A man blessed by his church family
September 21, 2005
It’s not every day a steel sales engineer heeds a higher call to become a priest.
But that’s exactly what the Rev. Jerry Hanley did at the age of 32 while living in Detroit.
“After I entered the seminary outside Boston, I found out this is where I was supposed to be,” said Hanley.
Father Hanley, 68, was ordained at his home parish, St. Rita, in Detroit in 1973. His first assignment was in Las Vegas.
“It was like a missionary year. It’s like a miracle when I look back on it.”
Hanley spent four years with Our Lady of Las Vegas and St. Francis de Sales.
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“They were both vibrant and wonderful churches,” Hanley said. “Then I came to St. Teresa’s to be with Father Larry Quilici. We spent four wonderful years together until he went to Fallon.”
The Catholic Diocese of Reno asked Hanley if he wanted to be priest for St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Church and he jumped at the chance to do it.
Hanley’s leadership role at St. Teresa’s quickly worked its way into the community. Seeing a need for social services, St. Teresa’s and two other churches, First United Methodist Church and St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, began Friends in Service Helping.
“It’s been one of our chief charities since,” Hanley said. “Same with the Community Counseling Center.”
Hanley said the Community Counseling Center began with Pat Bates in the mid-1980s. When it comes time for him to retire, he wants to spend some time there volunteering.
“When you put your heart and soul into something to make it happen, then God keeps it going. It’s a blessing.”
Another blessing for Hanley has been his congregation. Over the years he has ministered to the families and the late Gov. Mike O’Callaghan, and Chris Schaller, late Nevada Appeal columnist and chief of staff to O’Callaghan and Gov. Bob List. He has also shared Ecumenical service on Good Friday with St. Paul’s Lutheran Family, the Methodists and Episcopalians.
“By sharing services, we can come up with ideas on how we can help this city. We’ve never done anything on our own, we’ve only done things through people who believe. That’s how things happen.
“I’ve always felt like I was a part of a wonderful group of people at St. Teresa’s. I’m proud to walk with them. Sometimes I’ve wept at the goodness.”
Hanley said three things he’d like to see happen in Carson City are, educating the public on the needs of the homeless; maintaining a shelter for the homeless and mentally ill, and putting a full-time minister on staff at Carson-Tahoe Hospital.
At home, Hanley likes to relax with a good spy novel. Reading is a passion. And spending a bit of time with his cat, Millennium, who he said doesn’t answer to his name, so he’s simply called “Kitty.”
“I also like to go out for a casual dinner with friends,” Hanley said. “I see my people here as my family.
“I love them with all my heart. I don’t see what I’ve done as a sacrifice.”
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