ROCK HILL—Oratorian Father Halbert Francis Weidner, who served as director of religious education at the Oratory, died Feb. 3. He was 71.
Father Weidner was born in Edina, Missouri, on July 18, 1946. He grew up Baptist.
In a story published in 2000 in the Hawaii Catholic Herald, Father Weidner said his first awareness of Catholicism happened at age 7 when he was a patient at St. Joseph Hospital in Kansas City and observed the Sisters of St. Joseph who staffed the hospital.
Later, Catholics he befriended in junior high school “added to my appreciation of the goodness of Catholics,” he said. He became a Catholic on Dec. 17, 1960, while attending Punahou School, a private school in Honolulu, Hawaii, from 1959 to 1964.
“I remember the Maryknoll fathers, brothers and sisters at Sacred Heart, my parish,” he said. “I remember their encouragement of me even though I did not go to any youth ministry programs. I remember working in the parish library, the choir and acolytes.”
“I remember that the idea about a religious vocation would not go away,” he said.
After graduating from Punahou in 1964, he went to the Oratory of St. Philip Neri in South Carolina. He formally joined the Oratory in 1966. He was ordained to the priesthood on June 8, 1974, by Bishop Ernest L. Unterkoefler, in the Diocese of Charleston.
After ordination, he served in the diocese as director of religious education at the Oratory in Rock Hill, S.C.
Among his pastoral assignments he served as associate pastor at St. Anne Parish in Rock Hill as well as in campus ministry at Winthrop University from 1974 to 1977. As campus minister he was a founding member of the official ecumenical body of campus ministers for Winthrop, and he served as the group’s secretary and president.
From 1978 to 1980, Father Weidner was associate pastor at St. Joseph in Chester and St. Theresa in Winnsboro. During this time, he also served on the Board of Directors at The Oratory.
In addition, from 1974 to 1980, Father Weidner was the director of religious education for parishes in Lancaster, York, Chester and Winnsboro. This led to serving as the Roman Catholic partner in the official Presbyterian U.S. dialogue group for Bethel Presbytery in York County. The Oratorian priest was a participant in the York and Chester County Anglican-Roman Catholic dialogue group for clergy, which is ongoing.
Father Weidner served as provost of The Oratory and parish priest at St. Anne in Rock Hill from 1983 to 1989. During those years, he was a theology instructor at Belmont Abbey College in Belmont, N.C., an instructor at Sacred Heart College, also in Belmont, and an ethics instructor at Winthrop University.
He served as vicar general of The Oratory from 1989 until the early 1990s, when he relocated to Honolulu.
Father Weidner has a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., a master of divinity degree from the Franciscan School of Theology at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, Calif., and a doctorate in theology from Oxford University in England.
He is also the author of several books including, “Island Affirmations”; “Grief, Loss, and Death: The Shadow Side of Ministry” with Andrew J. Weaver; and “Praying With John Cardinal Newman: Companions for the Journey.”
Father Weidner served in priestly ministry in Hawaii for more than 15 years, serving as associate director of the Spiritual Life Center in Manoa. He was appointed associate pastor of Holy Trinity Parish in Kuliouou in 1994 and a year later pastor. During that time, he took on prison ministry at Halawa Correctional Facility, celebrating two Masses back-to-back on Sunday evening to accommodate the demand.
He also served as Vicar Forane for the East Honolulu vicariate and was a member of the Presbyteral Council, the diocesan College of Consultors, the diocesan Theological Commission and the Ecumenical Commission.
Father Weidner left Hawaii in 2007 to serve as pastor of St. Francis Parish in the Diocese of Norwich, Connecticut, and a chaplain at Wesleyan University in Middletown.
By Patrick Downes / Hawaii Catholic Herald
The Catholic Miscellany contributed to this report.