The Rev. William J. Benonis, 83, pastor emeritus of Notre Dame de Lourdes Church in Swarthmore, died of liver cancer Friday at St. Mary Manor, Lansdale.
Father Benonis entered St. Charles Borromeo Seminary after graduating from Pottsville High School. He was ordained in 1952 and later assisted pastors in McAdoo, Pa., Reading, and Philadelphia.
For three years, he taught at St. John Neumann High School, and from 1958 to 1975 he was a teacher and disciplinarian at Cardinal Dougherty High School.
In 1975, he became assistant pastor at St. Michael Church in Chester and then served as pastor there from 1976 until 1980, when he was appointed pastor of Notre Dame de Lourdes. He became pastor emeritus in 2001.
At Notre Dame, he established the worship committee; the Parish Pastoral Council; a Sunday coffee social; and the bereavement committee. His biggest accomplishment was keeping the school open, said Diane Madison, a lifelong parishioner.
Father Benonis had a reputation as a tough high school educator, but he mellowed over the years and was very kind, Madison said. "He was a great listener and had a gift for reaching out to those in need," said a friend, the Rev. Daniel J. Cavanaugh.
Father Benonis is survived by brothers George, Frederick and Richard, and nieces and nephews.