Rev. Msgr. William I. Varsanyi


PROVIDENCE — Rev. Msgr. William I. Varsanyi, P.A., J.C.D., 96, Senior Priest and former Vicar General of the Diocese of Providence, died on January 7, 2019.

Born in Adony, Hungary, a son of the late Ignatius and Rozalia (Rauff) Varsanyi, he attended public schools in Adony and high schools in Budapest and Kalocsa, Hungary. He completed studies for the priesthood at Peter Pazmany Catholic University in Budapest and was ordained a priest on July 7, 1946 in the seminary chapel in Kalocsa by Archbishop Jozsef Grösz. In 1944, he became a Chaplain in the Royal Hungarian Army. After a summer assignment as assistant pastor in Gara, Hungary from 1947-51, he made post-graduate studies in Canon Law and Moral Theology at the Gregorian and Angelicum Universities in Rome. Father Varsanyi earned a Doctorate in Canon Law (J.C.D.) from the Gregorian University in Rome.

In 1951, Father Varsanyi came to the Diocese of Providence and began his work at the Chancery Office, where he served until his retirement in 2013 in various appointments: Assistant and Vice-Chancellor; Vicar for Religious and Canonical Affairs; Chancellor; Vicar General; and Delegate for Canonical Affairs; diocesan Director of Catholic Relief Services, of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, and of the Holy Childhood Association; as well as Defender of the Bond and Promoter of Justice in the diocesan Tribunal for many years. He also served as Secretary of the Board of Trustees of St. Joseph Health Services of Rhode Island, and Secretary and Vice-President of all diocesan corporations. He was also a Master of Ceremonies to the Auxiliary Bishops.

His other assignments included assistant pastor at the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul (1951-52); Chaplain at St. Francis Home, Warwick (1952) and at St. Joseph Hospital, Providence (1952-54); and in-residence at St. Paul Parish, Cranston (1954-57). In 1957, Monsignor became Chaplain at Jeanne Jugan Residence (formerly Holy Trinity Home) in Pawtucket where he would reside for a total of 61 years.

In 1961, Saint Pope John XXIII appointed Father Varsanyi as Papal Chamberlain, with the title of Reverend Monsignor. He was named a Domestic Prelate of His Holiness in 1967; and in 1986, Saint Pope John Paul II named him a Prothonotary Apostolic (P.A.), the highest order of Monsignor.

Monsignor Varsanyi was also a member of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, the Canon Law Society of America, the Knights of Columbus (Fourth Degree), and of the diocesan Council of Priests, College of Consultors, and Finance Council.

Monsignor Varsanyi was instrumental in helping his Hungarian immigrants to find work and housing following the Communist invasion of Hungary in 1956, and for many years, he provided them with spiritual support. He was a member of the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce and of the International Institute of Rhode Island, which honored him with its “Man of the Year” Award for his work with Hungarian refugees. In 1965, Monsignor Varsanyi attended the last session of the Second Vatican Council as Bishop Russell McVinney’s canonical advisor. In February 1966, Monsignor Varsanyi was incardinated into the Diocese of Providence.

After the collapse of the Communist regime in Hungary in 1989, he visited his home country almost annually, and in his capacity as Chairman of the Hungarian Catholic League of America, he helped to rebuild the Catholic Church in Hungary.

On January 1, 2013, after more than 60 years of administrative work and ministry at the Providence Chancery, Monsignor retired from his diocesan posts and remained at St. Jeanne Jugan Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor as a resident priest for the rest of his life. In 2016, Monsignor celebrated the 70th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood.

Monsignor Varsanyi leaves a number of nieces and nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews in Hungary and in Florida. He was the youngest of nine children, and was predeceased by four sisters, Margit, Anna, Maria and Ilona and three brothers, Laszlo, Gyula and Ferenc, all of whom resided in Hungary; and another sister, Mrs. Elizabeth Monteith who resided in Sarasota, FL.

A Concelebrated Mass of Christian Burial was offered for the repose of his soul on January 14 at the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul in Providence with Bishop Thomas J. Tobin as the main celebrant and Chancellor Father Timothy D. Reilly, served as the homilist. Auxiliary Bishop Robert C. Evans, Bishop Ernest B. Boland and Bishop Emeritus Louis E. Gelineau and other clergy concelebrated the funeral Mass. Burial was at St. Ann Cemetery, Cranston.