Local man speaks about entering priesthood
by Jo Rafferty
An adventurous boy grew up in the Gardnerville Ranchos, playing with friends, sometimes going overboard and getting in trouble, experiencing life to its fullest.
That boy was Mark Hanifan, now 38, who will be ordained a priest on June 2 at St. Teresa of Avila Church in Carson City, and will celebrate his first mass at St. Gall Catholic Church the following day.
“I’ll be moving shortly to a parish assignment in Reno,” said Hanifan, from the St. Patrick Seminary and University in Menlo Park, Calif., where he has studied for the last seven years.
He was ordained a deacon in 2006 and will assume his new assignment on June 1.
The public has the chance to meet Hanifan for a vocation awareness night, 6-8 p.m. today at the St. Gall Pastoral Center, and find out where his first assignment will be. The evening also includes guest speakers The Most Reverend Bishop Phillip Straling of Reno, Deacon Pat Root, Tim Heydon of the Serra Club, a video presentation “Fishers of Men,” a skit by vocation ministry members and a free dinner in Hanifan’s honor.
Hanifan was born in Reno on Nov. 4, 1968, and lived in Carson City until age 6 when he moved to the Ranchos. He attended local elementary schools, Carson Valley Middle School and Douglas High School. His parents, Philip Hanifan and Janet DuBois Hanifan, had five children, David, Mark, Robert, Brian and Noelle, and his mother still lives in the house he grew up in. The family went to church every Sunday, praying before road trips, praying at every dinner gathering and before going to sleep at night. Hanifan was an altar boy at St. Gall Catholic Church from age 8-16, where his brothers were also altar boys and all the children attended religious education.
“They’re excited. They’re happy for me,” said Hanifan, of his family. “We’re one of those families that stand behind each other.”
Hanifan has always been active. As a child growing up in the Ranchos, his favorite things to do were riding and performing stunts on his bike, playing “kill ball” (similar to dodge ball), exterminating red ants and black widows, throwing rocks, shooting his BB gun, riding motorcycles, catching lizards, competing with his friends and family in everything and, in his own words, “annoying others so they would chase me.
“It was exciting. I was an outdoor kid,” said Hanifan. “I was just into everything.”
His bicycle would take him to the sand pits, and as he grew older to the Carson River and the broken dam.
“As kids we would just get on our bikes and it was an adventure,” said Hanifan. “At the broken dam we would do cliff jumping and diving. I loved to fish and target shoot. We played sand lot baseball games. The video game era – I was immersed in it head and shoulders. We went to 7-11 and played video games with our pocket change and allowances.”
As an adult he enjoys hunting, fishing, camping, four-wheeling, golfing, snow skiing, most team sports, billiards and is learning to play an Irish tin whistle.
Hanifan graduated from UNR in 1998 with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering. While in college and in the in the couple of years following he struggled with looking to the world for answers instead of to God.
“I’ve experienced life in the full sense,” said Hanifan. “I am a ‘worldly’ kind of guy and I could see the good in all of that, and also I’ve experienced the pitfalls.
“I’ve been down a lot of roads that most people have, which could help me relate to other people. Hopefully I’ll be more approachable.”
After seven years at St. Patrick’s Seminary, in the summer of 2006, Hanifan made the decision to enter priesthood.
“I turned to God and to prayer and went through a pretty strong re-conversion,” said Hanifan. “Over a couple of years I was convinced to move forward with a bigger step. I needed to explore and I felt like I had to come here and check it out, all along getting more and more a feeling that this is right for me.”
Hanifan made his decision after a 30-day retreat, 30 days of silence with one hour a day with a spiritual director, following the spiritual exercises that were taught by St. Ignatius.
On Thursday, Hanifan was not yet privileged to release where his first assignment, as an associate for two or three years, would be. He said every six years they are given a new assignment. In his lifetime he figured he would be assigned to four or five churches, and the prospect of having one of them be St. Gall Catholic Church sounded appealing to him.
“That would be a beautiful assignment for sure,” he said, adding, “You don’t know where you’ll end up. You never know where the need will take you.”
All in the community are invited to honor Hanifan by attending the special evening and listening to his story followed by a free dinner today. To reserve seats, call St. Gall Catholic Church office at 782-2852, or register on the sign-up sheet in the gathering area of the church. The church is located at 1343 Centerville Lane, Gardnerville.