After close to 60 years of pastoring, Rev. Paul Vanden Hogen is now preparing to officially retire.
Vanden Hogen, who has served at parishes throughout the area and at the Wisconsin Veterans Home at King, will complete his many years of service the end of this month.
“Sister Cathy left as the chaplain (at the veterans home) on the 16th,” he said. “I decided it would be a good time for me to leave also. Let them start from scratch. I worked with her eight years. I was part of hiring her.”
Vanden Hogen served as the Catholic chaplain at the veterans home from 1991-1998.
“It was just a great ministry,” he said. “I wanted to be a priest, to serve the people. I didn’t want to be an administrator. I hated meetings.”
Prior to his appointment there, Vanden Hogen applied for both hospital and prison ministries because of that desire.
“I got to appreciate the veterans. I was of age during the Korean conflict. I was in the seminary though. I got to know and appreciate their stories and minister to them their sacraments,” he said.
In 1998, Vanden Hogen retired and became a volunteer in King.
“I volunteered there all these years,” he said. “I helped with the ramp bowling on Thursdays. It’s fun dealing with the veterans and kidding them.”
Vanden Hogen also started a support group there for widowers.
“In my first group, there were a lot of ladies whose husbands were in the Alzheimer’s Unit. I started a group for them,” he said.
While Vanden Hogen retired on June 30, 1998, he continued to help at parishes throughout the area, including St. Mary Magdalene Cathlolic Community in Waupaca, Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Weyauwega and Sacred Heart in Manawa.
He also served as both the temporary administrator at both St. Joseph Catholic Church in Wautoma and St. Paul Catholic Church in Plainfield at various times.
“We are all to serve each other. We’re servants – to take care of their needs, their spiritual needs and even their physical needs,” says the 85-year-old Vanden Hogen.
Serving others was something he learned at an early age.
“I grew up in Little Chute. Mom and Dad were both from Holland. They were good Catholics. They prayed the rosary every day, served people. They were my biggest influence,” Vanden Hogen said.
The priests at his home parish also influenced him as a youngster.
Vanden Hogen had years of Catholic education before attending St. Norbert College in De Pere for two years.
He knew he wanted to become a priest before starting college.
“The nuns said once in a while, ‘Paul, did you ever think about becoming a priest?’” Vanden Hogen recalled. “Plant the seeds in young peoples’ minds and walk away.”
After two years of study at St. Norbert College, he went to St. Francis Seminary in Milwaukee.
Vanden Hogen was ordained on May 1, 1954.
His first appointment was to St. Peter Parish in Oshkosh.
“When I was at St. Peter, the bishop called and said, ‘I want you go to Marquette next September for a degree in high school principalship,’” Vanden Hogen said.
Vanden Hogen studied at Marquette University for a year and says he needed one more semester of study in the program when the bishop assigned him to become the spiritual director and instructor of religion at Lourdes Academy High School in Oshkosh.
Vanden Hogen’s focus of study at Marquette then switched to educational counseling and guidance – a better fit for him.
Through the years, he served at churches throughout the state, including in Abrams, Kimberly, Hortonville, Winneconne and Lena.
At one time, he also worked with farmers as the Diocese of Green Bay’s director of Rural Life.
Vanden Hogen remembers working with parish members at annual picnics and says, “I think we have to build stronger communities in our parishes. We have to build strong communities so people serve each other.”
He believes Pope Francis is the perfect example of this.
“He practices what he preaches. He’s a great man,” Vanden Hogen said.
Today, Vanden Hogen is planning to move to a retirement home in Green Bay for priests. That move will likely take place in late spring.
“My brother lives in De Pere. I have six sisters. They will all look after me. Two of them are nuns,” said Vanden Hogen, who is the oldest of the eight siblings.
He will continue to take daily walks and looks forward to having more time to read.
He hopes what people have learned from him is to care for each other and to help each other.
“What I liked most about being a priest was serving the people, visiting the sick in their homes. I did all of that,” he said. “I just enjoy being with the people. I will miss everyone here.”