Fr. Patrick Heppe (left) and Fr. Matthew Widder will be switching roles on Sept. 1. (Submitted photos)
Sept. 1 will mark a significant change for Fr. Patrick Heppe and Fr. Matthew Widder.
Fr. Heppe is currently the pastor of the Catholic Community of Waukesha, consisting of St. Joseph, St. Mary, St. John Neumann and St. William parishes, and Fr. Widder serves as the parochial vicar. Beginning Sept. 1, the two priests will change roles. Fr. Chuck Wrobel and Fr. Jorge Perez will continue in their roles as parochial vicars.
While he is taking a step back, Fr. Heppe made clear that he is not retiring and explains that his initial assignment was for six years, and his new position is for three years.
“But that doesn’t mean I can’t hang in there a little longer,” Fr. Heppe said. “We have a great priest team here and one of the best experiences I have ever had as pastor or associate pastor of a parish in my 44 years of being a priest.”
Serving the Waukesha Catholic Community was initially a surprise for Fr. Heppe, who thought his previous assignment as pastor of Holy Angels in West Bend would be his final assignment before retirement.
“Little did I know the Holy Spirit had a different plan for me, and I would be needed elsewhere,” he said. “When the archbishop asked if I would come here to Waukesha, he knew this move would be a perfect fit, and he was right — or should I say, the Holy Spirit was right.”
Since he began serving the Waukesha parishes, Fr. Heppe said the beauty of his surroundings and the parishioners who made the community a home always inspired him.
“My role here was always to be a bridge to the future. The four parishes of Waukesha would need the right person with certain gifts and a strong spirituality to make this collaboration successful,” Fr. Heppe said. “There has been a great deal of thought and prayer (to the Holy Spirit) to discern the next leader to move the Catholic Community of Waukesha forward. Fr. Matthew Widder has those gifts. He has the experience, a youthful priestly heart, and deep love and devotion to the church. I recognize the Holy Spirit at work again.”
Fr. Heppe will continue serving in prayer and worship, and Fr. Widder will continue his role in communication and stewardship.
“I am happy to pass on or dump the administrative responsibilities on Fr. Widder because he has the experience,” Fr. Heppe joked. “Fr. Matthew and I happen to be good friends and have been working together, as co-pastors of sorts, for the past year under the assumption that we would swap jobs when the time was right.”
Before coming to the Catholic Community of Waukesha, Fr. Widder served the Sheboygan North Parishes — St. Clement, St. Dominic and Holy Name of Jesus — for seven years.
“The first four years I was at Holy Name of Jesus and St. Clement, and then in my fifth year, St. Dominic was part of that as well,” said Fr. Widder. “I do have experience working in a multi-parish cluster and working in teams. It has been a blessing to be part of this priest team and staff here within Waukesha Catholic. It is a privilege to serve the people in the Catholic Community of Waukesha as we continue to seek our Lord and to see a deeper love of commitment to the Holy Spirit.”
When Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki and Fr. Heppe discussed his coming to the Catholic Community of Waukesha, they needed to have a smooth transition since he was close to retirement age, and now they expect another smooth transition.
“We needed a good spiritual leader, and we needed a person with a lot of love for parishioners, and that is Fr. Matthew,” Fr. Heppe said. “So, I am very happy to pass on that role to him. to swap positions and happy to be continuing to work with both him and Fr. Jorge and Fr. Chuck over the next number of years. It is a privilege to be able to do that and a privilege to work with our parishioners.”
Fr. Heppe will share the Mass and on-call schedule, funerals, weddings and special events with his brother priests. But, he does plan to take an extra day off during the week unless he is needed. He will also assist Fr. Widder with obligations he may not have time to accomplish.
“I love the priests I work with and our four-parish family. I find this opportunity to be prayerful, spiritually uplifting, challenging and supportive. I see the Holy Spirit’s hand in this. I see holy surprises, and the mystery and beauty of God working in Waukesha, and my life,” he said. “It’s an honor to be a part of this spirit-filled family, and I hope to remain in its fellowship for a long time.”