March 10, 2019 – West Bend, WI – A difficult announcement was made this weekend following Mass at Holy Angels Parish in West Bend.
Rev. Pat Heppe said he thought his assignment at Holy Angels was going to be his last.
“The Archdiocese has other plans they think only I can answer,” said Heppe.
As of June 18, Heppe will be assigned as the pastor of the parishes in the Catholic community in Waukesha. Heppe said the conversation has been going on for months and he offered to be a consultant however the diocese has a special mission with the parishes in the Waukesha Catholic community.
“My first pastor job was in Fond du Lac at Holy Family and the parishes 20 years ago ended up collaborating and merging and I was the priest in charge at that particular point working with that group of parishes,” said Heppe. “It’s not rocket science but you have to listen to what the people say and work with them to help accomplish that goal.
“With my experience in Fond du Lac and my experience as Vicar for Clergy, working with the priests of the Archdiocese, that’s what I’m going to be doing in Waukesha.”
“My letter said I will be the pastor of all of them,” Heppe said.
There will be three other priests Heppe will be working with. He said he’s looking forward to it and one of the things he will be doing is bringing in another priest who will eventually be his successor as pastor of the four parishes.
“It will be an interesting experience,” said Heppe. “This is not something I chose but with prayer and reflection and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit I think that’s where God wants me at this particular point and as priest of the church, how best can I build up the church and make it strong.”
Heppe joked that “as hard as it is to leave West Bend he will probably follow in the footsteps of Rev. Jerry Repenshek and come back in retirement and keep working with the community.”
Some in West Bend are wondering what will happen to Holy Angels. Heppe said the parish will not be merging with St. Frances Cabrini.
“When I received the letter from the Archbishop the priest from the diocese received an email from the Archbishop telling them this parish was open and I’ve already had a couple of inquiries from priests who are interested in coming to Holy Angels,” he said. “The parish has a great reputation and a solid foundation and people here pray well and it’s a warm, welcoming community so any pastor who comes in will really feel at home.”
Heppe was honest in that he did not see the reassignment coming and he’s having a challenging time wrapping his head around it.
“This has become home,” Heppe said of West Bend.
“When you are the pastor of a parish you are the shepherd and the shepherd gets to know the sheep and the sheep know the shepherd and any time you tear that relationship apart it’s painful and there’s grieving period I’m sure I’ll be going through and the parish will be going through,” he said. “Even thinking about it the last number of months and negotiating and seeing if there were other ways to handle it’s kind of like Jesus said in the Garden of Gethsemane, if it’s your will Father take this from me, if it’s not your will than mine be done.
“So there’s a close relationship and it will change. This will be part of my prayer and reflection this Lenten season.”
Rev. Heppe came to West Bend in May 2016 and replaced Rev. Gerald Brittain. Prior to that he was Vicar for Clergy and Vicar General at the Archdiocese in Milwaukee. “I helped priests become better priests,” Heppe said.
Before that he spent 20 years at Holy Family Parish in Fond du Lac. “My assignment at Holy Angels was six years and now my new assignment in Waukesha is six years,” he said. “People say, don’t say you’re old. I’m old but I’m not decrepit. I’m looking forward to the challenge.”