For Father William Woodruff, it’s not about doing “the most popular thing,” it’s about doing the “best” for his parishioners at St. John the Evangelist Church on Route 212.
Woodruff, 57, has served as administrator at a host of churches for the last 31 years. He came to St. John in that capacity 21 months ago before being appointed priest a year ago. Msg. William Williams was retiring, Woodruff explained, “so I applied and the Archdiocese accepted me.”
Being named pastor of St. John was one of the most special moments in Woodruff’s career.
“The other one was when the parishioners here at St. John helped me celebrate my 30th year as a priest last September,” he said. “The whole parish went out of its way to help me celebrate. It was wonderful.”
Woodruff’s long rise to lead pastor began in 1978 when the Fordham graduate left seminary. “God had told me it was time,” he said. One of his first assignments was administrator at St. Vito’s in Mamaroneck.
“It was a wonderful year there, a good transition to get out into the field,” Woodruff said.
Many of the congregants came from Calabria, the same part of Italy as his grandmother, which no doubt helped him feel comfortable.
He continued to move from church to church, accumulating managerial skills, until he landed at St. John, located at the outer reaches of Saugerties on the frontier with Woodstock.
“We have 400 wonderful families who are members of this parish,” Woodruff said.
And while it might have taken him a number of years to find his home here, “I’m grateful to God. It’s been a long time coming.”
“We have a small but active congregation, and I am looking forward to being here another 11 years,” at which time he will be nearing 70.
Regarding the closing of St. Mary of the Snow Elementary, Woodruff said six children from St. John go to the school and will now have to find another school. He said he prays for a solution.
Asked about the church’s position on sexual orientation, Woodruff replied that he “follows the teachings of the church and that transcends being conservative or liberal on the issues.. And being homosexual or heterosexual is neither right or wrong; however it’s the actions that one takes according to God’s laws when they are homosexual or heterosexual that would make them immoral.”
He added that his job is to “save souls,” and that he will continue to help build on the 2000 years of teachings of the church.