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Looking Back on the Impact of “The Search”

December 29, 2016

Some 60 years after the Clerics of St. Viator produced The Search, its director is

Fr. Francis T. Williams goes over the script of "The Search" with its narrator, actor Pat O'Brien in 1956

Fr. Francis T. Williams goes over the script of “The Search” with its narrator, actor Pat O’Brien in 1956

remembered as an innovative vocations director, whose love of the fine arts still impacts Viatorians — and the people they serve, to this day.

Fr. Francis T. Williams, CSV, led the office of vocations from 1955-59. The movie came out in 1956 and featured acclaimed Hollywood actor, Pat O’Brien, as its narrator.

It was shown in schools and parishes where Viatorians served, says Br. Don Houde, who was a young, religious brother at the time, and it led to one of the most prolific periods of vocations in the Viatorian Community.

Fr. Francis T. Williams promotes "The Search" at a vocations fair in 1956

Fr. Francis T. Williams promotes “The Search” at a vocations fair in 1956

Fr. Williams brought an interesting background to the Viatorians. Before taking his first vows in 1933, he spent three years in radio production with both CBS and NBC.

He was ordained to the priesthood in 1939 and he would go onto spend much of his ministry as a teacher and educator.

His first assignment as a priest came at St. Ambrose College in Davenport, IA, where he taught philosophy and sociology. He also taught radio broadcasting and helped the college start its first radio station.

Fr. Williams, at left in back, directs the "Habit" scene in the chapel in the Viatorian Province Center

Fr. Williams, at left in back, directs the “Habit” scene in the chapel in the Viatorian Province Center

At the former St. Patrick Central High School, now Bishop McNamara High School in Kankakee, he served as principal from 1961-1966, while an addition was built that put an increased emphasis on the fine arts.

At nearly the same time, his brother, Fr. Charles Williams, CSV, served as treasurer of the Viatorian Community during the years it built Saint Viator High School. At the time of the school’s opening, a brochure was published featuring the school’s main pillars, including the fine arts, which contributed to educating a well-rounded student.