William Griffith

by Patty Weishaar

Knights in shining armor capture childhood storybook memories for many.

But in truth, we often leave that mythology of bygone days behind.

Until one of our own becomes a knight!

Congratulations to Dr. William Griffiths of Adelaide, Australia, Saint John's School of Theology and Seminary (SOT/Sem) alum, Master of Arts in Liturgical Studies (2007), who was named a Knight of the Order of Saint Gregory the Great by Pope Francis on October 19, 2020.  Announcing the award, Adelaide Archbishop Patrick O’Regan said the Order of Saint Gregory the Great is one of the highest awards for laypeople, bestowed on Catholic men and women deemed to have made a significant contribution to the Catholic Church.

Bill and Maryellen GriffithWilliam (Bill) and Maryellen are long-time friends of Saint John’s, with their first foray to Minnesota in Summer 2001 for a course in our summer program.  Smitten from the beginning by Minnesota summer days and Saint John’s Abbey prayer, as well as “fun-SOT/Sem-people” and adventures (like singing the Star-Spangled Banner at a local baseball game!), they returned in Summer 2002 and the Fall of 2004. In 2005-2006 Bill and his classmates explored long-distance learning via long conference calls across a 15-hour time zone difference.  Such dedication!

The SOT/Sem was graced with Bill and Maryellen joining us for a full calendar year in 2007 when Bill finished his MA program, and Maryellen coached us in taking our Convivium lunches to the highest level, sharing her skills as a professional caterer.  We were her side-gig; her deep love was knitting and needlework in which she and Bill explored an ever-widening circle of the upper Midwest seeking out yarn and needlework shops.  The long -term relationship she had developed with The Nordic Needle Shop in Fargo, North Dakota led to many trips across the state for supplies and exploring.  Bill and Maryellen did all the Minnesota things: Duluth and the North Shore, the State Fair, the Guthrie Theater, and all points of the Twin Cities, ice fishing, the Mississippi Headwaters, and wider exploring in Wisconsin, Illinois, the Black Hills, Iowa, and beyond.  They also attended almost every music event on both campuses during that year (Bill was always humming in our hallways!). They became oblates of Saint John’s Abbey, a relationship that has led to several more trips to Minnesota and a longer stay at Saint John’s at the Collegeville Institute for Ecumenical and Cultural Research.  They are dear friends and generous donors to the Abbey and the School of Theology and Seminary.

From Bill as he shared in letting us know about the Knight of Saint Gregory Award:

The award mentions both my working in Catholic school education, in various roles, and also the work I have done on a volunteer basis on national liturgy councils in Australia and in various churches.

I completed formal studies (MA Liturgical Studies) at SJU SOT/Sem in December 2007, at age 61 years. I had just finished a 14-year appointment as Director of Catholic Education in the Diocese of Darwin, and we decided to give ourselves 2007 as a Gap Year at Collegeville to finish off the MA - although I think the real reason we kept going back to Collegeville (2001 to 2007 and then off and on till 2015) was to spend prayer time each day with the monks in the Abbey Church! 

The formal Saint John’s School of Theology and Seminary education was wonderful because it helped me understand (if in retrospect) not just what were the answers to liturgy questions that had been in my mind for years, but what were the questions that were pertinent for worship in today’s church!

In this context, I would like to pay special tribute to the faculty at SJU SOT/Sem with whom I had the privilege of studying: Kevin Seasoltz, OSB (of happy memory); Allan Bouley, OSB; Anthony Ruff, OSB; Martin Connell;  Carolyn Finley (voice);  and the visiting professors; Max Johnson, Leo Nestor (also of happy memory) and Don Saliers.

I am most grateful to the SJU SOT/Sem faculty and staff for enriching our lives in such a rewarding and enlivening manner. If I deserve anything in regard to the liturgy component of this papal award, it is down to the School of Theology and Seminary at Saint John’s.






Pope Francis has appointed two Adelaide parishioners, Bill Griffiths (Cathedral) and Greg Crafter AO (Norwood), as Knights of the Order of Saint Gregory the Great.

Announcing the awards today, Adelaide Archbishop Patrick O’Regan said the Order of Saint Gregory the Great was one of the highest awards for laypeople, bestowed on Catholic men and women deemed to have made a significant contribution to the Catholic Church.

“These two men are most worthy recipients of this high honour with their outstanding service to the community over many years,” Archbishop O’Regan said.

Dr. Griffiths, a secondary school teacher by profession, joined the staff of the Adelaide Catholic Education Office in 1974, directing state-wide programs for the children of immigrants. He was also a member of the early South Australian Commission for Catholic Schools at a time of significant change in the Catholic school system.

He then held leadership positions in three Catholic colleges in Adelaide, including as principal of Kilmara Senior School at Thebarton and Saint Paul’s College at Gilles Plains, before becoming Director of Catholic Education in the Diocese of Darwin and an executive member of the National Catholic Education Commission (NCEC) in 1993. His service to Catholic education in the Northern Territory from 1993 until 2007 was outstanding.

In 2008, the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference appointed Dr. Griffiths chief executive officer of the NCEC in Canberra. Returning to Adelaide in 2013 to retire, he has held a variety of leadership positions on parish, school, and social service governance and management boards.

Dr. Griffiths’ other major contribution to the life of the Church in Australia has been through liturgy and music. He chairs the National Liturgical Council and was until recently secretary of the National Liturgical Music Council. In Darwin, he was an inaugural member of the diocesan Liturgy Reference Group. Locally, he has served as an organist at Saint Mary’s Cathedral in Darwin and in the churches of the Cathedral Parish in Adelaide. A person of deep faith, Dr. Griffiths is an Oblate of Saint John’s Abbey at Collegeville in the United States.


Dr. Griffiths was nominated for the papal honour by the Australia National Bishops Conference.



Congratulations to you, Bill, for this amazing honor.  Know that we celebrate you and with you!

And THANK YOU, Bill and Maryellen, for being an amazing part of our School of Theology and Seminary worldwide family.  You are shining examples of disciples of Jesus, upholding community and service, faithful in prayer and worship, serving the Lord in our deep hope that “ he may bring us all together to everlasting life” (Chapter 72, Rule of Benedict).

Fr. Dale Launderville
Dean, Saint John's School of Theology and Seminary