Father Willard was born in Peoria on September 9, 1966. His parents are currently living in Florida, his two brothers live in Peoria and his sister lives in Leroy, Illinois.
He grew up in Peoria Heights and attended St. Thomas the Apostle Church and School. In 1981, he graduated from St. Thomas and went to the Academy of Our Lady/Spalding Institute for four years of High School. Immediately after High School he entered the Seminary for the Diocese of Peoria. The Diocese sent him to Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary and St. Mary’s College in Winona, Minnesota. He graduated in 1989, and then attended Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland. After four years, he was ordained a Priest for our Diocese on May 29, 1993.
Father Willard is celebrating his 20th Anniversary as a priest for the Diocese of Peoria this year. His first assignment was as Parochial Vicar at Holy Trinity in Bloomington for 4 years. Next 6 years he was Pastor at St. Mary’s in Downs, Illinois and the High School Chaplin at Central Catholic High School in Bloomington. The next 10 years was spent in the Champaign area. He was stationed as Pastor at St. Thomas in Philo, Immaculate Conception in Bongard and St. Mary’s and St. Joseph’s in Pesotum for 2 years. The last eight years he has been the Pastor at Holy Cross Church in Champaign.