Priest celebrates 25 years
"Fr. Jim" has served in Little Chute since 1975
By Carol Dillinger
"Appreciate each day that you have and make the most of it. Enjoy it to the max. Whatever the occasion, make sure it is a moment of giving and sharing and know that the Lord blesses us."
Msgr. Jim Vanden Hogan not only shares this advice for a happy life, he practices it as pastor at St. John Parish in Little Chute. This Father's Day weekend the parish will honor its spiritual father by celebrating his 25th anniversary at St. John with a reception following each Mass.
"In the 25 years I've known him, I have yet to see him have a down day," said Dcn. Vin DeGroot. "Each day is a blessing for Jim. He rejoices in Jesus, in his Resurrection, and in the promise of eternal life so
much that nothing can make him unhappy."
Being a part of people's lives for such a long period of time has been the greatest joy, said Msgr. Vanden Hogan.
"The ones I baptized as little ones, now 25 years later, I'm seeing all stages of their life," he said. "I'm not just a priest, but a grandfather priest. It's a tremendous joy being with kids, s sign of love, smiles,
hugs, beautiful faces."
Memorable moments for Msgr. Vanden Hogan, who is affectionately called "Father Jim," include
celebrating the Sesquicentennial at St. John's and serving families in their time of need.
"As a priest, being at the bedside of someone dying and sharing the Sacrament of the Anointed or
Sacrament of the Forgiving with the family and seeing them walk away in peace and being part of that
experience is special," he said.
"I marvel at how he can be so present to so many in limited time without making people feel that he is
hurrying or neglecting their needs," said Dcn. De Groot. "Jim spends countless hours on the telephone
in his office counseling people, praying with them or otherwise helping them in a pastoral way. His
deep compassion allows him to enter the hearts of those he ministers to."
Msgr. Vanden Hogan, who was born in Kimberly, became pastor at St. John Parish on June 18, 1975
after serving three years as pastor at St. Matthew Parish in Green Bay. Dcn. DeGroot fondly remembers
his first meeting with the new pastor.
"I was immediately impressed by the open friendly way that Fr. Jim empowered me to do ministry," he
said. "Not only with me but with everyone he met. It was obvious that the former way of "ask Father"
was gone. Now the people of St. John began to make decisions concerning our parish."
A priest serving a parish for 25 years will likely become even less common with restructuring to
accommodate the priest shortage. Msgr. Vanden Hogan is remaining faithful that people will answer the
call to priesthood.
"This is the Lord's church and he will help us get through this time of crisis," he said.
What does his future hold?
If the Lord continues to give him good health he may serve until age 75, he said.
"The spiritual life of all of us is being enriched constantly," said Dcn. De Groot. "While God is doing the work, much credit for this resurgence in spiritual growth is attributed to one man, Fr. Jim. His love and acceptance of all people is infectious. May the Lord continue to bless us with your presence."