Farewell To A Friend

Reflecting on the life and legacy of Father Peter Hereley

February 13, 2023 | Be Informed

In late 1990, Father Peter Hereley became the first priest to sign on to Unbound’s fledgling preacher program. By the time he retired as a preacher in 2018, he’d made 747 visits to Catholic parishes and successfully invited 18,642 individuals and families to become sponsors of children and elders living in poverty around the world.

Father Hereley passed away on Feb. 3 at St. Pius V Priory in Chicago, where he’d been living since 2020. He was 94. The Unbound community mourns the passing of this good and dedicated priest, but we also celebrate his life and, especially, the incredible work he did with Unbound.

Joseph Robert “Peter” Hereley was born in Chicago in 1928. After high school he served in the U.S. Army for two years and then worked in various roles in the business world. He eventually graduated from Loyola University and joined the Dominican order. He was ordained a priest in 1963.

In his years of ministry, Father Hereley served in various roles, including as a parish priest and a university chaplain. He was also a pioneer in Catholic media, directing over 30 Dominican-produced television productions and training other preachers in the use of media.

A blessed partnership

In 1990, Father Hereley saw an ad in a Catholic publication seeking priests to preach on behalf of the poor. He came to Kansas City to meet with Jim and Bob Hentzen, two of Unbound’s co-founders who’ve since passed away. The Hentzens invited the priest to travel to Guatemala to see how Unbound worked. He liked what he saw.

“What was important to me was that they really seemed to be genuine in what they were doing,” Father Hereley said in a 2016 interview. “I remember one thing Bob Hentzen said: ‘With the poor, all you have to do is give them a hand up and then get out of the way.’ He had such respect for the poor. That impressed me.”

Joining Unbound represented an act of faith on Father Hereley’s part and served as a great source of encouragement for the young organization. President/CEO Scott Wasserman reflected on the impact of that partnership.

“At a time when Unbound was still trying to gain traction, Father Hereley’s ‘yes’ represented a great vote of confidence and had a ripple effect that’s still going,” he said. “His willingness to join us gave other priests the confidence to do the same and before long we were visiting parishes across the country. That was when the sponsorship program really started taking off.”

On Unbound’s 35th anniversary in 2016, Father Hereley offered a blessing that included these words:

“We are filled with gratitude and joy for the grace and goodness poured out upon our world over the years through Unbound. We are filled with gratitude and joy that we are not alone, that we walk a path into solidarity with families who are forging a path out of poverty.”

Those words equally reflect the gratitude and joy of the Unbound community for the gift of Father Peter Hereley and his legacy of compassionate service to the poor. May he rest in God’s peace.


Father Peter Hereley, a Dominican priest from Chicago, was the first to sign on as a preacher for Unbound. Many followed, leading to Unbound’s greatest period of growth.

I remember one thing Bob Hentzen said: ‘With the poor, all you have to do is give them a hand up and then get out of the way.’ He had such respect for the poor. That impressed me.

— Rev. Peter Hereley, O.P.