|Father William Bevington is “Ready to go, willing to stay”|
|Tuesday, May 22, 2012|
Father William Bevington’s view of life hasn’t changed much in his 87 years; “I’m glad to be alive but I’m willing to go whenever He says ‘Come.’ Fr. Bevington has lived his life with that mindset and he views what his doctor says is his final days the same way.
“I know when He says ‘Come’ He is going to be good to me,” he said during a recent visit. “I don’t deserve it but I know He’s a loving God. I’ve tried. Maybe sometimes I didn’t give it 100 percent, nobody does, but I’m willing to accept that. It’s sort of hard to accept yourself sometime, where you are, but I do now.”
Fr. Bevington served more than 60 years as a Priest with the Catholic Church, his last 19 years spent overseeing Our Lady of the Lake in Hendersonville where he was deeply entwined in the lives of local parishioners. Many of them have joined other members of the community in getting updates on Fr. Bevington and sharing their thoughts, prayers and good wishes through the Internet at www.caringbridge.org/visit/fatherbevington.
Reading the kind words of others is helping Fr. Bevington in this time. “Becoming a priest was the most important thing in my life,” he said. “I seem to have done all right in it and from what people say it has meant something to other people too.”
Born in Nashville in 1925, he attended the Cathedral School which was connected to his home Parish, Cathedral Parish, then Overbrook School, and graduated from Father Ryan in 1942.
After that he attended Notre Dame where he joined the Navy in a program that allowed him to continue with his Engineering studies. From there he went to Midshipmen School for three years as an Apprentice Seaman before moving up to Seaman and then Ensign. He was assigned to serve at a naval station in Corpus Christi, Texas until the end of World War II. For a short time after that, he worked for McDonald Aircraft in St. Louis. Then it was decision time.
“I had been thinking about the priesthood since the ninth grade and a good friend finally asked me ‘when are you going to make a decision?’ I figured I had thought about it long enough and I decided to attend the seminary,” he recalled.
He attended seminary at St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa followed by a four year stint at the American College in Rome to study theology. Along the way, he also earned a Master’s Degree in Education from Peabody College in Nashville.
He was ordained on December 8, 1951, in Rome, which was special to Fr. Bevington because it is Catholic feast day, Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Once he was ordained, he knew it was the right decision. “I never had a doubt of any kind since then,” he said.
He served in many different capacities and locations through the years and was able to follow through on one of his loves – flying.
While at Notre Dame, he met a classmate who was a pilot and he encouraged Fr. Bevington to take lessons. He had about 14 hours flying time in when he returned to Nashville. “I found out the Bishop didn’t like his priests to be flying airplanes so I gave it up.” Later, while in Murfreesboro, he earned his pilot’s license and later joined National Association of Priest Pilots.
“They have meetings every year and I’ve been to almost every one since I joined in 1970,” he said. “They hold them all over the United States. We’ve had priests come from Africa, New Guinea, England, all over the place.”
Fr. Bevington has traveled over much of the world including most of Europe and North Africa but Rome and the Holy Lands stand out as his favorite trips. “I spent some important years in Rome and made some important decisions there and had experiences I never would have had,” he said. “We had students from 72 different countries going to out seminary and they all wanted to learn English. They tried to get me to teach them English and I’d say ‘you teach me Italian and I’ll teach you English.’”
Reflecting on his full life, Fr. Bevington says he is very content and views the coming days with a strong sense of being grateful. He acknowledged the good care of Alive Hospice in helping him manage his pain and the good care he receives from Wanda Dixon, his long-time cook and housekeeper. “She’s sort of a doctor-mom,” he said. “She reminds me of the medicine I’m supposed to take and she keeps track of any changed in my medication and lets the Hospice nurse know about it.
Dixon served as a Dominican Nun for 25 years before leaving the convent to care for her family. She began cooking for Fr. Bevington in 1990 when he was first diagnosed with cancer and had radiation treatments. “When he came home, I said ‘I’ll cook for you’ so I would cook on Saturday and bring it to him so he could eat on it all week,” Dixon said. This continued until 1993. In 2003, Dixon moved into her own living quarters to provide cooking and housekeeping for Fr. Bevington and another priest who lived there at the time. The care-giving relationship continues with Dixon taking on nurse duties.
When asked if there was anything in life he wished he had done, Fr. Bevington said. “At this point of the game, I’m very satisfied and happy with my life. I have friends, which has been evident by the responses to my illness and people writing and sharing with me and praying for me. I’m very grateful to all who continue to pray for me.
On how he wants to be remembered, his answer was “I want to be remembered as someone who worked at what he was doing, although failing from time to time as we all do. I’m very grateful for the opportunity to serve the church and try in some way to represent Christ. I’ve worked in many different places with many different people…and I’ve never been unhappy in any job. My main job is being a priest, everything after that is secondary.
On his acceptance of the facing death, he calmly replied, “It doesn’t bother me at all, I’m ready to do today, tomorrow or six months from now, whatever it takes. I’ve been blessed by the gift of acceptance. I know it’s a serious illness; I’ve had it for 21 years. It went away and now it’s come back. I’ve been going to my doctor for years and it was hard for him to give me the news that he didn’t have to see me anymore. It was a little bit hard for me, too, but I’ve learned to accept it and I’m happy with my situation.”
His comments to family, friends, and parishioners: “I’ve learned that the most important thing in life is love. It’s not original with me; Jesus, St. Paul and others said it. I love everybody that I’ve met in my life. I don’t have any enemies that are deliberate enemies. If I have any, they may be enemies of me but I’m not enemies of them. I will always be grateful for being a priest and to be able to celebrate Mass, to help Jesus be present on the alter in the form of the Eucharist and also over people who share in the whole community.
His favorite prayer – “The Act of Love” - O my God, I love you above all things, with my whole heart and soul, because you are all-good and worthy of all love. I love my neighbor as myself for the love of you. I forgive all who have injured me, and I ask pardon of all whom I have injured. Amen.
Thoughts about Father Bevington
Fr. Bevington is a wonderful man, an exemplary Christian, and a devoted priest who is loved and admired by Catholics and non-Catholics alike. He has served as a priest for over 60 years and has touched countless lives with his kindness, compassion, generosity and deep faith. His service as pastor of Our Lady of the Lake for 19 years is remembered with tremendous gratitude. He has constantly supported charities to assist those who are in need, both near to home, and as far as Haiti. He is an inspiration to me and to so many others who have been blessed by his friendship and support.
Fr. Eric Fowlkes
Our Lady of the Lake
In his over 60 years as a Catholic priest, Father Bevington has touched the lives of thousands of people in the Middle Tennessee. He has tried to teach us, by both word & example, how to live our lives in service, prayer & faith. He is, in every respect, what God intended a priest to be &
Our Lady of the Lake has been blessed to have had him shepherd us on our faith journey for 19 years.
Parish Council Chair, Our Lady of the Lake
"Father Bevington is an inspiration. His life of service to the Church is a wonderful example of faith in action. Father Bevington ministered to the JPII community since the school opened in 2002. He modeled the message of the Gospel."
Director of Advancement and Admissions
Pope John Paul II High School
Fr. Bevington has been my spiritual director for over 20 years. He officiated at my children's sacraments, my daughter's wedding, my son's funeral and even my granddaughters' baptisms. He has lifted me up in my sorrows and shared in my joys. As you can see from the postings on his CaringBridge website, he has inspired many people beyond our community. Fr. Bevington is the ultimate disciple...he is still teaching us God's love by showing us how to get through difficulties with grace, acceptance, and hope. He is a humble, holy man who is loved and admired by all.
I prize greatly the friendship that I’ve had with Father Bevington. I, like many others have been shaped by his life and witness. The humility and graciousness of this amazing man has always been the evidence that he was listening and following close to the God. God’s dream for him was to change lives and impact the world. That dreams unfolds for all of us with unpredictable mystery. But your hands have to be free to receive it. Father Bevington’s hands have always been open and wide to whatever God has placed there. What a significant testimony to one who is truly a disciple of Jesus Christ.
Community Church of Hendersonville
By Randy Cline