Father Thomas E. Hanley, a longtime pastor in the Diocese of Wilmington, died Jan. 6. He was 83.
A Wilmington native, Father Hanley attended Christ Our King and Salesianum schools before beginning studies for the priesthood at St. Mary’s College in Kentucky. He was ordained by Bishop Michael W. Hyle in 1965. As an associate pastor, he served at St. Francis de Sales in Salisbury, Md., and in 1967 he moved to St. Paul’s, Wilmington. In 1972, he became the diocesan director of planning.
In 1976, he was named pastor of St. Paul’s while continuing as the planning director. After a stint as departmental secretary in charge of Catholic Charities from 1979-88, Father Hanley moved to Holy Cross Parish in Dover, where he remained as pastor until suffering two strokes in 2002.
During his priesthood he served on the personnel committee; the Campaign for Human Development; the diocesan pastoral commission; the Correctional Chaplains Task Force; the St. Francis Hospital Medical-Moral Committee; and on the boards of the Catholic Ministry to the Elderly and the Ministry of Caring. He was also diocesan coordinator for Spanish-speaking ministry before taking over at St. Paul’s.
At Holy Cross, Father Hanley supervised the construction of a new church. In 1993, the Dover Post newspaper voted him its “great man of the year,” an honor he said he didn’t deserve.
“I don’t take it as a personal achievement, but as one for Holy Cross Parish,” he told The Dialog. “We have a lot of involvement in the community, and Holy Cross does a lot for the community.”
One of the initiatives he spoke about was what he called “home prayer centers” where 200-250 parishioners would meet each week in groups of 10 to 12 in people’s homes. One of the priests at Holy Cross would make a videotape so each group would have the same teaching material “and they discuss what that point of prayer or Scripture says to their lives.”
The parishioner who nominated him for the award, Rose Mercado, told The Dialog in 1993 that she was impressed with Father Hanley’s gentleness and “fatherly way” with the community.
“He takes care of the people and treats them all the same,” she said.
Father Hanley was honored in 1996 by Mom’s House, a nonprofit training center for single parents in Dover. According to the Mom’s House website, the priest convened a Right to Life Committee in 1994 with the goal of developing a viable alternative to abortion for single women facing unplanned pregnancies. The establishment of Mom’s House grew out of that effort.
He continued to live in Dover after his stroke.
Details about services were not immediately available.