Father Hynes brought a gift of wisdom


It was our last year at St. Ambrose College in Davenport when our lives connected with residence in Ambrose Hall and we shared the title of “Churchies” (a title given by fellow students to the men who chose to follow a vocation to the priesthood).

In May of 1951, with John F. Hynes — raised in “The Patch” under the shadow of the “Cork Hill” Cathedral — we took the next step.
With nine of us, we were assigned to four different major seminaries around the country to pursue studies toward ordination. Six of the nine survived the next four years and were finally ordained June 4, 1955. Father John Hynes returned to his home parish of Sacred Heart Cathedral, was ordained by Bishop Ralph Hayes, and offered his first Mass.

Students left the seminary with the final commendation of the spiritual director reminding us that we were all deserving of one right — the right of Christian burial. It was not the happiest thought, but it was proved that the grace of orders was present for survival. Fr. John Hynes died last Wednesday evening and will be celebrated with the sacred liturgy of the church he so graciously served for nearly 63 years.

For 50 years, I’ve written these tributes for my brother priests since being assigned to The Catholic Messenger. This honor for Fr. John is special to me in that we shared the gift of the priesthood and our lives in a changed world and church we served together.


Fr. John was someone with whom you were impressed on a first meeting. He was brilliant and I expected him to be assigned to the faculty of St. Ambrose. I was wrong. However, he brought his gift of wisdom to his pastoral ministry and thus affected many and accomplished much more.

Along with his wisdom, it is obvious that his giftedness was based on an infrastructure of a sense of humor. His Irish wit was his strength.

Altogether it made John approachable, personable, loveable, and anything else that made him the ideal witness of the priesthood he exercised.

Fr. John Hynes was human and loved his golf. For this he will always be the subject of many stories that will be repeated in loving memory.

Not only for golf, but for another outstanding gift: his talent to recite — from memory — the entire account of “The Cremation of Sam McGee.”

I lived with John for several years at St. Joseph Rectory (Davenport) after I was bumped out of residency at Mercy Hospital. Then I moved to St. Mary’s as pastor — only two blocks away. We shared together the responsibility of Holy Trinity School. Those days were a dream in comparison to our first assignments — 25 miles apart in the Ottumwa Deanery. It was a short distance, but an escape for survival.

John, your passing has stirred so much that time has touched in both our lives. We have enjoyed the introduction of the vernacular in the liturgy, the planning and reality of Vatican II — all in the first 10 years of our ministry. Some things have never changed, like abortion, racism, war and violence. The struggle goes on. It has also brought me to the edge of life that I still have to face. We have been priests together for 63 years.

Thanks John, for your example and friendship. You have touched the lives of many. You were a great pastor because you were happy being a priest. I pray you continue to be an example to other young men and women to join in the life we have loved and enjoyed.

-Msgr. Frank Henricksen

Father John Hynes, 1928-2018

Father John Hynes, a priest of the Diocese of Davenport, died April 4 at Genesis Medical Center East Campus in Davenport. He was 89. Born in Davenport to John and Ellen Hynes, he graduated from St. Ambrose Academy in Davenport. He earned a BA in philosophy from St. Ambrose College in 1951 and completed his theological studies at St. Mary Seminary in Baltimore, earning a Sacred Theology Bachelor (STB) degree in 1953. On June 4, 1955, he was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Ralph Hayes at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport.

He served as an assistant pastor at St. Mary of the Visitation Parish-Ottumwa from 1955-1965, St. Boniface Parish-Clinton from 1965-1967, and St. Joseph Parish-DeWitt from 1967-1970. He served as pastor of St. Joseph Parish-Davenport from 1970-1983, St. Ann Parish-Long Grove from 1983-1991, St. Paul the Apostle Parish-Davenport from 1991-1994 and Our Lady of the River Parish-LeCLaire from 1994-1998. He retired in 1998.

In addition, he served as chairman of the Diocesan Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs Commission from 1970-1984 and co-chaplain of the Divorced Catholic Group from 1974-1983. He served on the Priests’ Senate from 1977-1980, and was president for two terms. He served three terms on the board of directors of Churches United of the Quad Cities in the 1970s.

His funeral was to be held April 11 at St. John Vianney Catholic Church in Bettendorf, with burial at Mt. Calvary Cemetery in Davenport. Halligan-McCabe Funeral Home in Davenport assisted the family with arrangements.

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1 thought on “Father Hynes brought a gift of wisdom

  1. Father John, you were there as I struggled with Crohn’s Disease and was very critical to life. I loved attending your daily Masses and having breakfast with you after I left my nursing job at the Kahl Home in Davenport, Iowa. You stuck close to me for the entire 45 years I have known you. You were ALWAYS THERE FOR ME. I will terribly miss you!!! I love you!!!

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