" My Jesus, I will love only You; You are the only one I wish to please. "
St. Alphonsus Liguori
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Fr William Raemers (1885 - 1966)

Popular estimation has already canonised William Raemers so penetrating was the effect of this extraordinary man.

He was born on April 26th 1885 in Norwood, London and was educated in the Redemptorist Juvenate, then at Bishop Eton, Liverpool. At no time in his life did he enjoy good health: at the early age of 16 he was seriously ill with phlebitis and underwent three operations for this complaint. He made his novitiate at Bishop’s Stortford and was professed in 1906. During the course of his studies for the Priesthood at Kinnoull he was so seriously ill that he was anointed twice. In 1911 it was decided that his left arm would have to be amputated but a Doctor Cosgrove, who was staying in the monastery at the time, persuaded the surgeon to remove only the two middle fingers of the left hand. His mother had been praying earnestly to Pius IX for a cure ad sent a relic of this pope to her son.  A few weeks later it was decided that a further operation would be necessary and the two remaining fingers were removed, leaving only a remnant of the index finger and half the thumb. The more serious problem remained to be settled. Because of this surgery, would it be possible for him to be ordained or must he now abandon all hope of becoming a priest? Two Canons of the diocese were sent by the Bishop to examine the young Redemptorist and discover if it would be possible for him to say Mass with a mutilated left hand. These were anxious weeks for all concerned and it was with great joy that Rome granted him a dispensation from this impediment and allowed his ordination to proceed. He was ordained to the Priesthood on Dec 21st 1911 and so began his extraordinary apostolic career.

He spent almost all his first 18 years as a priest at Bishop Eton. From the beginning he demonstrated his ability to captivate children and by 1920, when he addresses 5000 children in St George’s Hall Liverpool, he was already well established as a master in this field. He pioneered the use of visual aids for religious instruction and accompanies these with a flood of pamphlets written especially for children, especially his ‘King’s Series’

In 1936 he kept the  Silver Jubilee of his ordination at Erdington Abbey. He had kept up his writing and published very many pamphlets for the Catholic Truth Society notably his one on Our Lady of Perpetual Succour. During these years he was in and out of hospital, often confines to bed for months at a time and in 1957 his left hand was amputated completely. Yet somehow or other he managed to get through an arduous programme. Despite his illness and disability, he gave over a thousand missions and retreats. Towards the end on 1965 he was again admitted to hospital but rallied and was able to say his Masses on Christmas Dat. Exactly a month later he said Mass for the last time and collapsed in great pain afterwards. He was taken eventually to Mount Vernon hospital in Middlesex where cancer of the bladder was diagnosed.  On March 28th he was transferred to Calvary Nursing Home staffed by the nuns of the little Company of Mary. Here he was well known for he had often given retreats there in previous years. It was here amidst the murmur of their prayers that he died peacefully on April 13th. He was buried at St Joseph’s Bishop’s Stortford and crowds of priests, nuns and people gathered for the requiem.

Fr Raemers was a man of single-purpose- the honour and glory of God. He had a childlike simplicity, unwavering faith and deeply rooted habits of piety He was essentially a man of prayer. His single-mindedness in God’s service would only be equalled by his zeal in spreading devotion to Our Lady of Perpetual Succour. For, without doubt, no Redemptorist could have done more than he, to make this good Mother known and loved. He was a living example of what St Therese of Lisieux had said: “Holiness does not consist in extraordinary things, but in doing ordinary things extraordinarily well”. May his great soul rest in peace.

(Obituary based on that published in CSsR News in 1966)