Msgr. Hannan Remembered as 'Priests' Priest'

CLIFTON — Msgr. John P. Hannan, who served Virginia Catholic for more than 54 years, was remembered as a "priests’ priest" who was always there for his brother priests. Msgr. Hannan died Aug. 3 after a brief illness. He was 79. Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde celebrated the funeral Mass Aug. 6 at St. Andrew the Apostle Church in Clifton. His longtime friend and brother priest, Msgr. James W. McMurtrie, pastor of St. Theresa Parish in Ashburn, was the homilist. Former Arlington Bishop Thomas J. Welsh presided. "Today, on the Feast of the Transfiguration, we celebrate the life of Msgr. Hannan, whose life has been transfigured into a new life," Msgr. McMurtrie said. Friends for more than 50 years, Msgr. McMurtrie said Msgr. Hannan used to tell him, "Always err on the side of mercy. Let them (the people of God) know that God loves them." "A priest is someone who has been sent," Msgr. McMurtrie said. "They, too, are human beings, trying to work out their salvation." Msgr. Hannan built many buildings during his 54 years of priestly ministry, "but he touched the lives of so many people," Msgr. McMurtrie said. "He loved being a priest. He loved reaching out to bring mercy to God’s people. He believed in supporting the Church and being loyal to the bishop." Msgr. McMurtrie recalled how the two priests frequently went on a "pilgrimage" to watch Notre Dame football games in South Bend, Ind. When the game was over, Msgr. Hannan didn’t want to waste any time returning home to Virginia. "Let’s get out of here," he would say, "the game is over." "Well, John, the game is over," Msgr. McMurtrie said. "You’re home." John Patrick Hannan was born on St. Patrick’s Day in 1922, the son of John F. and Adelaide Woerner Hannan. Following graduation from St. Francis Major Seminary in Loretto, Pa., he was ordained to the priesthood Jan. 19, 1947, by Auxiliary Bishop William T. McCarty of the Military Ordinate. He later earned a master’s degree in education administration from George Mason University. Following ordination, he served briefly at St. Peter and St. Paul Parishes in Richmond before being named diocesan director of youth in 1954. He was assigned to Assumption Parish in Keyser, W.V., in 1955. He was coordinator of Roanoke Catholic schools from 1958-63 while in residence at St. Andrew Parish. Bishop John J. Russell appointed him the founding pastor of Queen of Apostles Parish in Alexandria in1963. He served there for 11 years until he was named pastor of Good Shepherd Parish in Mount Vernon in 1974. Bishop Welsh then appointed him pastor of St. Leo the Great Parish in Fairfax in1975. He was administrator of the Arlington Diocese from April to August of 1983 between the assignment of Bishop Welsh to Allentown and the installation of Bishop John R. Keating as Arlington’s second bishop. "The office of administrator is an elected office by the consultors of the diocese to care for the ordinary work of the diocese within the limits prescribed by the Code of Canon Law," Msgr. Hannan said at the time of his appointment. "I shall try to the best of my ability to fulfill this office and ask for your prayers." Msgr. Hannan led a contingent of diocesan priests to National Airport in June 1983 to welcome then Father Keating to his future diocese. He also had a prominent role in Bishop Loverde’s installation as Arlington’s third bishop. At an age when many priests are thinking about retirement, Msgr. Hannan accepted Bishop Keating’s invitation in 1989 to become the founding pastor of St. Andrew the Apostle Parish in Clifton. Under his guidance the church, school and rectory complex were built. The parish now has nearly 9,000 parishioners. The school has an enrollment of nearly 300 students. During his years of priestly service, Msgr. Hannan was a member of the College of Consultors, chairman of the Diocesan Finance Committee, dean of Deanery III and moderator of the annual Bishop’s Lenten Appeal. Msgr. McMurtrie succeeded him that post in 1997. Msgr. Hannan retired in 1997 to his home in Gainesville. He is survived by one sister, Adelaide Hannan, of Falls Church. Interment was at Fairfax Memorial Park. In lieu of flowers, the family requests contributions be made to the Msgr. Hannan Theological Scholarship Fund, 200 N. Glebe Rd., Suite 914, Arlington, Va. 22203.

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© Arlington Catholic Herald 2001