Fr. Ted Hattrup, OFM


As illness closed in, Fr. Ted Hattrup’s world grew increasingly smaller. He was robbed of his ministry, much of his mobility, and most of his ability to speak.

This was the Ted that people knew for the past 30 years. When they gathered at St. Clement for his funeral on Jan. 3, they talked about a friar who, though severely impaired, was never conquered by limitations.

"He carried a heavy burden," said Fr. Fred Link. "I never saw him be anything but gentle and gracious. He was a sweet, sweet guy." As Provincial Minister, Fred visited Ted every month. At yearly visitation the answers were so succinct, "You didn’t have to take notes." A typical exchange:

Fred: "Are you pleased with everything?" Ted: "Yes." Fred: "Would you like to comment?" Ted: "No." When he left, Fred would ask, "‘Ted, can I have your blessing?’ He would give it immediately."

Guardian Br. Norbert Bertram had "the blessing for the last 11 months of ministering to Ted in the nursing home. His words were always simple. Some things I asked he was very definite about," like announcing, "I like visitors!"

One day, Norbert said, "I took him some flowers and he said, ‘I like flowers!’ Same thing for Hershey bars." Typically, "Ted would sit in a chair and look down all the time. Before I left I would kneel down and he would say, ‘God bless you!’" In his own way, "Ted was able to do some ministry."

Looking back

Fr. Valentine Young knew Ted as a classmate. "At Oldenburg I do remember hiking quite a bit with him on Wednesday and Saturday, the days we were allowed to leave the property." After ordination, "Nine of us were sent to the Southwest," including Ted. "We were in the same diocese and we did see each other on occasion. We were always friends."

For some, life at a nursing home is hard to bear. Not Ted. "He was a wonderful, simple man," said Br. Scott Obrecht, who cut the hair of senior friars at Franciscan Terrace in the 1990s. "We had six or eight friars there. Ted was the one most socially involved with the people," embracing activities like Bingo and poker. "He seemed to win a lot."

Ted’s family was represented by his brother, Vernon, from Overland Park, Kansas, here with his son, Mark. Ted’s biggest regret, Vernon said, was that "our dad died within six months of Ted’s ordination. Ted always wished dad was there for his ordination and first Mass [at Windhorst, Kansas]." Ted’s greatest joy was "his two assignments in New Mexico. I knew they were his favorites." In those days, "He talked. He was sociable. He would carry the conversation."

When Ted left home, their contact was limited. "In those days you went to the novitiate and you were gone," Vernon said, his eyes glistening at the memory of Ted walking away while his parents watched him go. "After he was ordained we got to see him quite a bit. He was part of humanity again."

Mark Hattrup, now 47, was 7 or 8 when he learned that Mass can happen outside of a Church. "One of the first things I recall [Uncle Ted] teaching was the idea of ‘private Mass’" for the family and small groups. "He had his ‘traveling Mass kit’ for special events."

‘A good Franciscan’

The companionable gathering at St. Clement, about 35 of Ted’s friar brothers plus Vernon and Mark, felt like one of those "family" Masses.

Vernon read from Isaiah: "The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces." The passage Mark read was from 2 Corinthians: "Therefore, we are not discouraged; rather, although our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day." The homily by Ted’s classmate, Fr. Jeremy Harrington, was just as appropriate.

"All of us know that Fr. Theobald – ‘Ted’ – last year celebrated 65 years as a Franciscan and 60 years as a priest," Jeremy said. "He was a good Franciscan for 65 years. Those of us in the novitiate remember Ted went to St. Benedict’s in Atchison, Kansas, and had Benedictine wisdom."

In the last difficult decades, "He was well cared for. Norbert, Br. Jerry [Beetz], the Provincial and many others gave Ted excellent care as St. Francis told us to do."

Jeremy reflected on three phases of Ted’s priestly life: his work in parishes; his years as a hospital chaplain; and "a third period, a ministry of patiently enduring physical and mental illness, especially the years he spent at Franciscan Terrace and St. Margaret Hall."

Carrying a cross

Quoting St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, Jeremy said, "‘We carry our treasure in earthen vessels (to make clear its all-surpassing power came from God, not us).’ Paul says, ‘So many ways I have been ill-treated but I am not crushed; I am not despairing.’" As mortals, "We carry in our bodies the dying of Jesus. Ted carried in his body the cross of Jesus, the cross of suffering, the cross of not being able to do the work he wanted to do, the cross of not being able to do anything outside the nursing home."

According to Paul, "‘For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all’ – what Ted is now enjoying," Jeremy said.

"Each reading tonight promises the reward God has for us." As Isaiah says, "God will take the tears away from everyone’s eyes and there will be no more death. God has saved us and we rejoice."

Tonight, Jeremy said, "We gather at the banquet table of the Lord with grateful hearts for Ted. We receive the living bread that promises we will live forever with Jesus."

Following Communion celebrant Fr. Jeff Scheeler told Ted’s relatives, "Your presence means a lot to us. Many of us did not know Ted that well because of his illness, so it was good to get to know you."

Jeff’s conversations with Ted were fairly one-sided: "Ted, how are you?" was answered with, "OK." When Jeff left, there always a "Thank you" for coming.

"I really think Ted is a good example of Franciscan life," Jeff said. "What are we supposed to do but live a life of simplicity, minority?"

Death gives each of us "a new beginning, a fresh start." When he died on New Year’s Day, "Ted encountered that in a powerful way."