Chicago pastor, Father Thomas J. Hurley, returns to say farewell to Old St. Patrick's Church parishioners
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CHICAGO (WLS) — A beloved Chicago priest is sharing why he chose to leave the church and what he is doing now.

Father Tom Hurley stepped away from Old St. Pat’s Church months ago.

However, Sunday was just like old times.

Fr. Hurley preaching to a full house at Old St. Pat’s Church. He was at the West Loop church for the last quarter century, which is recognized as one of the highest-profile parishes in the Chicago Archdiocese.

It was 14 months ago, after dealing with a number of personal issues before and during the pandemic, that Fr. Hurley decided it was all too much and he stepped away.

RELATED: Old St. Patrick’s pastor, Fr. Hurley, to step away from duties to focus on health, well-being

“I knew I had to step back. My battery was on empty,” he said.

He took a leave of absence, but because the church was not fully in-person last March, he never got to say to explain why or to say goodbye.

The time away has helped and he said he’s feeling much more balanced these days.

And despite the absence, Fr. Hurley is still incredibly popular among parishioners.

“He brought joy and happiness. He really connected with everyone, me personally,” said parishioner Ally Ringone.

“I don’t think it would be what it is without him. His legacy will be here many years to come, no question about it,” added fellow parishioner Greg Spitzer.

Just before the pandemic closed everything down in 2020, Fr. Hurley was chosen as Grand Marshall of the downtown St. Patrick’s Day parade. He is now working with students at his alma mater, Marist Academy.

Fr. Hurley said he has learned some important lessons.

“This is a wonderful life, but a busy life. A demanding life and we have to make sure we stay healthy while doing this,” he said.

Old St. Pat’s was built in 1852 and is the oldest church in Chicago. Fr. Hurley said he’s proud of the role he played in its history but added that it’s time for a new chapter.

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