Fr. Bill's Farewell


My dear people of Our Lady of Refuge,


I have finally decided that it is the time for me to retire to a nursing home for elderly priests.  I have not been feeling well for the last few months from an infection of my urinary tract and it’s after effects are still very persistent.


I am comfortable with my decision to be among many of my fellow priests.  What I have not come to terms with, and never will, is how I am going to miss you.


I have been with you for 41 years.  My mind is flooded with great memories.


(1) Soon after I arrived in September 1980, we gathered together to get to know each other with the 9 “Renew” weekends.


(2) The many Masses we celebrated together over the years. The Baptisms, Confirmations, Marriages and alas Funerals, each in their own way, left a deep impression on me.  The Confessions in which we received God’s forgiveness, particularly those who have returned to God after a long absence brought me great happiness.


(3) What stands out over the years are the kind words and actions and generosity you showered on me.  I can never forget the thousands of times you all reached out in service to those in need. I

have always been amazed at your compassion.


I was constantly inspired by the children in our school with their innocence, curiosity, dreams for the future and all their achievements.


What gave me great hope for the future of our church was when members of our parish were ordained priests and deacons.  It was your prayers and example which attracted them to their vocation and made my heart so full of gratitude to God.  I pray dearly that God will call many more from this community to work in His harvest.


It has been a great honor and privilege to serve you as pastor.


My thanks go to all for the joy and sense of fulfillment I have had among you.


I have very fond memories of Monsignor Dominic Daly, R.I.P., who welcomed me with open arms in September 1980.


I wish to thank Fr. Gerard very much for his superb kindness and generosity to me during these last 3 years.


I will never be able to repay my brother, Fr. Jerry, for taking care of me and accompanying me night and day since September 13th.


May God continue to enfold our wonderful parish in His loving arms as we all journey to our perfect parish in Heaven.



Fr. Bill



My dear parishioners,

It is with a heavy heart I share this farewell message of our beloved Fr. Bill. On arriving back from my vacation home to Ireland in early October, Fr. Bill informed me of his decision to move to a rest home for retired priests. 

I never expected this news on my return, and I was duly shocked. He also informed me that he did not want to announce his departure till he left the parish. I totally understood his decision, leaving this parish after 40 years, living in the rectory is a long time and Fr. Bill decided he wanted to leave quietly, without a farewell celebration, just humbly, just like Fr. Bill as we all know him. 

He told me all he wants from you, the parishioners, is to pray for him.

Making this decision was not easy for him but he did it with a positive spirit for a new beginning in his life.

So today all his furniture and belongings were moved to his new residence in West LA. 

I bet all of you have many beautiful memories of Fr. Bill in your life, from Masses you attended, Baptisms, First Eucharist, Confirmation, Anointings, Funerals, Marriages, Confessions, maybe parish and school events and his wise words of comfort and encouragement. 

Fr. Bill was a great Priest, a loving Priest, a caring and compassionate Priest, a happy Priest, an approachable Priest, a prayerful Priest, a wise Priest, a welcoming Priest, a friend. 

I give thanks for his beautiful presence in my life. I recall when Fr. Bill was informed, I was appointed Administrator here at the parish, he reached out to me in a phone call. That call touched my heart, a call of hospitality and a call of brotherhood as a Priest. 

Fr. Bill befriended me even before I set foot in Our Lady of Refuge and over the last three years, we have been such close friends, Fr. Bill always encouraging and supporting me here in our faith filled parish. 

I have learned a lot from Fr. Bill, his devotion to his daily prayers, his outreach to the parishioners, his love of his family, his happiness and laughter, his love of Our Lady and her Son, Jesus Christ. 

This is a major change for Fr. Bill and it’s also a major change for all of us here in the parish but we all live in hope and Fr. Bill left this parish last Wednesday hopeful of this new venture in his life. 

I assured Fr. Bill that he is always welcome home to OLR, for a few days or a vacation. Let us all pray for our dear Fr. Bill.

May the Lord Bless him with peace and happiness, May the Lord gift him
strength and healing, May the Lord guide and protect him. Amen. 

Fr. Bill will be residing at:

Nazareth House

3333 Manning Ave 

Los Angeles, CA 90064 

I would encourage you to mail Fr. Bill letters of thanks and memories of his beautiful presence here in the Parish. 

It’s best not to visit him for the moment since he needs time to settle down. 


Fr. Gerard



We lovingly know him as Fr. Bill, as he does not care to use his title as Monsignor William J. O’Keeffe, Pastor Emeritus.  As an OLR parishioner since birth, I’ve known all the pastors of our community, from Fr. Vandenberg to Fr. Daly, Fr. Bill, Fr. Ray and now Fr. Gerard.  Can I say Fr. Bill has been my preferred presider without hurting any feelings?   If my math is correct, Fr. Bill has the longest tenure at OLR.  Perhaps it can be attributed to his days playing racket ball?

My first recollection as I made these notes was of Fr. Bill from with my son’s kindergarten class and how he spoke to the children about Jesus, Mary and Joseph.  Back in the eighties, Fr. Bill had lots of curly brown hair and always had a smile to share with the children.  To this day, my son can do a near perfect impression of Fr. Bill praying to the angels.  Ahh, the benefits of a Catholic education!!! 

Working with Fr. Bill during my Bingo Committee years, I was impressed with the dedication he made to the school, his serious attention to this successful fundraiser, and the appreciation he showed for those who volunteered so much effort to the school and parish.  I recall how Irma, Dianne and Mary tried for many months to convince him that they should change the bingo game over to sheet packets and ditch the old cardboard squares and cork markers.  After long consideration, he finally gave them the green light to make the investment.  After that first evening saw a substantial jump in attendance and profit for the school, he asked why they had waited to so long to make the change!!  

Do not call him a party boy, but we have had lots of fun over the years. Father Bill is very sociable and likes to have a good time!  The variety of parish/school dinner dances held each year were always cheerful events and some great pictures captured the glee!  Whether it was the annual Bingo workers steak dinner, the Halloween costume parties, Octoberfest with brats, beers and pickled eggs, the St. Patrick’s Day dinner, or Cinco de Mayo, he joined in the fun. Of course, some of us have had encounters that were not so gleeful; but overall, this parish was blessed with the arrival of Fr. O’Keeffe in the late seventies and his continued dedication in service to the Lord and to our parish family.    For the 60th Anniversary of his priesthood, I gave him a memory book of events and faces of OLR.  You are welcome to view the result.  

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However, my favorite times with Fr. Bill are more personal. He was so loving with my father when he was suffering through chemotherapy, and he led my dad through preparation for baptism; eventually bringing him the Eucharist and blessing him as he lay in a hospital bed so weak.  Years later, Fr. Bill was so gracious while giving the eulogy at my mother’s funeral mass.  Then later that same day, Fr. Bill and my brother Bill shared lunch at the reception in OLR’s auditorium.  Can’t imagine what consumed them in conversation for so long, but my brother apparently handled investments for some bishops in Santa Clara County.

I always know if Fr. Bill is feeling well, as our conversations usually turn humorous with both of us laughing.  I still laugh about one Sunday morning when he told me I was getting a 100% pay raise for the music that day.  It was a safe offer for him, because 100% of $0 is still $0!!  The small tasks for which he asked my help, have resulted in such gratitude and praise than I am somewhat embarrassed.  Driving him to special visits or to a dinner with old friends has been my pleasure.  Being his “personal assistant” who prepares typed speeches, prayer cards or personal letters has been very humbling. His words are so deep and caring, bringing the light of Christ to those who may feel they are in darkness.  I feel blessed each time I see his name pop up on my phone display. He’s never asked too much, and I pray that someone continues to help him in his new residence.  Again, his new address is:

Nazareth House

3333 Manning Ave 

Los Angeles, CA 90064 

If you miss Father Bill’s presence among us, as I will, pray the rosary with him at any time.  Here is the link to the video of Fr. Bill from April 2020, with his introductory comments and instruction:  

Praying the Rosary | Our Lady of Refuge Catholic Church


Fr. Bill has been a part of our parish family for over 40 years.  So, it will be difficult to say farewell for many of us now that he has moved away; but when an Irishman decides, who’s to argue?  Besides us both being Irish, we have a few other matters in common:  I really liked the “Irish Mist” in his cupboard and we both retired in 2008!  Our lives have been so much easier and less stressful since then.



Marilyn James