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Bill Peffley, Catholic Shop owner, dies at 87

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 the patients.

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


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017