Boniface Hanley, OFM
1924 – 2010
Fr. Boniface Hanley, OFM, was born on Sept. 27, 1924 in Brooklyn, N.Y. He attended St. Sylvester School there, where he and Sylvester (later Fr. Myles) Glynn became close friends. In 1937, the two boys visited Sylvester’s older brother, James (later Fr. Alan), at St. Joseph Seraphic Seminary, Callicoon, N.Y. The pair entered the seminary in 1938, studying there for six years.
In 1944, Fr. Boniface entered the novitiate at St. Bonaventure Friary in Paterson, N.J., where he professed first vows one year later. He professed solemn vows in 1948 at Holy Name College in Washington and was ordained to the priesthood in 1950 at the Franciscan Monastery Church, also in Washington.
After his ordination, he taught English, Latin and religion at Bishop Timon High School in Buffalo, N.Y. In 1953, he was asked to serve as the personal secretary of Provincial Minister Fr. Celsus Wheeler, OFM. In 1956, Fr. Boniface requested to serve among the pioneer friars sent to Bolivia to open a mission in the Altiplano. He became pastor of St. Mary of the Angels Parish there, serving close to 40,000 Aymara people. He oversaw the construction of a parish church and friary, organized a school and opened a clinic before he became seriously ill and needed to return home.
Upon his return to the United States in 1959, Fr. Boniface was stationed at St. Francis College in Rye Beach, N.H., where he served as master of clerics. It was there that he and Fr. Salvator “Doc” Fink, OFM, began collaborating on a popular introduction to Franciscan life, with Fr. Bonnie supplying the text. The result, “The Franciscans: Love at Work,” was published in 1962. In 1967, Fr. Boniface was named guardian of Siena College Friary, where he served during a time of transition.
In 1971, Fr. “Doc” Fink, OFM, who had just been named director of St. Anthony’s Guild and editor of The Anthonian magazine, asked Fr. Bonnie to renew their collaboration, which lasted 17 years and resulted in two books — “Ten Christians,” published in 1979 and “No Greater Love,” published in 1982.
Meanwhile, Fr. Boniface moved to New Jersey, where he served in several positions including as pastor of St. Mary’s Parish, Pompton Lakes, N.J., director of Christ House Retreat Center in Lafayette, N.J., and a member of the team ministry at St. Catherine’s Parish, Ringwood, N.J. While at Christ House, Fr. Boniface enrolled in a master’s degree program for executives at Columbia University, New York City. When he graduated in 1980, his classmates chose him as valedictorian. After three years as guardian and pastor of St. Francis Parish in New York City, Fr. Boniface moved to St. Joseph’s Parish in West Milford, N.J., where he served as pastor from 1985 to 1999 and parochial vicar from 1999 to 2003.
When the Province withdrew from St. Joseph’s Parish in 2003, he was moved to the Province’s house in Margate, N.J., where he helped provide hospitality to the friars. His book “The Last Human Face: Fr. Franz Stock: A Priest in Hitler’s Army” was published before he died in 2010. In addition, he began writing a popular, anecdotal history of the Province. Although still a work in progress at the time of his death, it captures well the mix of heroic deeds and zany antics that make the Province unique.
He died on Sept. 24, 2010 at the friary in Margate, three days short of his 86th birthday. Fr. Boniface was a professed friar for 65 years and a priest for 59 years.