Cheverus profiles: Daniel Hickey of St. Michael the Archangel Parish, Winthrop

WINTHROP -- Every Tuesday at St. Michael the Archangel Parish Hall in Winthrop, a crack team of specialists meets to take care of the parish finances.

Each member of this elite group has a nickname based on their specialty. Paul "Bag Man" Clauss safeguards the offertory collection. Jim "Fingers" Chicos runs the calculator. Paul "Copycat" Corkum runs the copy machine. Mary Ann "Cash Money" Cash -- well, just look at her surname. Finally, there's Dan "Wiretap" Hickey, the team leader, whose nickname comes from his computer skills. Hickey came up with all of the nicknames, including his own, and gave his fellow parish volunteers green accounting visors with their nicknames on them.

"I can't take credit for earning a nickname when I made it up," Hickey joked to The Pilot in a Feb. 6 interview.

Hickey, a 57-year-old retired lieutenant of the Suffolk County Sheriff's Department, was one of 151 Cheverus Award recipients in 2023. The annual archdiocesan awards honor those who have dedicated their lives to serving the Catholic Church in Boston.

"I selected Dan Hickey for the award because of his humility, prayerfulness, and a willingness to help always," Father Chris O'Connor, pastor at St. Michael's, told The Pilot in a Jan. 30 interview.

Father O'Connor said that Hickey was "instrumental" and provided "great advice" during the merger of Holy Rosary Parish and St. John the Evangelist Parish to create St. Michael's.

Along with handling the parish finances every week, Hickey works with the parish groundskeeper, assists in snow removal, and cooks breakfasts and dinners at the parish. (On the last three nights before The Pilot spoke to him, he cooked grouper, chicken, and pasta with prosciutto, respectively).

"Everybody loves it," he said.

If there are problems with the plumbing, he'll take care of it. If something in the parish isn't up to code, he'll fix it.

"If God puts things in front of you, you have a choice," he said. "You can either pick them up and carry them out, or you can step around and find a way out of it. Father Chris, who is a wonderful, wonderful man, asked me to do certain things, and I carried them out."

For Hickey, accounting has been the most difficult job in his 16 years of volunteering for the parish. In 2021, he contracted COVID-19, which became pneumonia. He was in a medically-induced coma for 11 days, and when he woke up, he required months of therapy to regain cognitive function.

"It was a living hell," he said. "It was like being in a constant nightmare. I had no concept of time. I had no concept of how long I was in a coma. I didn't even know I was in a coma. I didn't know where I was. I didn't know who was around me. I didn't know my family existed."

The computer work he did for St. Michael's became impossible. At first, he wasn't even able to pick up his cell phone. Later, his muscles would shake to the point that he couldn't send text messages. Continuing his work for the parish helped him regain his mental strength. Without the prayer he received from his parish, his family, and other nearby parishes, he said, he never would have recovered.

Hickey is a lifelong Winthrop resident and was a lifelong member of Holy Rosary before it merged into St. Michael's. He lived "the average life of a parishioner" until 2008, when then-parish administrator Father Tom DiLorenzo asked him to volunteer in the parish's street ministry, which gave food and clothing to the poor in Boston. He was worried that if he volunteered, those he served would recognize him from his police work.

"I was kind of skeptical at first, but I'm glad I did it," he said, "because overall, it was a good, good experience."

Coming from the "constant negative environment" of law enforcement, he craved the chance to do good for others. He said that the experience brought him closer to God.

"If I serve you, I'm serving Jesus," he said. "If I clothe somebody, or if I give them food or treat them medically, administer first aid, I'm treating him."

Father DiLorenzo was "a powerful inspiration" to Hickey.

"The one thing I learned from Father Tom is that it's not about going to Mass every week and meeting an obligation," he said. "It's about living life as a Catholic and not being afraid to project who you are as a Catholic. And that was a very powerful lesson."

When Father O'Connor told him that he won the Cheverus Award, he couldn't believe it.

"I was speechless," he recalled, "which doesn't happen often."

He felt honored, but at the same time, he felt that he didn't deserve it.

"I do better working behind the scenes," he said. "Let's put it that way. If something needs to be done, I'll do it."