Like most diocesan priests, Fr. Paul Hartmann expected — and even looked forward to — a career spent mostly in parish ministry.
That hasn’t really been the case. In the almost 28 years since his ordination, Fr. Hartmann has been called to fill a variety of roles in pastoral, educational and judicial settings. But it’s that diversity of experience that likely piqued the interest of the hierarchy at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, who recently announced that Fr. Hartmann has been appointed to the role of Associate General Secretary for the Pastoral Offices.
“I enjoy a new challenge — a new learning opportunity — so this will be an opportunity to serve the church in a new way,” said Fr. Hartmann, who is currently the pastor of St. Eugene Parish in Fox Point and St. Monica Parish in Whitefish Bay.
Fr. Hartmann said he was notified shortly after Christmas that his name had been brought up in connection with the job. At the time, he was asked if he would be amenable to the promotion — and the move to Washington, D.C., that it necessitates.
“I sound like an Academy Award nominee — it’s an honor to be asked,” he said. “But it was not a simple decision.” In addition to his duties at his parishes, Fr. Hartmann is the Judicial Vicar for the Metropolitan Tribunal. He also has deep roots here in Wisconsin — his siblings and his elderly mother are here.
But, after consulting with his family and other trusted advisors, “I really felt it was the Lord trying to tell me, ‘OK, this is the way you need to serve for the next few years,’” he said.
“It is an honor for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee to have one of its own selected for this position,” said Fr. Jerry Herda, vicar for clergy, in an email to parishes. “This follows a long tradition of Milwaukee priests serving the Church in leadership roles, including James Cardinal Harvey, Fr. Aaron Esch, Msgr. Ross Shecterle, and the former USCCB General Secretary, Bishop David Malloy. We are grateful to Fr. Hartmann for his willingness to assume these new duties in service to the U.S. bishops. His background and experience will be a great benefit to the Conference.”
Fr. Hartmann was born in New York but moved to Brookfield with his family as a young child. He grew up attending St. John Vianney Parish in Brookfield and graduated from Catholic Memorial High School in 1984. He graduated from Marquette University with a double major in communications and philosophy and entered Saint Francis de Sales Seminary.
Following his ordination in 1994, Fr. Hartmann served as associate pastor at Christ King in Wauwatosa. His other work in parish ministry has included roles as administrator at St. Anthony in Milwaukee, St. Aloysius in West Allis, St. John Vianney in Brookfield, St. Mary in Waukesha, St. Anthony in Pewaukee and Queen of Apostles in Pewaukee.
Fr. Hartmann studied canon law at the Catholic University of America. After graduating in 1999, he returned to Milwaukee to work in the Metropolitan Tribunal as adjutant judicial vicar and became judicial vicar in 2003. He has also taught in the deacon formation program at Sacred Heart Seminary and has taught canon law at Marquette Law School. From 2008-17, he was the president of Catholic Memorial High School.
He has served as the dean of the Milwaukee Northeast/Ozaukee deanery since 2017. That same year, he became administrator at St. Eugene and St. Monica, where he was later named pastor.
Fr. Hartmann will begin his new duties at the USCCB in early May. Current associate pastor Fr. Jordan Berghouse will likely be named as the temporary administrator for St. Eugene and St. Monica until a new pastor is assigned to the parishes, said Fr. Herda. A new appointment to the role of Judicial Vicar will be made in the near future.
In his most recent bulletin column, Fr. Hartmann explained that, as Associate General Secretary for the Pastoral Offices at the USCCB, he will be tasked with “the oversight and coordination of … the offices which support and coordinate the work of the bishops in the areas of pastoral ministry.”
His recent experience immersed in parish ministry will be helpful on that front, he told the Catholic Herald.
“Whether my other responsibilities are with schools or the Tribunal or projects for the archbishop here and there, parish work is needed for a diocesan priest to stay grounded in why we do what we do — ultimately, it’s so that a person in the pew becomes holier, becomes more joyful,” he said. “Having 24/7 parish responsibility keeps you grounded in that. I think they’re bringing me to Washington, with a diversity of experience, to ask the question: how is this going to help or affect people in the pews?”