Msgr. Doskey's homily at the funeral Mass of Archbishop Philip Hannan
There have been many requests to reprint the entire homily delivered by Msgr. Clinton Doskey at the funeral Mass for Archbishop Philip M. Hannan. Here is the homily he delivered on
Oct. 6 at St. Louis Cathedral:
Archbishop Philip Matthew Hannan
Man of God, with a will of iron, the gentleness and humility of a child, devoted to the elderly and the poor, with a deep love and gratitude toward his own family, who could jump out of a plane as a paratrooper and lay to rest a President as he soothed a nation in mourning.
Philip Matthew Hannan
Members of Clergy, of Archbishop Hannan’s family, Friends of Archbishop Hannan.
Archbishop John Patrick Cody had just left New Orleans to become Archbishop of Chicago when Hurricane Betsy that had gone back and forth over Florida now came and settled in the Gulf of Mexico off the shore of Louisiana strengthening and gathering momentum until it roared ashore aimed directly at New Orleans. South Louisiana with St. Bernard and Plaquemines were devastated with the whole of New Orleans past the Industrial Canal under water. Churches and schools were destroyed and the Catholic Church was headless with no Archbishop. Action was needed immediately, and from the steps of St. Peters and the Chambers of Vatican II, Bishop Hannan, auxiliary to Cardinal O’Boyle of Washington, D.C. was sent — an able, dauntless fighter to face down the ravages of a major hurricane and give the people hope and direction. There would be others: Camille, Katrina.
God’s plan for Philip Hannan began as he was born into the Irish family of Patrick and Lilian Hannan on May 20, 1913, in Washington, D.C. Philip saw the Faith lived in the life of Patrick who was a plumber, a staunch member of the Catholic Faith, active in the St. Vincent de Paul Society in its work for the poor. He learned the basis principles of life: faith, sacrifice, love and hard work. As the fifth of eight children he learned simplicity and discipline. He witnessed love in action as Lilian Hannan guided and challenged each of her children. Education was in the forefront with lessons done every night. The Hanna’s prayed the family rosary every night and the boys served at the altar of God.
The Hanna’s had been burned in Ireland under the oppression of the British and now surrounded by government Philip saw how government worked, how good could be accomplished by politicians. He rubbed shoulders with them and learned how together much could be accomplished. Yet the Hannan family was stunned when Philip announced that he was considering becoming a priest.
He studied under the Sulpicians in Washington, then was selected to attend the North American College in Rome. Washington had given Philip a vision of politics and government, but Rome opened his eyes wider to a whole world and this world now touched, jarred and bruised him into seeing peoples’ atrociousness and viciousness that would indelibly scar him as the drums of war began rumbling through Rome and all Europe. He experienced first hand people oppressed, discriminated against and suffering. On December 8, 1939 he was ordained to the Holy Priesthood. There were still a few more months of study remaining, but Cordell Hull, Secretary of State informed the students that their safety could no longer be guaranteed beyond June 1940.Philip left Rome with most of the students of the North American College in May 1940.
After his return and first assignment in Baltimore he began working in youth ministry, but on December 7, 1941 the Japanese suddenly attacked Pearl Harbor reigniting this fired up young priest’s desire to become an Army Chaplain. With the consent of his pastor, Philip called his parents who already had two of their sons, Frank & Denis in service. Patrick and Lilian had no objection but the Army did. He was too young. He had been ordained in 1939 and did not qualify until 1942.With a background from Catholic University, Chaplain Hannan glided through Chaplain School.
Despite a few brushes with regulation and difficulties Philip moved forward as a Chaplain. A notice went up for a Catholic Chaplain “for a rainy cool area” which meant England. He promptly made out the order hoping to be bound for combat on the European Continent. D Day changed things completely.
In the winter of 1944 everyone believed that the reeling German Army would certainly collapse and surrender, but surprising news came that the German Army under Field Marshall von Rundstedt had smashed a gaping hole in the American front lines in the Ardennes Forest section of Belgium. As usual this fiery Chaplain immediately approached the Colonel “These fellows are fighting for their lives. The two airborne divisions the 82nd and the 101st are in a terrible position.” His answer “Okay, you can leave.” The 82nd needed a Catholic Chaplain for the 505th Regiment. So began the life of the “Jumping Padre.” Chaplain Hannan ministered to the wounded and administered to the dying. All casualties were attended to – German and American. Lt. Hannan developed a deep admiration for General “Slim Jim” Gavin. He could arouse a fighting spirit in his men. These years brought comfort and consolation to Chaplain Hannan, who if prompted could and would start off into hours of speaking on the 82nd Airborne. He was never so proud as he was following Hurricane Katrina when rioting and shooting broke out all over the streets of New Orleans. The 82nd Airborne was sent in to help quell the violence. How proud he was as the 82nd marched down Canal Street in full combat gear in a show of strength. As much as the experiences of working with some of the women who had been beaten and raped by the Russians, the experiences of the Concentration Camps disturbed Chaplain Hannan as he saw and listened about the beatings, starvation, the deaths. As Lt. Hannan moved toward Berlin, he came in contact with Communism. Everywhere the red flags bearing the hammer and sickle were to be seen. Back in Washington after deployment, Archbishop Curley of Baltimore thought it best forefather Hannan to take advantage of the GI Bill that would defray the entire cost of graduate tuition at Catholic University – so began Philip Hannan’s pursuit for a doctorate in Canon Law, which Father Hannan would say later was so important for a bishop in the running of a diocese.
In the Spring of 1956 Archbishop O’Boyle told Father Hannan that the Apostolic Delegate wanted to see him – the message: selection to serve as Auxiliary Bishop of the new Archdiocese of Washington – and the episcopal motto he selected – Charity is the bond of Perfection. These early episcopal years threw Bishop Hannan into the lives of the diocese, of Presidents, Congressmen, the full working of government with its pluses and minuses.
On September 9, 1965 Hurricane Betsy ravaged New Orleans, the Archdiocese of New Orleans and Southern Louisiana. Rome reacted immediately and responded to the need of the Archdiocese and of the people so sorely suffering.
On arrival, Archbishop Hannan’s first acts were to view and study the situation, to listen to the people and to consider the resources available. He went around by helicopter, by Army transportation facing straight on the needs and the challenges that were now his.
There were no medical services in the Desire area of New Orleans. His response: contact Extension Society and work with local officials to establish clinics and get nurses to staff the clinics. Catholic Charities was an active arm of the Archdiocese, but at that time was bogged down with cumbersome regulations and restrictions. He couldn’t wait, something had to be done and some structure put into place that would be freewheeling and could move and mobilize immediately. The Birth of the Social Apostolate. He tapped Monsignor Gerard Frey and his Marist brother Father Jerry Frey, S.M., together with Sister Barbara Ashy of the Eucharistic Missionaries to get programs moving for the children and youth. Into the ghetto areas they went. Seminarians and Sisters were recruited as volunteers. Cardinal Cushing of Boston released some of his ablest and most loyal seminarians to work in our summer program. One of these was Roger Morin, who later became Bishop Roger Morin, the present bishop of Biloxi. Roger took over the Social Apostolate after me, then the Office of Community Service. The Witness Program was a program to bring advantage to the young people and their families. The Witness Program moved into high gear.
Archbishop Hannan did not want the youth program to be just fun and games. He opened the seminary pool at Notre Dame Seminary to the children of the ghetto. He incorporated the Workshop Way as an education component. Field trips brought the children out of their ghetto to see a whole world, and opportunities. Catholic and Non-Catholic leaders in New Orleans stepped forward with expertise and money to provide for the needs. The words of Scripture became alive and incarnate through the workings of Archbishop Hannan. “He always heard the Cry of the Poor.”
Alden Labored became Archbishop Hannan’s right-hand man. As a former navy man and engineer designing rigs for oil, Alden brought know-how and people who associated with him into the forefront for meeting the needs of the poor. Housing for the poor had to become a reality – Christopher Homes became alive. All of the Homes for the Elderly that our people enjoy today were born through the vision of this great Archbishop. Clarence Jupiter, Tom Perkins, Alden McDonald all chimed in with their visions and talents.
God had prepared Archbishop Hannan in a singular fashion as he imbibed the philosophy of his father in caring for the less advantaged. His mother’s love for education guided Philip to provide opportunities for the poor to whom opportunities were not available. His experience as a Paratrooper instilled in him what he had seen in his home, discipline and hard work. His graphic witnessing of the sufferings in the Concentration Camps and the need to care for all moved him from vision to action. Government with all of its cumbersomeness was able to achieve so much, provided people work together. Many times the key to success is the contact in the governmental offices and a generous sharing of the glory. Food for the Poor – the Supplemental Feeding Program with the Infant Formula flowed out of programs that the US Department of Agriculture had been using for the Navajo Nation. Archbishop Hannan said, why can’t we avail ourselves, of this food for the needy in New Orleans. Off we went to Washington to meet in the Capitol with Senators Russell Long and Bennett Johnson, with Congressman Eddie Hebert, Lindy Boggs and the whole Louisiana Delegation.
We got our programs. Second Harvest expanded the feeding of the infants and children to now include the elderly and the needy. Members of City, State and National Government all helped to bring to fruition many a needed program.
When the poor were going to march on Baton Rouge from New Orleans for rent subsidy and needed housing, the members of the Louisiana Legislature had to act. So many Legislators were in the New Orleans Area. The Archbishop was told, that the only way they would come would be if he get them together. He opened the doors of Notre Dame Seminary to meet with the protesters and the Legislators -averting a tragedy. Work together and so much can be accomplished!
In typical New Orleans fashion whenever something happens the people want the top man. Archbishop Hannan was up to the task. Whatever happened, no matter what or where, the Archbishop was there. If it was a crash of tug boats on the river or a tornado in Laplace the
Archbishop showed up and he knew how to make his presence known so that the Church could be seen ministering to the people. He never spared himself.
He did allow himself a few special enjoyments. He loved football. As he started off he was a Redskin fan but it didn’t take long for his loyalty to transfer to his beloved New Orleans. When New Orleans got an NFL franchise and the team was to be named the Saints, Hannan was in his glory. He and Tom Benson became close friends (of course Archbishop Hannan was not averse to put the bite on Tom Benson for help in some programs that the Archbishop was trying make a reality) When they wanted to call the team the Saints after the words of the song, “When the Saints go marching in,” Governor McKeithen asked if it would be sacrilegious. Quite the opposite! The Archbishop composed a legendary prayer for the Saints as he had us praying for the demise of the Bears, the Lions, the Rams, etc with the Saints marching into Victory.
Archbishop Hannan believed that a priest must be involved with the people. He knew I was the Chaplain of the Endymion Mardi Gras Krewe and also of the Touchdown Club for the New Orleans Saints. Be a part of the life of the people! He and I had worked together so very closely over the years. I was with him for about 20 years in the Chancery helping him to put into flesh, the vision he had of what Christ had prepared him for. I faced the Black Muslins with him in the Desire Project as they tried to take over the Church; I was escorted to the Florida Project to be “interrogated” for what we were doing; I matched wits with Rap Brown and lawyer Kunstler as the mob poured out of Shakespeare Park toward St. Frances de Sales in Central City. We went through so much together.
He had been living on Moss street in a home loaned to him. The house was damaged in one of our storms. He came in August 2003and asked if he could live with me at St. Pius. He stayed until Hurricane Katrina moved him out in 2005. I told him certainly but we had no cook. I told him I would share with him what I cooked for myself. He said in his usual cryptic fashion “Fine.” Every evening I would fix supper for him and for me. But here is this great Archbishop! He said OK, but I've got to do my share. You do the cooking, I’ll do the pots. This he did every night. When a Missionary came for a Mission Appeal, he did not want the Archbishop doing pots, so he tried to intervene– “No, this is my job” was Hannan’s retort and when the Missionary started putting some of the dishes in the dishwasher, Archbishop Hannan moved over and told him, “This is not how we stack the dishes in the dishwasher.” The humility of this great man. Frequently I would walk down the hall going to my bedroom I would see the Archbishop on his knees saying his rosary. A man of deep Faith.
One of the very, very important things that Archbishop Hannan brought to fruition was the visit to New Orleans by Pope John Paul II .Pope John Paul II was a man of the people, a man of iron will, a man who embodied the Spirit of Jesus. He was a role model for the Archbishop. He embattled Communism and stood tall and firm for the truths of Christ and the Catholic Faith. To bring the Pope to New Orleans would be a dream come true. But he did it.
Archbishop Philip Matthew Hannan – God’s Gift to New Orleans!
Reverend Monsignor Clinton J. Doskey
October 6, 2011