On Thursday 30 September, Bishop Tom Williams, Auxiliary Bishop of Liverpool, received the city’s highest civic honor – the Freedom of the City of Liverpool – during a special ceremony at Liverpool’s Town Hall.
The ceremony at the Town Hall began with a rendition of the ‘Theme from Z Cars’ – a nod to Bishop Tom’s life-long support of Everton FC – and featured contributions from not only the Lord Mayor of Liverpool, Mary Rasmussen but also Deputy Mayor Jane Corbett and BBC Radio Merseyside broadcaster Roger Phillips.
Mark Bolesfield, Director of Regeneration and Economy from Liverpool City Council, read the resolution conferring the honorary freedom of the city on Bishop Tom. This was granted him in January 2020 but the pandemic meant the ceremony had been put on hold until now.
Half a century of service
Bishop Tom, who has served in the city for almost half a century, was born off Scotland Road and was ordained priest in the city’s Metropolitan Cathedral in 1972. He has served at St Francis of Assisi in Garston, Sacred Heart on Hall Lane, Our Lady of Walsingham parish in Netherton, Our Lady Immaculate Parish in St Domingo Road, and St Anthony’s on Scotland Road.
His roles across the years range from early chaplaincy of Bellerive Grammar School to governor and chair of governors in various archdiocesan primary and secondary schools.
During nine years bridging the late 70s and early 80s, meanwhile, he was chaplain at both the ‘old’ Liverpool Royal Infirmary and the ‘new’ Royal Liverpool Hospital.
In 1997 he became chair of Project Jennifer, the scheme set up by parishioners and others in the Scotland Road area to work with the city council and businesses to regenerate the city’s north end by delivering a new district center.
He also worked with Matalan founder John Hargreaves to establish the NSPCC Liverpool Service Centre on the site of the former Great Homer Street market.
Man of the people
Lord Mayor of Liverpool, Mary Rasmussen, said:
“You truly are a man of the people. Bishop Tom, you deserve to be an honorary freeman of the city of Liverpool. You’re an inspiration, a guiding light, a listening ear, and a community leader, speaking up for the area and actively helping make a difference in the lives of local people, and I’m so pleased this has been recognized. Bishop Tom Williams has dedicated his life to serving his parishioners and the wider community in and around Scotland Road and the Freedom honor is truly deserved.”
Priest of the people
Deputy Mayor, Jane Corbett, said:
‘’Tom is a man of the people but he’s a priest of the people and he’s a priest from the people and that – for the north end of the city as well as the south end – means a massive amount because you know that he’s there for you and he understands where you’re coming from and where you’re trying to go as well.”
Bishop Tom Williams said:
“I am very surprised and humbled at this great honor. Five generations of my family have been part of this city and it has been a privilege to serve here for 49 years.
“This is truly home to me, and I will always be grateful for the support which I have received.”