Rev. William J. Bergin, CSV, former president of St. Viator College in Bourbonnais, died July 15, 1959, in St. John’s Hospital in Springfield, IL after a long illness. He was 89.
Fr. Bergin was born July 13, 1870 in Shinrone, Kings County, Ireland. While still a young boy, his parents immigrated to the United States and settled in Indiana, where Fr. Bergin received his early education in the rural schools of Indiana.
He entered the Viatorian novitiate in Chicago in 1894 and pronounced his first vows on July 4, 1896. He was ordained to the priesthood on June 21, 1902 by Bishop Peter J. Muldoon at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago.
Fr. Bergin served as a professor of philosophy at St. Viator College in Bourbonnais until 1917, where Bishop Fulton Sheen (Class of 1917) of New York was one of his students. Bishop Sheen later described Fr. Bergin — who taught him philosophy and debating — as one of his two greatest teachers during his studies in different five countries.
During World War I, Fr. Bergin was as an Army chaplain, before serving as the fifth president of St. Viator College, from 1919 until 1921. During his tenure, the college grew by leaps and bounds.
He also taught philosophy during 1924-25 at the Newman Foundation at the University of Illinois and became one of its directors in from 1933-35. For the two years in between, 1931 to 1933, he served pastor of St. Patrick Church in Kankakee, IL.
From 1935 until the closing of the college in 1938, Fr. Bergin again taught philosophy. In 1938, he took up residence with Archbishop Bernard J. Sheil, a former student, at St. Andrew’s Church in Chicago, where he helped out at the parish and with the development of the Sheil School of Social Science.
His requiem Mass was celebrated July 18 at St. Viator Church in Chicago, where in 1928 Fr. Bergin had preached at the laying of its cornerstone.
On the altar, were several of Fr. Bergin’s cherished students, including the Rev. Gerald T. Bergan, DD, Archbishop of Omaha, who was the main celebrant, as well as the Rev. Fulton J. Sheen, DD, auxiliary bishop of New York. Attending the Mass in the sanctuary was the Rev. Martin D. McNamara, DD, bishop of Joliet, IL
Fr. Bergin was laid to rest in the Viatorian Community plot at Queen of Heaven Cemetery in Hillside, IL. The Archbishop of Omaha offered final prayers at the gravesite.
Taken from an obituary in the 1959 Annuaire, a publication of the Viatorian General Direction