APPLETON — Being mom to a dozen children was certainly a full-time job for Charlotte Hipp, a member of St. Joseph Parish since 1950. But she and her late husband Gene always made room in their schedules to volunteer in the community, including co-presidents of the home school association.
After the Hipps were married and started their family, Gene worked full time at American Can and had a second job as the nighttime manager for Marcus Theatres. “That extra money is what helped finance the education for Xavier High School” for all 12 of their kids, noted Hipp.
During his years at a seminary high school, Gene Hipp became a member of the Secular Franciscans. The Secular Franciscan Order is a community of Catholic men and women who seek to pattern their lives after Christ in the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi. Hipp followed in her husband’s footsteps when her older children were old enough to babysit their younger siblings.
Two years ago, she was awarded a certificate for 50 years of service to the organization. She is an “infirmarian” for her chapter. Her particular mission is visiting with Secular Franciscans who live in nursing homes throughout the Fox Valley. She also meets with parish members who are in nursing homes. At one time, she had a list of 55 people she visited four times a year. As people passed away, Hipp chose not to add more to her list. She now has just under 20 people to visit and sees each one every other month.
Hipp enjoys being a Secular Franciscan. “You read the life of St. Francis and you realize that you’re here for a reason,” she said. “God gave you life to do something beneficial for yourself and each other. The Secular Franciscans ask you first of all to know yourself, pray for family, pray for others, see where the needs are in your family or neighborhood, see what you can do to make things better, share with each other and support each other. I’ve gotten beautiful support through the loss of my family members.”
The group meets at St. Joseph Church on the third Sunday of each month. They have 52 members in their fraternity. “We pray for those that are sick, we pray for situations in the world that are at a crisis at the time, we pray for different things together, and we have a little luncheon,” said Hipp. “Once in a while we’ll have a film on St. Francis or the pope. Every so often we’ll have an excursion and hire a bus and go to Holy Hill or someplace that has a special meaning.”
The group welcomes new members. “Come and sit through this and see how you feel. That way each person can draw out what appeals to them and they can ask questions.”
To celebrate her 80th birthday last year, Hipp fulfilled a lifelong dream of skydiving. As a child during World War II, she remembers watching planes flying over her home in Freedom. “I must have seen someone parachute and I thought, ‘That’s the closest you’re going to get to heaven without a plane.’”
She may be an octogenarian but Hipp doesn’t let age slow her down. Besides her work with the Secular Franciscans, she helps out her family whenever there is a need, gives rides to her neighbors to appointments and church, and is the block captain for the neighborhood watch.
“Life has been an adventure,” added Hipp.
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Your Catholic Neighbor
Name: Charlotte Hipp
Parish: St. Joseph, Appleton
Favorite saint: Francis of Assisi
Words to live by: “You love your children — you may not like what they’re doing, but you love the child.”