Obituary: Father Howard Hane, archdiocesan senior priest dies at 84

Father Howard S. Hane Pilot file photo

When the information about the death of a priest, in this case Father Howard S. Hane, had been communicated to the parishes of the archdiocese I received a couple of calls from priests asking me “Who was Howard Hane?” and “How will you write anything about him?”

Father Hane’s name was familiar to me because I would see it on the list of priests’ names, which is prepared annually for the Boston Catholic Directory. Short of the fact of his living in Chicago, indeed, I had never met him nor met anyone who studied with him or served with him. I was sure that this task was going to be difficult.

If he was unknown in life to many of us, I hope that he’ll be known now not so much in death but more because of who he was and what he accomplished in his life. His was a most interesting life.

A native of the “Windy City,’’ Howard Spencer Hane was born in Chicago Feb. 13, 1924. He was the only child of the late Howard and Edna (Magnuson) Hane. He was raised in the Episcopal Communion and indeed, his parents were founding members of St. Richard Episcopal Parish in Chicago.

He completed his undergraduate degree, the bachelor of arts at Hartford’s Trinity College and was also granted a master of arts degree from the same. Harvard University granted him a bachelor’s in Sacred Theology and he was subsequently ordained a priest in the Episcopal church.

Received into full communion with the Catholic Church, and sensing a vocation to the priesthood, he was sent to Europe for seminary formation by Richard Cardinal Cushing. Neither of Howard’s decisions was easily accepted by a family deeply devoted to the Episcopal church. However, his quiet determination and gentle manner made these “transitions” not only easy but eventually a joy for all.

The two seminaries where he prepared for ordination were Louvain, Belgium and Salzburg, Austria. His was a very unusual journey toward ordination combining as it did his entrance into the Roman Catholic Church and his seminary formation at two widely respected European universities but not the usual -- Brighton or Rome -- seminaries. This explains in part why his contemporaries did not know him.

Cardinal Cushing ordained him to the priesthood at St. Ignatius Loyola Church, Newton on July 21, 1967. His first assignment was to the faculty of Boston College where he served for three years.

Three years later he served in a series of archdiocesan parishes most of the time as a temporary assistant or associate. Those assignments were to St. Mary, Randolph; Corpus Christi, Newton; St. Bernard, Newton; St. Mary, Dedham; St. Adelaide, Peabody; Our Lady of Mercy, Belmont and St. Thomas of Villanova, Wilmington.

In 1974 Cardinal Medeiros granted him permission to return to Chicago to care for his aging parents and he also served in Chicago-area parishes of the Eparchy of St. Nicholas of the Ukrainians. Among the parishes he served were Immaculate Conception, Chicago; St. John Neumann, St. Charles, Ill.; and Blessed Sacrament, Gary, Ind. He had a knack for foreign languages and was fluent in French and German and had a working ability in Italian, Spanish and Swedish. His natural ability with languages made his lend lease assignment to the Ukrainian Catholic Church a smooth and seamless one.

Even as his years advanced he enjoyed relatively good health and was able to celebrate Mass in retired years at St. Mary of the Woods and Queen of All Saints, both in Chicago. He died at Swedish Covenant Hospital in Chicago on Sept. 6.

Father Hane’s funeral Mass was celebrated at the Basilica Church of Queen of All Saints in Chicago on Sept. 9. The principal celebrant and homilist of the Mass was the Basilica’s rector, Father Wayne F. Prist. Father Prist had enjoyed Father Hane’s friendship as well as his priestly assistance at the Basilica for a number of years. Concelebrating with Father Prist were other Chicago-area priests including Fathers Kurt Boras and Thomas Maher. The Director of the Archdiocesan Office for Senior Priests, Boston’s Father James McCune, was also a concelebrant. Following the funeral Mass Father Hane was buried in Rosehill Cemetery, Chicago with full military honors in view of his service in the United States Navy.

Nora Marsh, a friend and confidant, said of Father Hane, “He was quiet, almost reserved and avoided the limelight at all cost. Not only did he care for his aging parents but he was also caregiver for several of his maiden aunts. He did things quietly, happily and with love.”

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