William C. “Bill” Peffley Jr., 87, the owner along with his wife,
Mary, of the Catholic Shop in Norristown, Pa., and a major force in the Legion
of Mary, died Jan. 31.
At his funeral Mass at Holy Saviour Church in Norristown, Father
Francis Peffley, his son and parochial vicar of St. Mary of Sorrows Church in
Fairfax, shared his father’s life story.
He was born April 30, 1929, in Reading, the son of William C.
Peffley and Anna M. (Borr) Peffley. Because his father was strongly
anti-Catholic, his mother had him baptized secretly. After his father died when
he was 5, his mother raised him in the faith and he graduated from Reading
Central Catholic High School.
He did have a health setback, tuberculosis, which in those days
meant confinement in a sanatorium. He stayed there two years as he recovered,
and during this period he was influenced by the priests and nuns who would visit
Back in his home parish, Peffley took spiritual direction from
Father Ignatius Szal, who was promoting the Legion of Mary. For two years,
Father Szal coaxed him to join, and finally in 1955, in confession, the priest
said, “Bill, for your penance join the Legion of Mary.”
Peffley did so and remained an active Legionnaire for the rest of
his life. It was through the Legion of Mary that he met Mary Phelps and when
they married in 1958, they honeymooned in Ireland where they met Frank Duff, the
founder of the Legion of Mary.
Mary was a member of the Legion long before Bill. She joined in
South Bend, Ind., and came to Philadelphia after Archbishop John O’Hara
introduced the devotional society to this city.
Mary had prior experience in a Catholic bookstore. Shortly after
their marriage, they opened the Catholic Shop, which still exists and in past
years had several branch stores elsewhere.
“Their desire was to spread the faith, to share the faith, to
live for others. It was a way of saving souls,” Father Peffley said.
In addition to his wife and son, Bill Peffley is survived by his
daughters, Edel Lukens (Steve) and Natia Meehan (Greg), and his grandchildren,
Clare, Christopher, Johnny, Sarah, Megan, Erin and Grace.
Interment was at St. Patrick’s Cemetery in Norristown.
Baldwin writes for CatholicPhilly.com