FLINTVILLE — Fr. Dave Hoffman finds inspiration in a quote by St. Teresa of Kolkata. She said, “I’m a little pencil in the hand of a writing God, who is sending a love letter to the world.”
“I always think to myself, ‘That’s what I try to do,’” said Fr. Hoffman, who, on May 25, marked the 25-year anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood. “I try to imitate that in my own life. Hopefully, I’m succeeding somewhat.”
Fr. Hoffman, pastor for nearly nine years at SS. Edward and Isidore Parish, Flintville, has served his entire priesthood in parish ministry.
“I knew I wanted to stay in the Green Bay Diocese, and I knew I wanted to stay close to my family,” he said.
Fr. Hoffman grew up in Gresham as a member of St. Francis Solanus Parish. He found good faith examples in the priests who served the parish, including Fr. William Spalding who was pastor during most of his youth.
“Fr. Bill was very influential. I liked his style, and I liked his personality,” he said. “Fr. Harry Hafeman was also very influential. He was a very good priest and very supportive of me when I was in seminary.”
Fr. Hoffman first thought about the priesthood in high school, but decided at that time that the vocation was not for him. He attended the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, where he earned a degree in accounting. He then worked for a year for the U.S. Office of Comptroller of the Currency in Rockford, Ill.
“It just wasn’t what I needed to be doing,” he said. “I felt that God wanted something else. The more I thought and prayed about that, the more the idea of the priesthood reemerged.
“I felt the call. It was very strong, very powerful,” he added. “So I thought I better go to seminary and see if it’s real or not. God kept working on me even though, at 17, I thought, ‘No, never, I won’t do that.’”
He attended Mundelein Seminary near Chicago. Fr. Hoffman’s first priestly assignment was as associate pastor (parochial vicar) at Holy Cross Parish, Kaukauna, where he served with Fr. Jack Mullarkey.
“I moved in, and Fr. Jack left for a week of vacation, but not before saying, ‘You have a wedding a week from this Saturday,’” recalled Fr. Hoffman with a laugh. “I had to meet with that couple right away.”
The parish housekeeper’s father then died. Fr. Hoffman asked if the family wanted to wait for Fr. Mullarkey’s return, but they chose him to do the funeral.
“(The housekeeper’s father) wasn’t that old. For my very first funeral, the church was packed,” he said. “I always hoped that my first funeral would be for a 100-year-old person with almost no relatives so I could ease my way into it, but that wasn’t what happened.”
Following four years in Kaukauna, Fr. Hoffman was appointed administrator at Sacred Heart Parish, Manitowoc. In 2004, he also became administrator at St. Paul Parish, Manitowoc.
A year later, the six parishes in the city were merged to form St. Francis of Assisi Parish. Fr. Hoffman served two years as parochial vicar with Bishop Daniel Felton, who was then pastor at St. Francis of Assisi. The change was difficult for many of the faithful in Manitowoc, said Fr. Hoffman. The merger reduced the number of worship sites from six to three.
“Some of my parishioners at Sacred Heart felt lost,” he said. “They felt like their parish was being taken away. We tried to do the best we could. Fr. Dan, now Bishop Felton, tried to do a good job of welcoming people and making them part of the new parish.”
In 2007, Fr. Hoffman was appointed pastor of St. Nicholas Parish, Freedom. He recalls dealing with some very difficult deaths shortly after he started his new assignment.
“My first two funerals were suicides, and my third funeral was a tragic death (a snowmobile accident). It’s the grace of God that gets you through those things,” he said.
“Going from a funeral to a wedding or baptism, the grace of God is always present in every moment,” said Fr. Hoffman. “I rely on his grace to help me through those moments. Give me the words and give me the help to be of help to others. Show his love to them.”
Celebrating Mass and the sacrament of reconciliation continue to be among the joys of his ministry. Fr. Hoffman said that prayer guides him in preaching.
“I ask the Holy Spirit to speak through me,” he said. “Then I spend some time working on (the homily). I have some resources. I mull them over, pray about it a little bit and then write it all out.
“God has always given me something to say,” he added. “There are times when I think, ‘What am I going to say about these Scriptures?’ He’s always given me something to say.”
Fr. Hoffman admits that he didn’t know much about Flintville when he was appointed pastor at SS. Edward and Isidore in 2012.
“I had never been here. I had several meetings with Fr. Dave Kasperek (his predecessor in Flintville). He was very helpful,” said Fr. Hoffman. “(Fr. Kasperek) said something very nice to me: ‘Of all the priests that they could have sent here, I’m glad that they sent you.’”
Fr. Hoffman, who enjoys reading in his spare time and describes himself as an amateur World War II historian, is happy to have served in his current assignment for so long.
“It’s a great parish, great place, great parishioners,” he said. “The people are awesome. I’m very pleased. They are very generous with their time, their talents and their treasures.”
This year also marks the 25-year anniversary of the current SS. Edward and Isidore Church. The parish averages about 60 to 70 baptisms, 60 to 70 first holy Communions and about 85 to 90 confirmations per year, so “we keep busy and do a lot,” said Fr. Hoffman.
In recognition of his 25-year anniversary, individually wrapped cupcakes were served after Masses on May 21-22. The celebration also featured balloons and several gifts, including a pillow and quilt. Parish members were invited to design quilt squares. A parishioner built a rack to display the quilt.
Reflecting on his 25 years, what advice does Fr. Hoffman offer to those considering the priesthood?
“What I always tell young people is, ‘Look for the joy, wherever you find the joy in your life, that’s what God is calling you to do,’” he said.
“Whether it’s a marriage vocation or religious vocation, look for the joy. He wants us to be joyful. He wants us to be happy,” added Fr. Hoffman. “So many people think that the religious life is all about being stern. I had some of those misconceptions when I first thought about the priesthood. I found out later, that’s not it at all.”