Oblation: the daily practice of offering oneself to God
For Priests of the Sacred Heart, who make a daily offering of themselves to God’s plans, death serves as the final act of oblation. Death in the Heart of Jesus is the culmination of a lifetime attitude of trusting love.
Shortly after the Priests of the Sacred Heart began ministering to Native Americans in South Dakota, a newly ordained priest from Germany, Fr. Henry Hogebach, SCJ (pictured left), arrived in Washington, DC, to study English at Catholic University. A few months later, he was at the Benedictine mission at Marty, SD, to study the operation of a boarding school for Native American children.
A year later, in 1924, Fr. Hogebach was appointed regional superior of the five SCJ priests in South Dakota. In that capacity, he called a meeting to discuss their ministry and future plans. Among other issues, the group decided to pursue the establishment of a school for Native American children and a seminary for the formation of future members.
With the assistance of one lay teacher and three domestic helpers, Fr. Hogebach opened St. Joseph’s Indian School in the fall of 1927. He also served as pastor of St. James Church in the near-by town of Chamberlain. Within a year he was able to obtain the help of four Franciscan Sisters. After a string of disasters—fires, a tornado, draught, and a locust infestation—Fr. Hogebach wrote, “I feel awfully tired and nervous. The many worries of the past year, the disastrous fire, all the new problems of rebuilding this school and financing the rebuilt institution seem to get to me.”
As a member of a new foundation in mission territory, Fr. Hogebach would always be requesting donations. A few years later, writing about the Christmas celebration at St. Joseph’s, he comments, “Christmas day offers plenty of opportunity to admire the generosity of our benefactors.” Yet, as the depression wore on, the strain is evident in an appeal that he wrote in 1932. “Will you not, dear friend, come to the aid of a priest in great necessity, a priest who is giving his whole strength and vigor in the education and salvation of poor Indian children? Any donation, even the smallest, will be gratefully accepted and acknowledged.”
After ten years at St. Joseph’s Indian School, Fr. Hogebach served for a short time as Superior, teacher, and fundraiser at the SCJ seminary in Ste. Marie, IL. Within two years he was the Superior of a new seminary in Donaldson, IN, and his main task was to supervise the construction of the necessary buildings. In addition, he taught Latin and Greek, and collaborated with Br. Fidelis Mueller, SCJ, in fundraising.
Br. Fidelis (right) arrived in the United States in 1929 and began working at the SCJ seminary in Hales Corners, WI. Along with Brothers Martin Kelly, SCJ, and John Thomas, SCJ, he begged for financial assistance not only for the needs of the SCJ mission in the US, but also for the SCJ foreign missions. Both he and Br. Martin travelled to various cities to collect donations door-to-door.
The rampant unemployment of the depression era and the refusal of some bishops to allow the collection of donations in their dioceses, made fundraising an arduous task. Br. Fidelis wrote, “While it is true that I have met with disappointments, it is also true that I have been surprised and encouraged by the generosity and interest of people who are willing to do good.” In 1937, Br. Fidelis was assigned to the high school Seminary in Donaldson, IN, where he continued to raise funds.
Fr. John Dalbec, SCJ, remembered Br. Fidelis as “a hard worker, a self-sacrificing one, sometimes put to tasks quite contrary to his nature, yet he went about them willingly and cheerfully. He had a simple and modest way of winning friends. He was a quiet man, pleasant, cheerful, an example of confidence and of humility.”
In January of 1941, Br. Fidelis and Fr. Hogebach were travelling by car to a meeting of the Chicago Mother’s Club, a supportive association of mothers whose sons were studying to be Priests of the Sacred Heart. A car smashed into them at an intersection and instantly both were killed. Fr. Hogebach was 51 years old and Br. Fidelis was 47.