Most Rev. William D. Borders
Episcopal Motto: “I will listen, that I may serve.”
The first Bishop of Orlando had the demanding, but rewarding job of being the first pastoral shepherd of this large and vastly untapped area in the heart of the Florida.
Prior to his arrival in 1968, the Diocese of Orlando did not exist. The area of Central Florida came under the jurisdiction of the Diocese of St. Augustine. But recognizing this growing, distinct and unique region as its own separate entity, Pope Paul VI named Father William Borders to be the first Bishop of this newly formed diocese.
Bishop Borders was seen as a true and authentic teacher of the faith who now embarked upon the task of building up the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church, the people of God in a dynamic region located in the center of the state.
His hard work, leadership and vision, in the Lord’s name, laid a strong foundation for our future.
William Borders was born on October 9, 1913 in the small mid-western town of Washington, Indiana. He was one of six children born to Thomas and Zelpha Borders.
Besides William Borders who would one day become a priest and Bishop, the Borders family was blessed with a daughter who would become Sister Patrice.
The deep faith of his parents provided a roadmap for his own faith journey. They shared their love of God and Church by attending Mass regularly, praying the rosary and practicing other special devotions. His parents had a profound influence on his decision to devote his life to God, as did the priests and nuns that nurtured his spiritual yearnings throughout his Catholic school education.
He attended seminary in New Orleans and was ordained a priest at the New Orleans’ St. Louis Cathedral in 1940.
In 1943 he enlisted in the U.S. Army Chaplain Corps and served with the 91st Infantry Division in Africa and Italy.
During his years of service, he offered spiritual strength to soldiers fighting during World War II.
He earned a Bronze Star for Valor for demonstrating courage in the face of battles and heavy combat. He even braved machine gun fire to rescue a wounded soldier.
He doesn’t consider his actions brave or courageous, but rather just performing a duty to help someone in need. When the war ended in 1945, Father Borders was released from military service with the rank of major.
On May 2, 1968 Pope Paul VI named Father William Borders – Bishop of Orlando and he was ordained the following month.
His installation took place at St. Charles Cathedral, which was the Diocese’s first cathedral.
In Orlando, Bishop Borders worked vigorously to implement the directives of the Second Vatican Council, with particular emphasis on the issue of collegiality or shared responsibility.
Under his guidance, diocesan and parish councils, boards of education and similar commissions were established.
In 1971, a special ministry for farmworkers began in Apopka that would radically improve the quality of lives for this previously neglected population.
The Office for Farmworker Ministry is a community-based organization that works to meet the needs of the ever-growing number of farmworker and immigrant families residing in Central Florida.
Over the years, the Ministry has fostered the development of many self-help, community and worker organizations to meet basic human needs.
In 1968, the Diocese of Orlando’s chapter of the Council of Catholic Women was first established.
The Council of Catholic Women respond with Gospel values to the needs of Church and society. Its strength resides in parish-based women who serve the poor, the elderly, and the forgotten, advocate at state and national legislatures, support one another in the various circumstances of their lives, and join voices in prayer and worship.
In 1969, the Charismatic Movement formally organized in The Diocese of Orlando. The Catholic Charismatic Commission seeks to foster spiritual renewal within the Catholic Church by encouraging the formation and development of STRONG CHARISMATIC PRAYER GROUPS.
It sees as the purpose of prayer groups to praise God, to share Christian experiences, to engage in evangelization and continuing catechises, to form committed Christian relationships, to encourage lives of holiness and individual involvement in the life and ministries of the Church.
In 1970, the Cursillo movement began in Winter Park and quickly spread.
Cursillo, a Spanish word meaning “a short course,” is a movement within the Church intended to help Catholics know God’s love and grace and to help others discover and live out their personal vocation in the world.
Bishop Borders encouraged expanded ministry involving the laity in distribution of communion at parish masses and hospitals. The first “Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist” were commissioned on December 16, 1972.
In 1971, the Catholic committee on Scouting was first organized. In its 37 year history, thousands of boy and girl scouts have learned the positive values promoted by the scouting organization and have engaged in numerous character development and community service projects.
Bishop Borders was a strong advocate for faith formation from pre-school years through adulthood. He established the Diocesan Office of Education to coordinate efforts in Catholic Schools, campus ministry and religious education at all levels.
He also served on the U.S. Catholic Conference Committee on Education. His vision for Catholic Education resulted in growth and development in many educational areas.
In 1974, Bishop Borders was appointed to the metropolitan area of Baltimore. He retired in 1989 and continued to serve as the retired Archbishop of Baltimore until his death in 2010 at age 96.
His legacy to the Diocese of Orlando will never be forgotten. As our first leader, charting new territory and responding with courage and vision to God’s call, he will forever be remembered for listening and serving.