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From police vest to priestly vestments

Inside Father Doug Hunter’s office at Saint Malachy Catholic Church in Brownsburg, you can find a shadow box hanging on the wall full of colorful badges. Ones with titles like Cadet, Sheriff’s Deputy, and Indianapolis Police Officer. The badges read, “D. Hunter.”

 

A display of law enforcement badges hangs in Father Hunter’s office as a reminder of his policing past. Photo by Chris Cornwall

“It’s just a reminder of where I came from. I look back and see all the lives I’ve touched,” explains the 39-year new Associate Pastor who spent a decade in Indianapolis law enforcement.

 

It’s a unique resume for a Catholic priest, and one he doesn’t hesitate to share during his homilies.

 

“People want to know their priest, what kind of experience do you have, what do you bring to the table who are you and what you about,” said Hunter.

The Indy native always had the priesthood in the back of his mind, but the former altar boy says a series of circumstances led him to wear the badge before the vestments. During his freshman year at Cardinal Ritter High School, he lost his dad to a heart attack and his grades started to suffer.

“When it came time to apply for a college nobody would really take me but the Arch Diocese was willing to work with me and told me to go get a two-year degree and come back,” he remembers.

Photo of Hunter when he worked as a Marion County Sheriffs Deputy. Photo submitted.

It was around the same time, he started to notice the impact local cops had on the community, whether they were saying hi or shooting hoops with the guys in his neighborhood.

“One of them said, ‘why you don’t become a police officer?’”

So he did. He applied with the Indianapolis Police Department and didn’t make the cut but landed a job with Marion County as a sheriff’s deputy. He spent eight years there and two more as a police officer with IMPD after the city merged law enforcement services with the county in 2007.

“During that time, it gave me insights into how people live their lives. The good, the bad, and the indifferent.”

Hunter says he’ll never forget the toughest parts of the job: seeing the children impacted by a life of crime or neglect, and the danger always lurking on the street. Hunter was working the perimeter on September 17, 2001, when fellow Deputy 24-year-old Jason Baker was shot and killed during a high-speed chase.

Father Hunter performs a baptism at St. Malachy Catholic Church in Brownsburg. Photo by Chris Cornwall

“Shots were firing all around you and didn’t know where you were coming from,” he remembers.

On patrol for several years, Hunter was itching to go back to school. He went on to earn a business degree at Marian University before giving in to the voice in his head and joining the Seminary.

“My mother was happy. When I told her I’m going in the Seminary, she said now I can sleep after 10 years,” Hunter remembers. “When I found myself leaving my office, sitting in Eucharistic Adoration and in prayer and in church trying to figure this out, it hit me at one point.  Okay, I know where I need to be.”

Fast-forward to August 2017,  he’s just completed his first month as Associate Pastor at St. Malachy Church. Chatting with parishioners on a warm Sunday morning between Mass and a welcome picnic in his honor, he’s as easy going as they come.

“When they see that you’ve had a life of service they are more inclined to approach you and I want people to know who I am and that I am approachable,” he said.

While his two paths are very different, he says they are also the same.

“It’s still service to God’s people. Either way.”

“No matter what’s going on in a person’s life, they are still our brother and sister in Christ they are still a child of God and it is our service and duty to serve our brothers and sisters in Christ in a time of need.”

Story by Lindsay Doty