Vol. 2. Issue 1.
Hanging out with Hal
It’s a typical Thursday morning for me as I wake up and get ready to face the
world. Then my stomach starts to get butterflies as I realize I’m about to meet with
Deacon Hal Jopp to talk about this article. I’m usually anxious but not quite so nervous.
The purpose of BE Parishioner is help parishioners get to know one another more
personally, Before today, I have never taken it upon myself to get to know Hal. My
impression of him was that he was a highly intellectual man with a great deal of
understanding of the scriptures and the Church as a whole. I understood him to be a key
figure for all the deacons of the diocese. I understood him to be Dr. Harold Jopp. Quite
frankly, this all intimidated me and I felt I couldn’t possibly hold a conversation with
him. And guess what? I was right and I was wrong! All of the impressions I had about
him were true, the exception being that he was very easy to talk to. He has two
Doctorates, three Masters Degrees and a great deal of additional education. There just
isn’t enough room in this article to list all of his academic achievements. He specializes
in theology and most values his education in spirituality. But, I was wrong about not
being able to hold a conversation with him. In fact, he seemed to be quite an easy-going
man. I found him to be more spiritual than most of the people I know. He is arguably one
of the smartest men in this diocese, yet his demeanor didn’t suggest he felt he was better
than anyone else. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with him. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to
spend any time with his wife
that day. However, he had lots to share about her.
Hal is a Caroline County native and, more interestingly, he has lived on the same
farm all his life. His grandfather bought the farm in 1919. Early childhood life for Hal
– no electricity or telephones; and, he remembers the outhouse. He worked on
the farm from the age of five. He was brought up Catholic. He remembers his aunt being
in the choir singing with Virginia Blades, Kathleen Porter and many others. Growing up
as a member of St. Benedict/St. Elizabeth parish he recalled the many changes he’s seen
throughout the years. He specifically remembered
CCD classes being held in both
churches directly after masses. Of course, back then it was called Sunday School. One of
Hal’s earliest spiritual memories is of hearing the mass in Latin. He was ordained a
deacon in 1978 and, at that time, was the only deacon on the Eastern Shore. Currently, he
works for the Diocese of Wilmington as the Director of the Office for Deacons.
Basically, he is in charge of all the deacons in our diocese, but he wouldn’t characterize it
that way; he is too modest.
Hal’s wife, Margaret, is just as interesting as he is. She is equally as intellectual
and spiritual. Again, I find myself surprised with the way in which you can’t judge a
book by its cover. Margaret is just so easy to talk to. I didn’t get to spend the day hanging
out with her but our phone conversation was very warm. She told me about how she was
raised Methodist but converted to the Catholic faith in 1968. She and Hal were married
in 1967. She is currently a Nursing Professor at Wilmington University. She has two
Masters Degrees and a Doctorate.
Hal was in the Seminary to become a
priest. However, he met Margaret at Easton
Memorial Hospital when he was an orderly and her class had come in as freshmen in
nursing. They went on a date and it was on their first date that Hal says “we were
engaged”. They were married three months later.
When I asked Hal what his most trying spiritual time was, he shared about the
loss of he and Margaret’s son, Jonathan, who was born on their anniversary and died 4
months later in an automobile accident. During that time, they had the support of many
but mostly each other and their faith.
They both bring there own thoughts of spirituality to their relationship. Hal notes
how they introduce one another to different sources of spirituality and how it benefits
them both and the people around them due to the nature of their lifestyle. Hal notes that
in his job as the Director of the Office of Deacons, the biggest reward he is blessed with
is seeing the deacons “grow” spiritually from the first day that he meets with them. He
basically guides them through the process of being ordained and into the ministry of
being a deacon.
Everyday life around their house, when they are not studying, is rather simple.
They have a large farm that is both wooded and clear open fields –
“Deer Pond” as it was
called in the old deeds. The name is self explanatory. Margaret loves to get into the
garden and get her hands dirty. Hal rides around on his Gator clearing miles of trails and
streams on the property. They have plenty of outdoor work to keep up with and wouldn’t
have it any other way. There is a village, or “compound”, (as Hal called it jokingly) on
their land. There are various, small one-room buildings that they use for spiritual
reflection. They are heated in the winter. As I was riding on the Gator with Hal I felt the
sense of serenity he and Margaret must feel as they live their days out on this beautiful
piece of land. The pond has a very tranquil setting and Margaret has a talent for bringing
out the beauty through landscaping.
Hal and Margaret have two grown sons, Dow and Devin. Devin
and his wife were
blessed with their first child, a son, this past April, giving Hal & Margaret a new title –
Hal’s favorite Saint is St. Ephrem.