Divine Word Missionary, Appalachian pioneer passes away at Techny

Father Anthony Hemphill, 1931-2010

Hemphill,_Fr_Tony_for_webFather Anthony Hemphill, one of the early Divine Word Missionaries to work in Appalachia, died in Techny, Ill., on Monday, August 9.

The youngest of Marie (nee Scanlon) and Charles Hemphill’s three children, Anthony Hemphill was born in McKee Rocks, Penn., on July 3, 1931. He began studying with the Divine Word Missionaries in Girard, Penn., in 1944 and professed first vows as a Divine Word Missionary in 1950.

In June of 1958, Bishop William O’Brien of Chicago ordained Father Hemphill and fellow confreres at the Chapel of the Holy Spirit at Techny. A year later, the priest earned a master’s degree in social science from Catholic University of America and journeyed to Droitwich, Worcestershire, England, where he taught mathematics and science at St. Richard’s College in Hadzor for seven years.

In 1966, he returned to Girard, Penn., to serve as a vocation director until 1970 when he became a senior vocation director and moved to Bordentown, N.J. Other assignments in the Eastern United States included positions with the Miramar Retreat Center in Massachusetts and St. Peter Claver in Asbury Park, N.J. In 1977, Bishop George W. Ahr of Trenton chose Father Hemphill as spiritual director for the diocese’s Cursillo Movement.

During the 1970s, the bishop of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, struggled with the priest shortage. He appealed to the Society of the Divine Word for help. In 1978, Father Hemphill became the third Divine Word Missionary to go to Braxton County, W. Va. Father Hemphill served as pastor of St. Thomas in Gassaway until 1984 when he was asked to return to St. Peter Claver as pastor. During the following two years in New Jersey, he also served as a board member of the Monmouth County Citizen’s Advisory Committee on Alcoholism Services.

From 1986 to 2005, he was a member of the Society of the Divine Word’s U.S. Southern Province, where he facilitated retreats in Bay St. Louis, Miss. Five years ago, he moved back to Bordentown, where he lived until 2009 when he took up residence at Techny.

Father Hemphill’s wake and funeral took place at the Divine Word Residence Chapel at Techny. He is buried at St. Mary’s Cemetery in Techny.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations for the care of retired missionaries may be sent to The Rector, Divine Word Residence, 1901 Waukegan Road, P.O. Box 6000, Techny, IL 60082-6000.

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