Msgr. Thomas Hartman, known to many as the Catholic half of the popular God Squad, has died. He was 69 years old and had suffered from Parkinson’s disease.
Hartman, who grew up in East Williston, was ordained to the priesthood for the diocese of Rockville Centre in May, 1971, and was assigned to St. James parish, Seaford. In 1979 he was named Diocesan director of radio and television (Telecare), where he found he could use the media to spread the message of God’s love.“He touched many lives, healed many hearts and used his considerable gifts to bring people to a deeper sense of God in their lives,” said Bishop William Murphy.
“Just before Mass this morning I was informed of the death of Msgr. Thomas Hartman, a good and holy priest of our Diocese,” wrote Bishop Murphy. “He served this church and all of Long Island and beyond through Telecare, the Diocesan television channel which he made into a nationally recognized leader in Catholic television.”
Msgr. Hartman and Rabbi Marc Gellman formed the “God Squad” in 1987, appearing on television and writing a syndicated column. They appeared regularly on Good Morning America on ABC television, and were frequent guests on Imus in the Morning on WFAN Radio. They co-authored several books including Religion for Dummies; Where Does God Live?, which won the Christopher Award; Bad Stuff in the News and How Do you Spell God?, which was made into an HBO animated special.
Msgr. Hartman has been recognized for his professional and pastoral work by winning four Emmy Awards, numerous “Man of the Year” citations, and honorary doctorates. He was known for his compassion whether it was ministering to parishioners at St. Vincent de Paul parish in Elmont where he resided for many years, or as a chaplain for the Nassau County Police Department. He was former chairman of the Island Harvest Food Bank, raised funds and awareness for and ministered to those suffering with AIDS and, in recent years, raised funds for Parkinson’s disease research.
In November 2003, about four years after he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, Msgr. Hartman revealed his illness publicly in a God Squad column. He wrote that he hoped he would be able to continue to news find ways to serve others. “When the time comes, I will be ready to commit myself to God’s eternal care, but I am not ready now. I want to live now and serve God with all my heart and all my soul and all my strength.”
Wake and funeral information:
A wake will be held at Saint Aidan’s Church, 505 Willis Ave., Williston Park, on Friday, Feb. 19, from 2 to 6:30 p.m. Mass of Transferral at 7:30 p.m. Friday. The funeral Mass will be at St. Aidan’s on Saturday, Feb. 20, at 11 a.m.
-Courtesy of the Diocese of Rockville Centre