Fr. Wasson at Rest; Leaves Lasting Legacy
Generations of children in Latin America grow with the love they found at NPH.
August 18, 2006 - Mexico
|Father William Bryce Wasson|
FATHER WILLIAM B. WASSON
FOUNDER OF NUESTROS PEQUEÑOS HERMANOS
Fr. William B. Wasson, founder and general director of Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos, died today at 5 a.m. (GMT-7) in the hospice of Cottonwood, Arizona, at age 82.
Fr. Wasson established his first home for orphaned and abandoned children in Cuernavaca in 1954 and today more than 3,000 children in Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean and South America are given a home and hope for the future. The guiding philosophy of Fr. Wasson’s homes is to give the children unconditional love and security, while instilling the values of sharing, work and responsibility in the children.
Wasson, a native of Arizona, studied for the priesthood with the Benedictines in Conception, Mo., but failing health delayed ordination at that time. Later during a recuperation period in Mexico, he grew to love the Mexican people and the country and decided to stay. He taught Criminology and Sociology at the University of the Americas and served as counselor at the American School Foundation in Mexico City.
In May, 1953, he was ordained by the Bishop of Cuernavaca and was assigned to a small church in the market area of that city where he immediately instituted a day care center for poor children. A year later, in August, 1954, he rescued his first abandoned child and founded Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos. Subsequently, homes were opened in Honduras (1985), Haiti (1987), Nicaragua (1994), Guatemala (1996), El Salvador (1999), the Dominican Republic (2002), and most recently in South America, in Peru in 2004, and a home in Bolivia in 2005.
In 1977, Father Wasson was awarded the Mexican National Prize, the Luis Elizondo Humanitarian Award, in Monterrey, Mexico, for his outstanding contribution to the children of Mexico. He was the only U.S. citizen ever to receive this award from Mexico. The National Catholic Development Conference honored him with the Good Samaritan Award in 1979. In 1981, he was presented with the Franciscan International Award, having received the robes of an Honorary Franciscan in 1974. This award was for “his loving, generous, ardent service to orphaned boys and girls leading them from degrading poverty to self-respecting maturity and service to the community”.
The Mexican government again honored Father Wasson in 1989 by bestowing upon him the Order of the Aztec Eagle. This is the highest honor awarded in Mexico and was given for his humanitarian work on behalf of thousands of orphaned and homeless Mexican children. More recently, in November of 1997, the Caring Institute in Washington, DC, selected Father Wasson as one of the “ten most caring people in America” and gave him the 1997 National Caring Award. In 2000, he received the Kellogg´s Hannah Neil World of Children Award. This prestigious award recognizes those who have had a significant impact on the lives of children throughout the world.
With a passion for the study of scripture, Father Wasson wrote three books: Luke XV, Gospel in the Dust and The Sermon on the Mount.
Father Wasson is survived by a brother and sister-in-law, Barnabas and Maria Luisa, and nephews, of Prescott, Arizona, and the more than 15,000 children who have called him “Father” over the years.
NPHI Information Officer