“As long as I’ve thought about what I wanted to do with my life, it’s always involved service,” Msgr. William “Bill” Manger said in an interview in 2013. “I always had an interest in working for the Church in different areas.”
And he did just that throughout his 59 years as a priest. Msgr. Manger, pastor of St. Anne in Beaumont, died August 2, 2021, at the age of 87. Services are pending.
And in those six decades in between his ordination and his death, Msgr. Manger’s ministry was service – to the pre-born, to the dying, to the immigrant, to those looking to deepen their faith lives and more.
When the Diocese began in 1966, young Father Bill Manger was named the first diocesan director of Family Life. This was followed by his ministry to college students through being Diocesan Director of Newman Apostolate. But this beginning was only part of his service to Southeast Texas.
The mid-1970s saw service on a community-wide scale and highlighted Msgr. Manger’s belief in the sanctity of all human life.
In 1973 Msgr. Manger worked to help establish Birthright of Beaumont and was honored by them in 2003 for his ministry. In 1998 Msgr. Manger received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Texas Right to Life of Southeast Texas for his efforts to defend the sanctity of human life.
Also in the 1970s Msgr. Manger had heard about a different way of ministering to those who were dying – Hospice care. This was new to the United States and Father Manger thought it was important. He brought the idea here and was a co-founder of Southeast Texas Hospice in Orange in 1976. His work in this ministry was recognized nationally — he was elected to serve on the board of directors of the National Hospice Organization in 1978 and in 1989 received its Founder’s Award.
Additionally, Msgr. Manger had the opportunity to help people have better lives in a different way – working as Resettlement Director. As such he helped more than 1,000 Vietnamese in Southeast Texas in about a year’s time in the mid-1970s. Although there were many resettlement programs across the country, the Diocese of Beaumont was known as one of the most successful.
“The climate in South Vietnam was closely equivalent to the southern area of the United States, so resettling along the Gulf of Mexico was a perfect place for them to find their way in fishing,” Msgr. Manger said in an interview in 2016. “And it was just wonderful to see how people in their great generosity were willing to come out and help people to be resettled.”
Conversations with Msgr. Manger often led to inspiration, action and service. At a pastoral council meeting at St. Anne, Msgr. Manger asked them how they thought they could serve the poor. The response became the St. Katharine Drexel Humanitarians who, with the help from St. Anne, St. Anthony Cathedral Basilica and Cristo Rey parishes, host a yearly free health fair.
Another conversation at a conference between Msgr. Manger and a Father George Kalappura, CMI, led to the Congregation of the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate ministering in the Diocese of Beaumont for 25 years now at parishes and in the Nursing Home Ministry.
Msgr. Manger’s ministry of service also brought ACTS retreats to Southeast Texas. Beginning at St. Anne Parish, ACTS has spread throughout the diocese and has transformed hundreds of lives.
Also transforming lives is the work of The Giving Field, which Msgr. Manger helped to establish about 10 years ago. The Giving Field provides an opportunity for outdoor education for students, especially those at St. Anne School across the street, and provides fresh fruit and vegetables for Some Other Place in Beaumont and the Hospitality Center in Port Arthur. Msgr. Manger received the 2012 Msgr. Richard DeStefano Faithful Steward award for his ministry and his help in establishing The Giving Field.
A native of Newark, N.J., Msgr. Manger attended St. Mary’s Seminary, Houston. Bishop Wendelin J. Nold or¬dained him June 2, 1962, at Sacred Heart Co-Cathedral for the then-Diocese of Galveston-Houston. Father Manger’s first assign¬ment was to Sacred Heart Co-Cathedral.
Following this he served a number of parishes as an as¬sistant including Holy Name, Houston, St. Mary, Orange, St. James, Port Arthur, and Our Lady of the Assumption, Beaumont. Southeast Texas is fortunate that Father Manger was ministering at Our Lady of As¬sumption in September 1966 when the Beaumont Diocese was established and became a member of the clergy serving the new diocese. He also helped out at Immaculate Conception, Groves, and St. Anthony Cathedral, Beaumont, while their priests were out for medical reasons.
His first pastorate was St. Mary, Orange, in 1978 where he served until 1990 when he was assigned to his latest po¬sition as pastor of St. Anne.
Msgr. Manger has also been assigned to the Catholic Stu¬dent Center at Stephen F. Aus¬tin, Nacogdoches, as teacher at Bishop Byrne High School, director of the Newman Apostolate, direc¬tor of Family Life Ministry, an advocate in the Tribunal office, and on the Priest Retirement Committee and Presbyteral Council. He was also appointed liaison for the Charismatic Renewal in 1981.
He was named consultor in July 2000 and named a prelate of honor by Pope Benedict XVI in September 2009. He served as chairman of the Diocesan Pastoral Council and on the Diocesan Team for Renew. He also served as episcopal vicar for the Eastern Vicariate and the Central Vicariate.