1865 – 1921 (February 17)
William Ambrose Jones was born in Cambridge, New York on July 21, 1865, and was baptized there in St. Patrick’s Church by Father Ambrose Mullen, O.S.A. on August 14, 1865. He completed his elementary and secondary studies in local schools, arriving at Villanova in 1883. He was received into the novitiate there on February 5, 1886, and made his first profession of vows on February 6, 1887. He did his philosophical and theological studies at Villanova and was ordained to the priesthood on March 5, 1890, by Archbishop Patrick Ryan in the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul.
As a young priest, Father Jones served first at Saint Augustine's in Philadelphia, Pa., and, in January 1896, was transferred to Villanova to be submaster of novices. Seven months later he was elected subprior of the monastery and novice master, and taught Latin and mathematics at the college as well. In 1896 he published the first American edition of the very popular Augustinian Mission Manual. At the Provincial Chapter of 1898 he was elected first definitor.
On January 25, 1899, he set out with Brother George Woolsey, O.S.A. for Cuba to settle arrangements with the local bishop of Havana for a mission of the Province in that country. They were given charge of the Capilla de San Agustin and, in 1901, the Province opened a day academy for boys with Father Jones as rector and president. In 1903 this capilla was exchanged for the Church of El Cristo.
Pope Pius X named Father Jones bishop of Puerto Rico in September 1906. He was ordained by the Apostolic Delegate, Archbishop Joseph Aversa, in Havana, on February 24, 1907 in the Augustinian Church of El Cristo. Ten days later he was installed as bishop of the oldest diocese in the New World, and labored there for the next fourteen years.
Afflicted repeatedly with yellow fever, he returned north where he was admitted to Greylock Rest in North Adams, Massachusetts, in September 1917. After a few months he returned to San Juan, but remained in delicate condition. Finally, he entered Saint Joseph's Hospital, Philadelphia, on September 4, 1920 with a serious liver condition. He died there on February 17, 1921 at the age of 56.
His funeral took place on February 23 in the Church of Saint Thomas of Villanova, which Bishop Jones himself had consecrated in 1907. Archbishop Giovanni Bonzano, Apostolic Delegate to the United States celebrated the Solemn Pontifical Mass with several other bishops in attendance. Father John Nugent, O.S.A., preached the eulogy, after which internment took place the Community Cemetery at Villanova.
At the request of Bishop Jones’ successor in San Juan, Cardinal Luis Aponte, Bishop Jones’ body was exhumed and returned to Puerto Rico on October 22, 1977, where it was reinterred in the newly renovated cathedral of the diocese. Present at the ceremony were Prior General, Theodore Tack, and John Cardinal Krol, Archbishop of Philadelphia.