Fr. Tom Hynes Vocation story
[Fr. Tom Hynes Vocation story was originally scheduled to be published later this month. See earlier post for funeral details
] Fr.Hynes was ordained to the priesthood on May 23, 1959. Below is his vocation story in his own words. Following that there is a summary of his ministries.
It all began with a candle really two altar candles. As a boy in St. Cecilia’s Parish in Iselin, New Jersey, I wanted so badly to light those candles as I saw the altar server doing! My wish came true some years later when the pastor, Fr. William Brennan, decided to provide Mass for us parishioners from Colonia in our local library.
For some reason I was never able to fathom, I was asked to open the library each Sunday, set up for Mass and serve. I did so with a friend of mine from Colonia throughout my high school days. During that time, each of the three priests who offered Mass in Colonia asked me to consider going to the seminary. And each time I answered with a decisive “No!” Yet I do remember that when the pastor offered to help pay the seminary expenses, I was so moved that I felt the tears coming along with my refusal to say “Yes.”
After a stint in the Army when I was barely eighteen, my thinking gradually began to change. As a lowly private I served on Adak, one of the Aleutian Islands of Alaska, during the winter of 1946/47. That experience was a “rite of passage” into the real world of rough barracks life in a leftover Quonset hut from the recently terminated World War II. I knew soon enough that an army career was not for me. My sights were fixed on returning to college and becoming a journalist.
But when discharge time came, there was no room left for veterans in the prestigious Rutgers University in New Jersey. I settled for St. Francis College in Loreto, Pennsylvania. There the Conventual Franciscans gave us young veterans a warm welcome to their campus. It was small. It was friendly. I felt quite at home going to daily Mass “with the guys” before breakfast.
A decisive moment of grace came one day during German 101. Our text was “Das Lied von Bernadet” (“The Song of Bernadette”), a biography of the saint of Lourdes written in novel form of by Franz Werfel. As I translated from German to English Bernadette’s account of the apparitions, I realized for the first time in my life that Our Lady was not some plaster statue but a real, loving human being of flesh and blood, close to God and close to me. In her communion of love with Bernadette, Mary respected and smiled upon her.
I knew after that experience things would not be the same. I began to pray more and to visit the large Lourdes grotto at the entrance of the college.
Eventually I made it to Rutgers. Soon after my arrival, I noted that St. Peter’s Church was right across the street from the main entrance. It was there that I met my first Vincentian, Fr. Joe Illig, who was conducting a Miraculous Medal Novena. I had been thinking for months about becoming a priest but told absolutely no one. Fr. Illig was the first to hear and advised me to make an appointment to see Fr. William Brady at St. Joseph’s College in Princeton, New Jersey. St. Joseph’s was the minor seminary of the Congregation founded by St. Vincent de Paul.
Fr. Brady and I had a good talk together. Right off he made it clear that to be a priest in the Congregation of the Mission (Vincentian Fathers and Brothers) one had to be ready to make all the sacrifices necessary. I liked hearing that “straight.” It encouraged me to remain on the course I had chosen.
Back at Rutgers, everything seemed to fall into place. My professor of Medieval Literature, William Hirten, who was a fine Catholic, agreed to teach me Latin without cost as a preparation for the seminary. All those in my family, still living in Colonia, were very supportive, especially my Dad.
A few months after graduation I found myself at St. Joseph’s along with Jim Power and another young veteran. We were assigned to Fr. Brady’s “Special Latin” class. It served us very well in our courses in the major seminary at Northampton, PA. The year was 1950.
Looking back now, how easy it is to see the Lord’s Providence at work and the maternal help of Our Lady all along the way into the “Little Company,” as St. Vincent liked to call it. With this, my story,
I wish to offer her my thanks. And I hope that this testimony will encourage others to light their own candle as Vincentians.
Fast forward to the present and a review of his ministries…
1959 St. John’s Prep Religion Teacher, Study Math @Columbia U.
1961 Bocas del Toro Panama Almirante
1964 Puerto Armuelles Panama David
1968 Assistant Superior
1970 Superior – 3 Terms and Pastor
1978 St. John’s Parish Brooklyn Temporary Assignment
1978 St. Vincent’s Seminary St. Lazare Retreat House, MI – Preacher
1979 St. Vincent’s Seminary Kalamazoo, MI Migrant Missions
1987 St. John’s Parish Brooklyn Pastor
1991 Carney Hospital, MA Chaplain
1992 St. Vincent’s Seminary Philadelphia Novena Band
1993 St. Vincent’s Seminary Solomon Islands Missionary, Diocese of Auki, Professor at Holy Name of Mary Seminary
1999 Alabama Mission Ashland, AL St. Mark’s Catholic Church – Hispanic Ministry
2004 Oyster Bay Discernment House Casa San Vicente
2007 St. Vincent’s Seminary Philadelphia Assist with Hispanic Evangelization Team
2009 St. Mary’s Rectory Greensboro, NC Temporary Assignment
2011 St. John the Baptist Brooklyn, NY General Ministry
2012-17 St. Vincent’s Seminary Philadelphia General Ministry; Confessor at Miraculous Medal Shrine and Spanish translator for Monday Novena homilies.