Retirement is just another opportunity to serve for pair of clerics

HILTON HEAD—Msgr. Donald Horak and Father Edward Bell will return to their home dioceses after seven years of ministry at Holy Family Church.

What is unusual about their work on the island is that the two 75-year-olds originally came to retire. But that didn’t mean taking a break from their ministry.

“They never say no,” Deacon John DeWolfe said. “Both men are totally dedicated to the priesthood and completely generous at heart.”

Msgr. Horak served as a contract chaplain on Parris Island and has assisted at parishes on Folly Beach and in Moncks Corner.

He celebrated Mass for recruits, taught religious education, offered spiritual direction, and Hispanic ministry.

Msgr. Horak was ordained 49 years ago for the Diocese of Steubenville, Ohio.

Father Bell served on Hilton Head Island, but also visited St. Peter in Beaufort, St. Gregory the Great in Bluffton, and St. Mary Mission in Hampton. In addition to the sacraments, much of his ministry consisted of priest and deacon retreats, spiritual direction, and offering days of recollection. He was ordained for the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, W.Va., 48 years ago.

The priests became friends when they were on faculty together at St. Joseph Preparatory Seminary in Vienna, W.Va., 42 years ago. Eventually,
they decided to retire to Hilton Head in 2004.

Holy Family Church, with 744 households, receives 100,000 visitors per year, said Rosemary DeWolfe, director of administration. The greatest help from the priests was simply their presence.

“The priesthood has no schedule or timeframe. It is woven into the fabric of who I have become,” Msgr. Horak said.

“I would be at a loss if I could no longer work in ministry,” Father Bell said.

Though September may mark the end of their Hilton Head era, they plan to help out at their home parishes to supplement a shortage of priests and be closer to family.