By Linda Scherer
WINSTED, MN Fr. Anthony Hesse, who prefers to be called Fr. Tony, has been chosen by New Ulm Bishop John M. LeVoir to serve as parish priest of Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Winsted.
Hesse, much younger than his predecessors, views his ministry as “shepherding” the more than 2,500 Holy Trinity church members.
By shepherding, Hesse said his role is more “leading and guiding, and not controlling” because his new parish is already “running like a well-run machine.”
“The staff and faculty of both the parish and school are very capable, very energetic, and very passionate in what they do and believe in,” Hesse said during a recent interview.
“Everything just runs so smoothly here, and to be a part of something this big is exciting,” Hesse said.
Hesse previously served in the New Ulm Diocese as pastor at St. Peter’s in Canby and St. Leo’s in St. Leo for six years.
St. Peter’s had a preschool through sixth grade school. Both the parish and school were about half the size of Winsted’s parish and elementary school.
Although Hesse said he was content to remain in Canby as its pastor, he was ready to serve the diocese when the bishop said he needed him to serve as pastor of Holy Trinity church and school.
He is especially looking forward to connecting with the high school and its students; something he was able to do while serving as associate pastor of Cathedral High School in New Ulm from 2001 to 2003.
One activity he has already asked to participate in occasionally is pep band, where he has asked the music teacher Laura Boillat if he can play his base saxophone.
“It is always fun to play. I am not very good on solo,” Hesse said. “I am hoping there is a good base section that can cover for me.”
There are only three Catholic high schools that remain in the New Ulm Diocese Cathedral, Holy Trinity, and Sleepy Eye. Hesse feels fortunate to be pastor of one of them.
He is the son of Richard and Mary Ann Hesse of Watkins.
Watkins, which is located just north of Litchfield, is where Hesse grew up with four brothers, one of them older than he is.
He attended Catholic elementary school at St. Anthony where he admits to feeling special when the school name was mentioned during prayer.
Preparing for graduation from Catholic school at St. Anthony’s, all of the eighth grade students put on a skit about what they were going to be when they grew up.
It was during the skit that Hesse first made a public announcement that he was going to become a priest.
He graduated from Eden Valley-Watkins in 1993, and began his freshman year at the University of St. Thomas.
“I guess I thought of the seminary and that is the reason why I went to St. Thomas, thinking if I ever do go into the seminary, it would be a lot easier to change buildings than to change campuses,” Hesse said.
During his second semester at St. Thomas, he entered the minor seminary at St. John Vianney studying there until 1997.
He attended the St. Paul Seminary from 1997 to 2001.
As far back as he can remember, Hesse has always thought about becoming a priest; something that he has never once regretted doing.
“There are days where I will say, ‘This is tough,’ but I have never once regretted it,” Hesse said.
But when people ask him when he decided to be a priest, he likes to answer “today.”
“Every single day of my life I have to answer, ‘Is this what God is calling me to?’”
“I think that is something that has helped me, knowing that it is what God is calling me to today.”
When asked what the hardest part of his job is as a priest, Hesse replied, “confrontation.”
He also worries about handling conflict if it were to arise within the parish.
“Well, of course, there is going to be conflict,” Hesse said. “I don’t care who you are. I love my family to death but we have conflict.”
“Hopefully, different opinions won’t get in the way of us working together. We can celebrate what unifies us, not what divides us.”
“Our focus is to bring Christ to the world,” Hesse said. “As long as we love each other and love Christ, that is what is going to get us through the differences.”
Hesse has lots of outside interests, many he hasn’t had time for these last few years, but would like to do once life settles down a bit.
A train set that Hesse started collecting in grade school and high school is in need of major work.
During one of his moves, the mountain got knocked off of the display. He plans to bring the set to Winsted and basically, start all over again.
A Minnesota Vikings’ football fan, with enough memorabilia “to start a shrine,” Hesse especially enjoys it when he has parishioners that are Green Bay Packer fans.
“I like to rub it in whenever the Vikings do well,” he said.
Fishing is another hobby he takes time for, especially at his family’s cabin.
He also likes to hunt pheasant and deer.
Last year he shot five deer, four bucks and a doe, with five shots.
“That is something I will probably never do again. Some hunters never see that many deer,” Hesse said.
As far as traveling, Hesse said he will do some, but would rather visit his family or see things in Minnesota.
“We have so much to offer in this state,” Hesse said.