Msgr. John Hall, longtime spiritual director at Sacred Heart, had a true ‘priest’s heart’

Msgr. John Hall, 92, was a compassionate spiritual director of seminarians at Sacred Heart Major Seminary, and a longtime pastor with “a priest’s heart,” said Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron, whose mother was Msgr. Hall’s cousin. Msgr. Hall, who died Oct. 20, had an “ability to lovingly encourage people on their path to holiness in a very direct, simple, down-to-earth way,” the archbishop said. (Courtesy of Sacred Heart Major Seminary)

Longtime pastor in the archdiocese was a father figure to a generation of Detroit priests; he ‘encouraged people on their path to holiness’

DETROIT — Msgr. John Hall fulfilled many roles during his 65-year priesthood. Among them: pastor, mentor, spiritual guide and counselor.  

But for all his achievements, and the dozens of places where he achieved them, there was one task he prioritized above all others: being a priest. 

Msgr. Hall passed away Oct. 20. He was 92. 

After a long ministry as a pastor and associate pastor at dozens of parishes across the Archdiocese of Detroit, Msgr. Hall spent the final years of his priesthood as a spiritual director of seminarians at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit. 

“He was very compassionate, always very keen on really helping the guys grow in holiness,” Msgr. Todd Lajiness, rector of Sacred Heart Major Seminary, told Detroit Catholic about Msgr. Hall’s role as spiritual director. “He desired to always be present for the men and was unbelievably approachable.” 

John Franklin Hall was born to John and Angela Hall in Detroit on May 1, 1928. 

After studying at St. John’s Provincial Seminary in Plymouth and Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit, he was ordained June 6, 1955, by Cardinal Edward A. Mooney of Detroit at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament.  

Msgr. John Hall was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Detroit on June 6, 1955. (Archdiocese of Detroit photo)

Then-Fr. Hall was assigned to serve as associate pastor at the parishes of Immaculate Conception in Ira Township (1955), St. Ambrose in Grosse Pointe Park (1955-56), St. Francis Xavier in Ecorse (1956-58), the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament (1968-63) and St. Patrick in Wyandotte (1963-1966). 

He was named pastor of St. Patrick from 1970 to 1977, before transferring to St. Martin de Porres Parish in Warren (1977-91). He then was pastor of St. Philip Neri Parish and Holy Rosary Mission in Columbus from 1991-92. His final pastorate was at St. Richard Parish in Westland from 1992 to 1998. 

In July 1998, Fr. Hall was granted senior priest status, but he didn’t stop serving. During his time as a senior priest, he fulfilled administrator assignments at St. Damian in Westland (1996-98), St. Andrew in Rochester (1998), St. Lawrence in Utica (2001), SS. John and Paul in Washington Township (2002), St. Lawrence (2003), St. Mary in Royal Oak (2009), St. James in Ferndale (2009).  

During his retirement, he maintained his residence at St. Lawrence while being an administrator, until August 2009, when he moved to Sacred Heart Major Seminary to be a spiritual director. 

“So many of the seminarians have spoken about what kind of example he would give in spiritual direction, how compassionate he was,” Msgr. Lajiness said. “His availability for the men was incredible. He would invite the seminarians to come by and visit if there was something they wanted to talk about; no hesitation, he wanted them to knock on the door.” 

Through his decades of service both in the seminary and throughout the Archdiocese of Detroit, Msgr. Hall, named a chaplain to His Holiness (monsignor) in 2012, cultivated numerous relationships with the clergy in the area. 

Msgr. Hall is pictured with loved ones during a Mass on Jan. 23, 2013, to celebrate his reception of the title of “monsignor.” (Larry Peplin | Detroit Catholic file photo)

“In his ministry, I think Msgr. Hall’s unique gift was his ability to lovingly encourage people on their path to holiness in his very direct, simple, down-to-earth way,” said Detroit Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron, whose mother was Msgr. Hall’s cousin. “He took great pride in the people he loved, and he loved seeing them grow closer to God. Like many, I will miss his priestly heart, and will be praying for the happy repose of his soul.” 

Years after completing his assignments at parishes across the archdiocese, Msgr. Hall cemented his legacy in the Archdiocese of Detroit by helping form and shape the men discerning the priesthood. 

Fr. Craig Marion, associate pastor of St. Andrew Parish in Rochester, studied at Sacred Heart from 2010 to 2017, when Msgr. Hall was a spiritual director. 

“He was a very loving man, always willing to meet with the guys, day or night,” Fr. Marion said. “Whatever he could be available for, he was there for us. He loved us through our struggles and our joy; he was always there for us.” 

Fr. Marion said the role of a spiritual director was to lead seminarians in their relationships with Jesus and the world around them, something Msgr. Hall was particularly good at, drawing upon his experience as a pastor for many years.  

Fr. Marion recalled particular moments when Msgr. Hall would use his pastoral experience to reach out to those who had lost their faith, and in turn, show aspiring priests the impact one devout priest can have on the lives of the faithful. 

“When I was a deacon, there was a parishioner at Our Lady Queen of Creation (in New Baltimore) who was hospitalized at Henry Ford Hospital,” Fr. Marion recalled. “Monsignor was glad to have me drive him over to visit him. This man was away from the Church for many, many years, but Msgr. Hall brought him back. He had this gentle, kind disposition, where he could talk to someone who had struggles in life, and bring them back to communion before the time of their death. He was very gifted, pastoral in that way. He was one those genuinely joyful men.” 

Fr. Marion attributes his own vocation as a priest to Msgr. Hall’s direction. 

“I’m not sure I would be a priest if it wasn’t for him,” Fr. Marion said. “He was very supportive and willing to build you up. He loved us all, though so many good times and bad times. He was just a natural in helping us deal with struggles and determining if this is what God is calling us to do. 

“He was always there as a loving spiritual father to help us along that journey. He was a priest with a priest’s heart, and I think a lot of priests today are indebted to Msgr. Hall.” 

Msgr. Hall’s body will lie in state at St. Martin de Porres Parish in Warren, 21555 Hoover Road, on Monday, Oct. 26 from 5 to 9 p.m. and Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2 to 9 p.m., with a rosary at 7 p.m. His body will lie in state on Wednesday, Oct. 28, from 10 a.m. until his 11 a.m. funeral. 

Msgr. Hall’s funeral Mass will be livestreamed on St. Martin de Porres Parish’s Facebook page, where viewers can watch without an account.

Msgr. Hall is predeceased by his parents, John and Angela Hall; brother, Allen (Trudy) Hall; sisters, Agnes (Joe) Kutyla and Kathleen (late Michael) Romanchik. He is survived by his sisters, Sr. Margaret Hall, OSF, and Marylyn (AdvidHendrin; brother, Leo (Susan) Hall; as well as many nieces, nephews, great-nieces and great-nephews.