Local Obituaries

A ministry of the heart drove Camillus program director who dies at 80

Bro. Bill Osmanski served as Camillus House’s head of the Direct Care Ministry program in Miami.
Bro. Bill Osmanski served as Camillus House’s head of the Direct Care Ministry program in Miami. Camillus House

Bro. Bill Osmanski, head of Camillus House’s Direct Care Ministry Program, had a jovial rather than pious manner. He put people at ease about giving.

A couple, hoping to teach their teenage daughter humility, encouraged her to volunteer at Camillus one Christmas to help feed about 400 of the homeless.

“I wanted to sleep!” the girl, then 14, told El Nuevo Herald in 2005. “But once I was here, I realized it was not so bad and I feel good about having done something good for others.”

She had come under Osmanski’s influence.

“We are very fortunate that so many people want to give their time for this cause,” Osmanski told El Nuevo in 2005.

Osmanski died June 16 of a heart attack, said Sam Gil, Camillus House’s vice president of marketing. He was 80.

“Brother Bill enjoyed nothing better than ministering to both the spiritual and material needs of those around him,” Gil said. “Everyone at Camillus loved Brother Bill for his sense of humor, infectious laugh, and his dedication to Christian hospitality and service.”

Osmanski once tried to explain how he ministered.

“Because we brothers wear the collar, we’re approachable — people open up,” he said. “When someone says, ‘Brother, do you have a moment?’ I know what’s coming. I take them to a quiet place and just listen. But the first thing I want to do is take care of their urgent needs. Make them comfortable, see what we can do about a place to stay, get them a warm meal, put some clothes on their back.”

Brother Bill was an institution at Camillus House — and an inspiration. [He] exemplified the spirit of Christian hospitality.

Hilda M. Fernandez, Camillus CEO.

Born Dec. 12, 1936, in Shamokin, Pennsylvania, Osmanski graduated from the Franklin School of Arts and Sciences in Philadelphia.

He once managed an apartment complex in New Jersey, sprucing it up by carving out an area of swampland and inserting a small zoo of ducks, chickens and goats. His landscaping enticed several members of the Phillies baseball team, including Tug McGraw, to take short-term leases — a thrill for Osmanski, who was a Phillies fan.

But the call to a religious life of service compelled him to join the Little Brothers of the Good Shepherd in the mid-1960s. A few years later, he took a leave to care for his mother, the late Elizabeth Osmanski, and returned to the order in 1993.

Osmanski served at shelters in Albuquerque and Philadelphia before joining Brothers of the Good Shepherd and Camillus House in 2004.

A memorial service and viewing will be held 4-5:30 p.m. Thursday at Camillus House, 1603 NW Seventh Ave., Miami. A funeral Mass will be at 11 a.m. Friday at Corpus Christi Catholic Church, 3220 NW Seventh Ave., Miami. Donations in Osmanski’s honor can be made to Camillus House at camillus.org/donate or at PO Box 11829, Miami, FL 33101-1829.

Howard Cohen: 305-376-3619, @HowardCohen