Father Hall reflects on life of service
April 18, 2019
It was 1992. Father Douglas Hall found himself ministering to thousands of Catholics in a country where such actions were forbidden.
A chaplain in the U.S. Air Force, Father Hall was assigned to the military base in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. While there, he encountered a large population of foreign workers from the Philippines who were practicing Catholics.
He was impressed with their dedication to the faith.
“I provided thousands of consecrated hosts for them so they could have Communion in their homes,” Father Hall said, noting that if any of the people were caught off the base practicing the faith, they could be thrown in jail for 30 days and have their homes and all possessions taken away.
It is just one of many memorable experiences Father Hall, 67, reflects on after retiring in September after 38 years in the priesthood. Those experiences encompass a total of 28 years as a chaplain to military families, between 1971 and 2011.
Father Hall was inspired to become a priest while serving a tour of duty in Vietnam. There he encountered priests who were making a meaningful impact on the soldiers’ lives.
“The priests I worked with were inspirational examples,” he said. “I saw what a difference a priest could make in a person’s life.”
Upon his return from Vietnam, Father Hall entered the seminary but remained enlisted in the Army and worked alongside other chaplains as they ministered to military families in Germany, where he was stationed.
Father Hall also served as an Air Force active reservist in Europe, and he went to the Middle East in 1992 during Operation Desert Storm. He was head chaplain for Air Force basic training in San Antonio from 2004 to 2006 and head chaplain for Air Force F-22 fighter pilots in training. He spent 15 years as a chaplain to the U.S. military intelligence community in Alaska and Washington, D.C.
Through it all, Father Hall said, his greatest joy was found in the sacraments, whether that meant providing the Eucharist for those who risked everything to receive it, or humbly serving as a sacramental minister in reconciliation.
“It’s been a great privilege to have served, especially to enter into the intimate depths of others’ spiritual journeys and help them encounter the healing Christ offers through the sacrament of reconciliation,” he said.
Father Hall grew up in St. Teresa Parish in Lincoln, as well as St. Joan of Arc and later St. Robert Bellarmine parishes in Omaha.
But it was while he was serving in the Army, after being drafted in 1971, that he decided to enter the priesthood.
Ordained in 1979 by the late Archbishop Daniel E. Sheehan at St. Cecilia Cathedral in Omaha, Father Hall was assigned to Sacred Heart Parish in Norfolk for three years before being sent to Belgium to attend the Catholic University of Louvain, where he received doctorates in religious studies and theology. He also has master’s degrees in psychology and educational administration, a bachelor’s in sacred theology and a bachelor of arts degree with a double major in philosophy and psychology.
Now that he’s retired and living in Omaha, Father Hall said he will continue to serve as a retired priest to parishes that need him, and he looks forward to a bit more traveling and catching up with family and friends.
He also is devoted to spending at least two weeks a year on retreat, and in particular, those that stress the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. They’re something he discovered 11 years ago that he said have had a profound impact on his relationship with Jesus Christ.
Asked what advice he would have for new priests, Father Hall simply said: “Be a humble servant devoted to prayer.”