Sarasota minister championed rights of humans and animals
By MARK ZALOUDEK
SARASOTA -- The Rev. Janet Regina Hyland envisioned a world where people and animals were treated with equal respect.
Hyland, 73, who died Oct. 9, 2007 worked with prisoners in Texas, migrant families in Southwest Florida and animal rights groups throughout the country to help improve the lives of the struggling and the voiceless.
"She was always involved in social justice causes," said her sister, Jean Burns of Sarasota.
Hyland's 2000 book, "God's Covenant with Animals," offered a biblical interpretation for compassion toward animals and became popular with animal-rights activists nationwide.
A vegetarian for more than three decades, Hyland became active in Sarasota in Defense of Animals after she and her sister moved to Sarasota in 1985.
"She truly was an activist," said Sumner Matthes, vice president of the animal rights organization. "If we were going to conduct a demonstration and we needed people to wave signs, she would do whatever was needed."
Born Nov. 30, 1933, Hyland was raised a Roman Catholic and served in the Air Force as a young woman. She worked for the diocesan newspaper, The Catholic Virginian, while living in Virginia, and later moved to Texas, where she took part in prison ministry through the Assemblies of God, an evangelical Protestant church.
She also studied theology and was ordained a nondenominational minister in 1984. She founded Viatoris Ministries in Sarasota as part of the International Ministerial Fellowship, an association of independent Christian ministries, and for many years published "Humane Religion" every other month and wrote many of its articles on human rights, animal rights and women's equality.
She was often known by her middle name or, in the publishing world, by her initials.
She was scheduled to take part in an international vegetarian conference in San Francisco in September when she learned she had an advanced stage of breast cancer.
Services were private.
Regina, my daughter and I formed a dynamic family unit and began a journey that was to last 37 years. Much too short a time to accomplish all of Regina’s dreams! We left the greater New York area and moved to upstate New York where we purchased a 200+ yr old farm house, in what seemed like the middle of nowhere, and sought God. Regina and I each had a spiritual experience that changed our lives. It was her second one and my only one. My experience transformed me to such a degree that I still see it as a miracle. It enabled me to really function in this world yet with an eye on the next.
I worked at a TV station for the Gen Man. and also wrote a public affairs show called the Sunday Forum which dealt with community issues. I was very politically active in upstate NY. Family problems forced us to sell our home and return downstate. I began working at an advertising agency in Manhattan and Regina was working from home. One day she turned on the 700 Club and knew God was calling us to Virginia Beach, Va. So, I sent my resume, stepped out in faith, went to CBN and applied for the job in the accounting department, then went to look for living quarters. God was Good; I was hired to oversee and re-organize the payroll and all payroll related taxes department at CBN and at the same time started taking courses for the hotel business. and found living arrangements that couldn’t be beat. A free house on the beach and all I had to do was keep the owner’s very big, run-a-way dog out of jail and the neighbor’s backyards! I wasn’t always successful! After fulfilling my commitment to CBN, I went into the hotel business in Va. Beach and eventually was transferred to Williamsburg, Va., then Dallas, Texas.
My parents had moved to Sarasota, FL and three months later my father died. My mother became ill, so I took a leave of absence from Dallas and we moved in with mother until her passing. Knowing that we would never go back to Texas and the only real hotel opportunities would be on the east coast of Florida, I began studying for my real estate license and have been selling real estate in Sarasota County ever since.
Regina and I lived in Sarasota for 22 years, we each had our own villas and we were just a block apart on the same street. We were both active with the migrant workers and animal rights issues. Regina had 3 pets which are now with me along with my 6, so I say there’s a baseball team living with me!
Frank and Mary Hoffman are the founders of the Mary T. and Frank L. Hoffman Family Foundation. In their capacity as volunteer trustees of The Foundation, they host and maintain the www.all-creatures.org web site, which also hosts sites for more than 30 other organizations, including the Humane Religion web site, which they hosted for many years.
Frank is a retired church pastor and business executive, and Mary is a retired medical technologist (MT-ASCP) and professional artist. They now volunteer their full time to their worldwide ministry of trying to make this a more loving, compassionate, and peaceful world for every human, for every other animal, and for world in which we all live. Humane Religion is a vital part of this ministry.