Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of May 24, 1999
Leduc pastor volunteers to serve in North
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Father John Hesse, the pastor of St. Michael's Parish for the past seven years, is going North - as a volunteer.
The 67-year-old priest has volunteered to spend a couple of years serving in the priest-strapped Grouard-McLennan Archdiocese.
On Aug. 16, Hesse, a priest of the Edmonton Archdiocese for 44 years, will take over as pastor of Our Lady of Peace Parish in Peace River.
The 400-family parish is currently served by Father Arth‚ Guimond, who doubles as administrator of the Grouard-McLennan Archdiocese. The archdiocese has been without a bishop since the death of Oblate Archbishop Henri Goudreault in July 1998.
Like most northern dioceses, Grouard-McLennan is facing a critical shortage of priests. Only 16 of 69 parishes and missions in the archdiocese have a resident priest. Eighteen of the 24 priests in the archdiocese belong to religious orders.
A few months ago, Archbishop Joseph MacNeil asked for volunteers among his priests to serve in northern dioceses. Hesse decided to take on the challenge because "I saw the greater need" and felt called to share his gifts.
He also feels he owes a debt of gratitude to the Peace River country which, he says, "has been good to my family." His father and brothers worked and homesteaded in the area for many years and he still has family living there - a brother in Manning and another brother in Grouard.
"It was Archbishop MacNeil, I guess, who placed the question in our minds, whether we would be willing to serve in the North," Hesse explained.
"I feel in a way it's not really any great gift that I'm making because I'm 67 years old and I'm sort of in the autumn or in the winter time of my life in priesthood."
Hesse will be loaned to the Grouard-McLennan Archdiocese for two years, with the possibility of extension. He is excited about his new assignment as leader of a "very active Catholic community" in Peace River.
"(Our Lady of Peace Parish) is like Leduc in the sense that they have a Catholic school and they have all the organizations that our parish has here," he said.
Peace River has a population of about 8,000, about half that of Leduc's 15,000.
An Edmonton native, Hesse attended Catholic schools and entered the seminary at the age of 17.
Since his ordination in 1955, he has served in nine parishes in the Edmonton Archdiocese, beginning as assistant pastor at Sacred Heart Parish in Red Deer. He has been at St. Michael's in Leduc since 1992. Before that, he served in Lloydminster for seven years.