CHARLESTON—Msgr. Joseph F. Hanley has spent a lifetime at Blessed Sacrament, but now he’s preparing for a different journey.
Starting in August, the priest will embark on a three-month sabbatical before returning to the diocese and a new assignment.
He’s looking forward to the time of spiritual renewal and new experiences, but is also sad to leave his childhood home.
Msgr. Hanley started going to church at Blessed Sacrament when he was 5 and graduated from the middle school there. When he became a priest, he was eventually assigned to his home parish and has spent the past 18 years as pastor.
Now 71, he said it will be difficult to leave the people who have become his family. He speaks of the love he feels for his parishioners and how grateful he is for the love he receives in return.
“These are great gifts,” he said.
Church members and others in the community will host a farewell event for their pastor on July 26. The children of the parish school already said good-bye to Msgr. Hanley on the last day of class, when each grade presented him with letters and drawings. He read them all and said he was touched by the comments and artwork.
Msgr. Hanley said he’s looking forward to being with everyone at the farewell event and having the opportunity to say thank you, but knows it will be emotional.
“I know there are people who’ve been a regular part of my life that won’t be that regular anymore,” he said.
The first part of his sabbatical will include a silent retreat to focus on his relationship with God.
In September he will make his first trip to the Holy Land, where he will live in the old city of Jerusalem and spend a month in Biblical study connected with visits to the many holy sites.
Msgr. Hanley will return in October and spend time at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago.
He isn’t sure what his assignment will be after his sabbatical, but is thinking of a smaller church where he’ll continue to do what he does best — serve as a parish priest.
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