After 45 years of priesthood, Hunt retires from St. Joseph's

After 45 years of priesthood, Hunt retires from St. Joseph's

CUMBERLAND - After exactly 45 years and one day as a priest, the Rev. John Hunt has retired.

Parishioners at the historic St. Joseph Church threw the Woonsocket native a party following the noontime Mass on Sunday, June 30, in the parish hall. June 29 marked his 45th anniversary of becoming a priest.

Prior to the celebration, Hunt admitted he was being kept in the dark.

"I'm like a groom at a wedding," he said. "Just tell me when to show up."

It was a proper send-off for a man who had served the Mendon Road church for 23 years.

"I certainly love Cumberland and the people here," Hunt said. "Any pastor will tell you the people are just wonderful, but I think that's true."

He has been succeeded by the Rev. Charles Galligan, a "young, enthusiastic" priest who Hunt said prefers to be called "Father Charlie."

Hunt said that over the years, he was able to empower these men and women who filled the pews week after week.

"People have learned that it's their church, not mine," he said. "I try to empower people with the notion that it's theirs."

And it's working. Hunt joked, "I don't know half the stuff going on."

In a letter to parishioners in the parish's spring newsletter, Hunt thanked parish committees for promoting active participation, and staff who "make me look good."

He explained his "brief but pithy homilies" that kept Mass running at an hour or less each week: "because of my belief that the brain can only absorb as much as the tuckus."

From a young age, Hunt had a sense that he wanted to enter the priesthood, he said.

He spent seven years at Our Lady of Providence - three years for high school and four for college - before studying for another four years in Belgium during the Second Vatican Council.

Hunt then taught at La Salle Academy for 12 years before becoming the executive director of the former Providence Visitor, now the Rhode Island Catholic.

Responsible for editorials and the overall operations, he held that position for eight years. At the same time, he was also the adult education consultant at the Diocesan Office of Religious Education. It was there that he started working toward his doctor of ministry degree from St. Mary Seminary & University in Baltimore, Md.

Then, he was asked by Bishop Louis Gelineau to become the pastor of St. Joseph Parish.

"I had thought of a pastorate as riding a train to Siberia, retirement or easy street," Hunt said. But instead, "In the last 23 years, I've felt challenged to dig deeply to meet the needs of parishioners. This is truly where theology meets the road."

In retirement, the 71-year-old will move to Chepachet, where he has had a house for years. He plans to help out in the northwest corner of the state, and he already has calls to fill in for pastors who would like to take time off.

He plans to catch up on his reading and tend to his garden.

"Mostly retirement means not worrying about buildings, boilers, painting and cemetery complaints," Hunt said. "I hope to read more, help in sacramental ministry where they will have me, garden and smell the flowers."

He said he also hopes to work in the Stewardship Office.

"This time can be as creative and challenging as any other in life," Hunt said. "I hope not to waste it."