Friday 2 September 2011
BY Fiona Power
In 1919, the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne bought The Advocate newspaper. The same year, Archbishop Daniel Mannix appointed Rev. William Collins DD PhD BA as managing editor – the first priest to fill the role.
At Dr Collins’s Requiem Mass at Sacred Heart, Kew, in 1959, Archbishop Simonds described him as “not merely a man of upright priestly character, but a scholar of fine intellectual gifts, who, for 42 years, unstintingly devoted his talents to the service of the Church” (The Advocate, January 1959).
“He was the first of a line of distinguished priests who have made The Advocate a Catholic journal of worldwide renown.”
Born in Kilmore in 1884, William Collins attended South Melbourne College, where he met and formed a lasting friendship with classmate and medical missionary Mary Glowrey. William attended the University of Melbourne, where he assisted in the formation of the Newman Society of Victoria.
After graduating in arts in 1911, he worked at the Melbourne Public Library and the Education Department. In 1912, at the age of 28, he went to Rome, where he studied for the priesthood at Urban College. He obtained doctorates in philosophy and theology and was ordained on 3 June 1917.
He returned to Melbourne and was appointed curate at St Mary’s, West Melbourne, and St Francis’, Lonsdale Street.
In 1918, Dr Collins became editor of The Advocate. He remained in the role for seven years, significant ones for the publication. As reported by The Advocate, in March 1926, under
Dr Collins’ “skilled guidance” the paper “made headway”. It changed offices from Lonsdale Street to the “splendid new four-storied Advocate building, where the paper and its up-to-date printery are now established” (in Little Lonsdale Street).
Dr Collins was parish priest of Dandenong, Daylesford, East Malvern, Surrey Hills and Kew, and administrator at St Francis’. Among his written publications were Fatima Revisited (1950) and The Students’ Companion to Gibbon (1957). He promoted the foundation of the Company of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament (the Grey Sisters) and wrote a history of their first 25 years, The Early Years (1953).
Dr Collins served as spiritual director of the Catholic Young Men’s Society and it was reported that his work had been effective “and his counsel productive of much enthusiasm in its ranks” (The Advocate, March, 1926).
He was a member of several Archdiocesan tribunals and examination boards. Archbishop Justin Simonds noted that, despite being unwell, he spent the afternoon before Dr Collins died examining the newly ordained priests.
Relatives and members of religious orders and organisations joined 200 priests in the congregation at the Requiem Mass. Archbishop Simonds said Dr Collins was “warmly devoted” to his family.
“Dr Collins was a great priest who gave most meritorious service to God and his Church in the Archdiocese … May his gifted and zealous soul rest in peace.”
Kairos Catholic Journal Volume 22, Issue 16