Obituary: Van Ommeren, Msgr. William
VAN OMMEREN, Msgr. William Msgr. William Van Ommeren, a priest of the Catholic Diocese of Spokane, died February 28 after a long illness. He was 86 years old. The vigil will be held Tuesday, March 5, at 7 p.m. in the chapel of Immaculate Heart Retreat Center, Spokane. Bishop Blase Cupich will celebrate the funeral Mass at noon on Wednesday, March 6, at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes. Interment will follow at Holy Cross Cemetery. Msgr. Van Ommeren was born in Tilburg, Holland, where he began his seminary studies. Priestly formation was completed at St. Edward Seminary in Kenmore, Wash., near Seattle. He was ordained to the priesthood April 30, 1952. He served as an assistant pastor at St. Augustine and St. Ann Parishes in Spokane, and Holy Family Parish, Clarkston, before being appointed Spiritual Director and Diocesan Supervisor of Marycliff High School, Spokane, in 1956. Four years later he was named Chancellor of the Spokane Diocese and Superior at Bishop White Seminary in Spokane. In 1963 he became rector of both Bishop White and Mater Cleri High School Seminary in Colbert. Besides diocesan administration, he was pastor of several parishes as well, including St. Joseph in Trentwood; Our Lady of Fatima, Spokane; St. Anne, Medical Lake; St. Rose of Lima, Cheney; St. Joseph, Rockford; ministry as a member of the pastoral team of St. Joseph in Spokane; and served as rector of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes, Spokane. He also continued to play key roles in diocesan administration: in 1972 he was appointed Vicar General for Administrative Affairs for the diocese, Director of Priest Personnel, and Officialis of the diocese’s Marriage Tribunal. He was awarded a doctorate in canon law in 1960, and was elevated to monsignor in 1967. He spent part of his summers during his years at St. Edward Seminary doing welfare work for the St. Vincent de Paul Society. His last years of priesthood were spent in spiritual direction and prayer at Immaculate Heart Retreat Center in Spokane. In a 2005 interview, Msgr. Van Ommeren recalled that as a boy, “I had wanted to be a missionary, but I wound up here as a pseudo-missionary, I guess. They needed priests here, and I came as a student because I wanted to see the world….” His life as a priest, he said, has “always been the same: It’s people.” In his semi-retired life at the retreat center, “I think here I have more of a chance to get to know people, deeper and more closely than you can do in a big parish. I like the smaller parishes better because I got to know people better and they got to know me better, not just from a distance. The goodness of people, and the struggles that people have, to struggle with them a little and to just be with them…. Good things happen.” “I believe,” he said, “the world is a better world today than it ever was before, I really do.” Msgr. Van Ommeren is survived by his sister, Elly Pepper (Douglas Fowles), England; brothers Henk (Elly), Ruud (Marcia), and Paul (Thea), all of The Netherlands; and numerous nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents, Herman and Henrica, and brothers John and Herman. Memorial gifts in his honor may be made to Immaculate Heart Retreat Center, 6910 S. Ben Burr Rd., Spokane, WA 99223.