pastries from The Bake Shop. They would visit us at our cottage and share many stories with my parents, aunts and uncle and my sister, Margaret. We concluded that the Lawler family and the Lawless family were distant relatives.Please accept my thoughts and prayers for Father Bill and the Lawler family.Mary Lawless Denney

Mary Lawless Denney May 18 2020 12:00 AM

Father Lawler will be dearly missed! He was a special priest and person who really touched our lives! He married my husband and I back on March 29, 2003. During the wedding, he helped a very nervous Mother of the Bride--my Mom--when she dropped a litcandle up at the alter and saved her from burning the church down! He was a lovely person and someone you could trust.My husband and I always enjoyed his sermons which were well though out, powerful and appropriate for whatever was going on inthe world--and, he always infused it with his own special dose of humor! My husband is Methodist and actually considered convertingover to the Catholic Religion--mainly due toFather Lawler. We wish his family our sincere condolences. Rest in peace, Father Lawler!

Joann and Kevin Jacobs May 8 2020 12:00 AM

Oh I am so sorry to hear this. I remember Father from my moms parish in Centreville, and from Cambridge. Such a nice man.

Nancy Koval May 7 2020 12:00 AM

We're very saddened to learn of Father Lawler"s passing. He was our Priest at Holy Rosary, Claymont, DE., and married us on May 1, 1976, may he rest in peace. God Bless. C. & N. Kennedy

nknkkennedy@gmail.com May 6 2020 12:00 AM

I was deeply saddened to learn that Billy had passed away. We were neighbors and classmates at C.O.K. and played for many hours in "The Yard". He was a great man and priest. Another "Kinger" gone home to the Lord. May he rest in peace.

Michael D Nardozzi, Sr. May 6 2020 12:00 AM

May you Rest In Peace Bill Our Dear Friend

Jim Newcomb & Betty Sanger May 6 2020 12:00 AM

Father Lawler was a wonderful priest. Treasure the time he was able to spend with us at St. Mary, Star of the Sea. Rest In Peace Father.

Kathleen Higgins May 6 2020 12:00 AM

May you Rest In Peace.

Kaye Heath May 6 2020 12:00 AM

A candle was lit in memory of Reverend Lawler

Kimberly Tribbitt's May 6 2020 12:00 AM

William Lawler, I enjoyed talking to you , your sense of humor when you were here at Our Mother of Sorrows in Centreville Md . You were a very kind boss and friend . Hugs to you until we meet again . Kimberly Tribbitt

Kimberly Tribbitt's May 6 2020 12:00 AM

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