The Reverend William H. Govern, who was a member of the first class to graduate from the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in Huntington, died on April 20 after a long illness. He was 97 years old.
William Henry Govern was born on March 25, 1908 in Stamford, New York, one of three sons of the late William and Sarah Johnson Govern. He attended local public schools in Stamford and continued his education at St. Jeromeís College, in Kitchener, Ontario and Niagara University, Lewiston, New York.
He studied for the priesthood at the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception where he was a member of the first class to be ordained and recalled seeing the buildings under construction.
Father William Govern was ordained a priest on May 26, 1934 at St. James
Pro- Cathedral in Brooklyn by Bishop Thomas E. Molloy.
After ordination, he was assigned as an Associate Pastor to the parish of St. Joseph in Garden City. Three years later he was transferred to a church in Brooklyn, St. Mary Queen of Heaven. After serving at two other Brooklyn churches, Holy Cross and Holy Rosary, Father Govern returned to Long Island as an Associate Pastor at St. Brigidís Church, Westbury in 1944.
During his 17 years there he witnessed the construction of the parish school and a mission chapel in Carle Place to replace the rented storefront that served the community. The rectory was also enlarged and parking lots created for the parish.
In 1961 he was appointed Pastor of St. Frances Cabrini Church in Coram. American saint. One of the notable events of Father Governís two years there was his organization of the first parish bus pilgrimage to the Mother Cabrini Shrine in New York City.
Father Govern was named Pastor of St. Maryís Church, East Islip in 1963. He oversaw an addition to the parish school which included music and multipurpose rooms and renovation of the church. Shortly after his arrival, he organized the school band which within two years won the Northeastern Championship trophy. The church also boasted of four choirs. Several barbershop quartets were formed from the menís chorus, and Father Govern was a singer with one of those quartets.
Father Governís love of music showed throughout the years. He recalled playing in his college orchestra and band, playing piano for silent movies and serving as a parish organist for 26 years. He also was the founder of the Boys Choir at Seton Hall High School, Patchogue.
He retired as Pastor of St. Maryís in 1981.
Shortly thereafter Father Govern began working outside the diocese, including work with the Redemptorists at the National Shrine of St. John Neumann in Philadelphia. He returned to Long Island in 1984 to serve as the Chaplain at Maria Regina Residence, the retirement house for the Sisters of St. Joseph, in Brentwood. On the 60th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood, Father Govern called that job ďthe icing on the cake.í In 1997 Father Govern retired as chaplain but continued to live at the residence.
A wake for Father Govern will be held at the Maria Regina Residence in Brentwood on Sunday, April 24 from 2:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Bishop John Dunne will celebrate a Mass of Christian Burial for Father Govern in the Maria Regina Chapel at 11:00 a.m. on Monday, April 25. Burial will be at Calvary Cemetery in Brentwood.
Father Govern is survived by three cousins.