COLONIE, N.Y. — Capistran Hanlon, OFM, the retired sociology and anthropology instructor from Siena College, was honored this month for his years of service as chaplain to the Colonie Police Department in Upstate New York.
The police recognized “Fr. Cap,” as he is called, on June 3 at its annual awards ceremony for his work since 1997. Previously, he was the chaplain for Capital Police Department, before it became part of the N.Y. State Police. With his background in marriage and family sociology, and a former private counseling practice, Capistran has been a perfect match as police chaplain, especially given his trauma counseling expertise. Over the years, he became a certified post-trauma debriefer, helping police officers and their families after crucial incidents, and joined the Colonie Emergency Management Team, also training others.
He is best known for his round-the-clock availability, especially following incidents. In addition to trauma and critical incident counseling, Capistran said police officers often suffer from the stress of working shift work. Known as an advocate for police officers, he is quoted as saying, “Officers have the right to expect to return home to their families,” in an article in the publication of the Colonie Police Benevolent Association.
He is also quoted in The Guardian, as saying, “Most civilians don’t realize how fast emergency situations develop and rapidly change.” To that end, Cap advocates for trained personnel to be the ones on the scene to assess and handle situations.
“You need special training and trust,” said the friar, who holds two master’s degrees, from St. Bonaventure University and the University of Colorado, and a doctorate in social change. It takes years to build this trust, something that Cap has earned over his many years in chaplain ministry.
Cap said he was very surprised to have been honored, although this is not the first time he has been lauded for his ministry. In 2010, the long-time chaplain of The Father Henry Tansey Division #5 of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, in Albany, N.Y., was honored. In 2009, he retired from active duty as AOH division chaplain, a position he held since 1982.
A native of Rutherford, N.J., Cap became a friar in 1953 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1960. In addition to his 48-year teaching ministry, Capistran helps out in parishes in the Albany Diocese by celebrating liturgy and preaching. He has also served as vicar of the Siena Friary. He enjoys photography and has had his work published in books, magazines, calendars, and postcards.
— Wendy Healy is a Connecticut-based freelance writer and frequent contributor to HNP Today.