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Father Daniel Hopcus to celebrate 50-year Jubilee

Sister Beth Wright receives ashes on the first day of Lent from Father Dan Hopcus.

As he ushers out a visitor from his office, the chaplain greets her with a warm goodbye.

Dressed in a black blazer and pink shirt, he then heads back to his office in Providence Hall, ready to move further into a beautiful spring afternoon.

With soft instrumental music playing in the background, there’s an aura of calmness in the room as he takes a seat at a table on the other side of his office.

Displaying a relaxed appearance, Father Daniel Hopcus smiles as he eases into his chair.

Father Dan, as he is commonly called, has been with the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods since 2002. On April 30, he will celebrate his 50th Jubilee.

The Los Angeles native realized at a young age he wanted to enter the priesthood.

“It’s common for little boys to play cowboy, policeman or fireman,” Father Dan said. “When I was a little boy, I played priest.

“My dad was an usher in the parish for years and years. He did a lot of repair work for the sisters at the convent,” Father Dan continued. “And my mother was quite faithful to the church, so I guess you could say I had the background.”

Father Dan added he had a brother who entered the seminary, but left to become a pilot.

After he finished the eighth-grade, Father Dan attended the Los Angeles College Junior Seminary for four years, followed by two years of junior college at Our Lady Queen of Angels, San Fernando, Calif. He then studied theology at St. John’s Theology, Camarillo, Calif., for four years before being ordained.

Father Dan was ordained in 1964 within the Orange Diocese. He began his ministry as an associate pastor for Holy Family, Orange, Calif., (1964-69), followed by a stint at St. Joan of Arc, West Los Angeles, (1969-74), and a three-year period at St. Pius V, Buena Park, Calif., (1974-77).

From there, he spent two years at St. Columban, Garden Grove, Calif., before becoming pastor at St. Martin de Porres, Yorba Linda, Calif., in 1978.

During his time as pastor of St. Martin de Porres, he met Sisters Paula Damiano and Jan Craven. Sister Paula had just come to St. Martin de Porres to work as a pastoral associate. Sister Jan, Father Dan said, worked at another parish nearby.

He worked with both of them throughout the years. For example, Father Dan was asked to come celebrate ceremonies at Marywood School, located in Orange County, Calif.

“That’s how this whole thing started,” Father Dan said. “I’ve worked with the Sisters of Providence for 30 years.”

“We came to know each other through the years of working together,” Sister Paula said. “We would talk about the role of women in the church. We often had some enlightening and enlivening conversations.

“I really came to admire him as a pastor, as a minister. Eventually, we became very good friends.”

In 1990, Father Dan became pastor of St. Hedwig, Los Alamitos, Calif., before leaving in 2001, to become senior priest at Our Lady of Guadalupe, La Habra, Calif.

Father Daniel Hopcus, right, and Sister Paula Damiano, in 2012

While on sabbatical in 2001, Father Dan received a call from Sisters Paula and Jan, who informed him the Sisters of Providence chaplain, Father J. Lawrence Richardt, was leaving. The sisters asked Father Dan if he would be interested in coming to Indiana.

“Father Dan came to know the Congregation in California, because we would frequently call upon him when we had celebrations for the sisters in California,” Sister Paula said. “When we had liturgies, we often asked him if he would preside.”

“I did not initiate the idea,” Sister Jan said. “It was Sister Paula’s invite to him. It took Father Dan several weeks to think about it and finally, he said he wanted to do it.”

Father Dan was only a few years away from retirement, but believed coming to Indiana was the right thing to do.

He had to ask his bishop permission to leave and was initially told no. However, after a discussion with Sister Jan, the bishop said if Father Dan’s pastor would allow him to leave, so would he.

“Whatever I said worked,” Sister Jan said.

Father Dan was also given permission from the archbishop of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis to come to Indiana.

“I had visited here a couple of times,” Father Dan said. “At that time, I knew, by name, close to 40 sisters. I felt very much at home. They knew me.”

Since 2002, Father Dan has been a regular on the grounds at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.

“Here, I work within the framework of the motherhouse,” he said. “I work with the sisters every day. I visit the sick every day.”

“Health care is his love,” Sister Jan said. “He’s a very humble man. He’s a tender-hearted guy who likes to fix things.”

Father Dan is also a Providence Associate.

“Father Dan is a familiar figure to all of us at Sisters of Providence – sisters, staff, volunteers and visitors to Providence Health Care,” Sisters of Providence General Superior Sister Denise Wilkinson said. “His door is always open. He never seems in a hurry if someone stops him in the hallway to talk. Father Dan remembers to ask about what someone may have been worried about a week ago and shared with him at that time.

“What I always have and still do appreciate about Father Dan is his attentiveness to our sisters and other residents in health care,” Sister Denise continued. “I am so grateful that Father Dan has chosen to be a part of our Providence community.”

Father Dan Hopcus

“Over the years, our friendship has grown so much,” Sister Paula added. “We’re just very, very good friends. Having him here now is just a blessing. I think it’s a blessing for the Congregation. He is so incredibly dedicated to this ministry.”

“He’s very pastoral,” Sister Jan said. “He’s pastoral in our friendship. Here, his gifts are exponentially called upon.”

The slower pace of life was a dramatic change compared to the hustle and bustle Father Dan witnessed on the west coast, he said. But moving to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods was a welcome change.
“(Indiana has) a different pace than southern California,” he said. “But you get tired of everything moving so fast.”

Regardless, Father Dan said he believes he found his way to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods for a reason.

“When I came here, it was with the intention of staying here,” he said. “As long as I’m physically able to work, I’m here for good.

“I love it here. The sisters are respectful, friendly, generous, intelligent, creative, organized, reliable, supportive, just about everything I can imagine. I feel that Providence brought me here and I’m thankful.”

A reception in honor of Father Dan will take place at 2 p.m., Wednesday, April 30, in the Providence Hall Dining Room.

About the Sisters of Providence

The Sisters of Providence, a congregation of 214 women religious, with 300 Providence Associates, collaborate with others to create a more just and hope-filled world through prayer, education, service and advocacy. The Sisters of Providence have their motherhouse at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, located just northwest of downtown Terre Haute, Ind., which is now listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Saint Mother Theodore Guerin founded the Sisters of Providence at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods in 1840. Today, Sisters of Providence minister in 13 states, the District of Columbia and Asia, through works of love, mercy and justice. More information about the Sisters of Providence and their ministries can be found at SistersofProvidence.org.

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Jason Moon

Jason Moon serves as media relations manager for the Sisters of Providence. Previously, he spent more than 16 years in the newspaper industry.

Media contact

For inquiries or information, contact Jason Moon at jmoon@spsmw.org or 812-535-2810.

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