HORTONVILLE — Greg Layton, who grew up in Spring Green, knew from a young age that he wanted a career in ministry. He didn’t waste any time pursuing his goal. “I graduated from high school and three days after graduation I was in Fort Dix, N.J.,” said Layton. “I joined the Army to be a chaplain assistant.”
After four years serving in the Army, Layton entered college seminary at St. Meinrad Seminary in southern Indiana, as he was discerning the priesthood. That wasn’t the path for him, but he was still committed to ministry. He graduated in 1983 and later spent six years as a parish faith formation director. He took a job at a plastics factory in 1990, but returned to parish ministry in 1995.
“In 2006, I came to Green Bay and worked two years in the diocese,” he said. As a retreat and shrine director his responsibilities included Holy Name Retreat House on Chambers Island, Camp Tekakwitha near Shawano and the National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in Champion.
In 2008, Layton was given the opportunity to be pastoral leader for SS. Peter and Paul Parish in Hortonville. “When the bishop assigns pastoral leaders, it’s to help parishes maintain their own identity and keep parishes open,” said Layton. Since the parish has no pastor to lead it, Layton, with the help of his staff, runs the parish on a day-to-day basis. They do have a priest every weekend to celebrate 4:30 p.m. Mass on Saturday and 9 a.m. Mass on Sunday. “The priests are parochial vicars or associates at other parishes,” he said.
“Through support of the Bishop’s Appeal, Greg receives the training and tools from the diocese to be a pastoral leader at SS. Peter and Paul Parish,” said Tammy Danz, Bishop’s Appeal director. “Because of this training, he is able to help families grow in the Catholic faith and share Jesus with others throughout the Hortonville community.”
“The Bishop’s Appeal is an important part of what we do,” added Layton. “The training that we receive helps connect our parish with the diocese and helps us to feed and nourish and strengthen. The Bishop’s Appeal gives us workshops to go to, activities, days of reflection, and it gives us the Clergy Congress that they have every year in Manitowoc.”
Many of these events serve not only for camaraderie, said Layton, but also for training. “The last couple years have been centered on ministering to yourself, being able to help in your own journey in finding and knowing Christ,” said Layton. “That is really the benefit of the Bishop’s Appeal money. It’s not only the Clergy Congress, but also workshops that we do.”
Money from the Bishop’s Appeal helps with other ministries at SS. Peter and Paul. “Our faith formation team is one of the joys of my ministry,” Layton said. “They reach out to the students, constantly communicating with them and being with them as they face challenges. When we send our kids to the ‘Alive in You’ mission trip, getting to know the kids, getting to … go out to the community and help those that are less fortunate, it is a great experience.”
Danz said the Bishop’s Appeal has been supporting ministries like Layton’s in Hortonville for more than 50 years. “I am so grateful for the families who generously support the Bishop’s Appeal,” she added.
Layton also has a sense of gratitude. “I’m very thankful to the people who donate to the Bishop’s Appeal. Their generosity enables us to go to conferences, retreats and to further our knowledge but also further our personal relationship with Jesus,” said Layton.
“I’m also very thankful to the bishop for giving me the opportunity to be a pastoral minister and to be able to feed and shepherd the people of Hortonville,” he added. “It’s been a real privilege to do that. I’ve had 34 years of parish ministry. Being able to minister to people where they’re at has been really important.”