William Paret was born in New York City on September 23, 1826. His parents were John and Hester Paret. His father was a merchant in that city. His paternal grandfather, Stephen Paret, a Frenchman had come to the United States in 1760. Reared in New York City, he attended grammar school until age 14, at which time he began working as a clerk in a wholesale dry good store. He studied for his orders under the Right Reverend William Heathcote DeLancey. While pursuing his education at Hobart College he also taught in Syracuse, New York and at the Academy at Moravia, New York. He received his doctorate of divinity degree from Hobart College in 1867. In 1886 Hobart College awarded him his LL.D.
William Paret was ordained a deacon on July 2, 1852 in Trinity Church, Geneva, New York by Bishop Carlton Chase. He received his priest’s orders in Grace Church, Rochester, New York on June 38, 1853 from Bishop DeLancey.
He was rector of these churches:
- St. John’s, Clyde, New York, 1852–1854
- Zion, Pierrepont Manor, New York, 1854–1864
- St. Paul’s, East Saginaw, Michigan, 1864–1866
- Trinity Church, Elmira, New York, 1866–1888
- Christ Church, Williamsport, Pennsylvania, 1868–1876
- Church of the Epiphany, Washington, D.C., 1876–1884
In 1882, Rev. Paret exchanged public letters concerning church practices with Rev. John Habersham Elliott (1832-1906).
In 1884 Paret was elected to succeed Bishop William Pinkney as Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland, following Bishop Pinkney’s death in 1883. Paret was consecrated the sixth Bishop of Maryland on January 8, 1885 at his own Church of the Epiphany in Washington, D.C. At the Maryland Episcopal Diocesan Convention of 1894, Paret denounced – “a stinging philippic fell from his lips”—those parishes that used incense and other ritualstic practices, such as the use of confessionals, which was an attack on high church Anglican parishes such as Mount Calvary Church in Baltimore and St. Andrew’s Church in Princess Anne, Maryland. Those parishes were “practically excommunicated” as Paret refused to visit them. In 1895 the Diocese of Maryland was divided to form the Episcopal Diocese of Washington.
In 1904, the diocese of Maryland published a collection of his pastoral instructions concerning pastoral use of the prayer book. Two years later, T. Whittaker publishers of New York published his The place and function of the Sunday school in the church. G.W. Jacobs Co. of Philadelphia published Paret’s Remniscences in the year of his death.