Bio: Van Hootgem, Edward Francis (Commemorative Bio - 1895)

Poster: Crystal Wendt

Rev. Edward Francis Van Hootegem

Rev. Edward Francis Van Hootegem, pastor of the church of St. Francis Xavier, in Merrill, Lincoln County, was born March 3, 1856, in Flanders, Belgium, only son of Peter John and Sophia (De Smet) Van Hootgem, the former of whom had two sons and one daughter, by a previous marriage.

Our subject comes of a family of sturdy farmers. His father received a common school education, and was one of a family of fourteen sons and four daughters, issued in two different marriage; and while their father was fairly well off in the goods of this world, yet the father of our subject had but little property of his own, being a tenant of most of the land he tilled. He left enough; however, to his widow at his death, in 1860, to enable to give their son a good education, and after her death, when he was left to his own resources, he was thereby able to continue his studies and to provide for himself to the last in an untrammeled way. The mother died November 14, 1874, leaving her son, then in the midst of his collegiate course, bereft of a tenderly beloved parent. Her son, our subject, received his early education in the common schools of Belgium, remaining at home on the farm till the age of thirteen years, at which time he went to Eecloo where he took a collegiate course of eight years. Thence he went to St. Nicholas for one year’s study of philosophy, and thence the Louvain for a three-year’s theological course in the American College, connected with the famous university of that city, there graduating in 1881.

He received the minor orders May 21, 1880, in Malines, Belgium, at the hands of Bishop Van Den Branden de Reeth; sub-deaconship December 18, 1880, in Liege, Belgium, by Bishop Doutreloux, deaconship March 12, 1881, and finally was ordained to the priesthood April 2, same year, both in Roermond, Holland, by Bishop Paredis. His object in studying in the American College, Louvain, was to fit himself for the American missions, and on the 1st day of September, 1881, he landed in New York, arriving at Green Bay, Wis., September 6 following. He was appointed by Rt. Rev. Bishop F. X. Krautbauer, September 8, to the parish St. John the Baptist, in Duck Creek, and to its mission. His first work was to pay off a debt of $3,000 which hung over the then widowed church, and to improve church property in general. He had charge of Duck Creek, Flintville and Little Suamico for eleven years and also attended the then new missions of Coleman, Maple Valley and Stiles, the two first months till these places were given in charge of a permanent priest. About the year 1885, Sts. Edward’s and Isidore’s Church was erected in Flintville, and a couple of years after that, St. Leo’s in Little Suamico. In 1888 a fine school house was built in Duck Creek at a total cost of about $5,000. In 1892 Father Van Hootegem was unexpectedly, to the regret of his own people and the people of other beliefs as well, taken away from Duck Creek, by Rt. Rev. S. G. Messmer, and nominated to the church of St. Francis Xavier, in Merrill. Improvements here were made within the two first years of his pastorate, such as reseating the church at a cost of $1,000, placing altars, etc., and furnishing the parish house with waterworks, steam plant, electric light, etc., the great need, however, of the parish not being supplied in 1895-a Catholic school-owing to the depression in wages and business in general.

Twice since coming to the United States has our subject visited Europe. On the first occasion, in the summer of 1887, he visited his relatives and friends in Belgium and Holland, and made a tour through Switzerland and on the Rhine. The last time he went abroad was in the summer of 1895, when, after visiting the Eastern States, Washington, and all principal cities in the East, he made a hurried trip to England and Ireland, but made a tour all through Italy and Tyrol, Austria, Bavaria and on the Rhine, taking in Rome, Naples and all the principal cities of these countries; after that journey he made another tour through France, viewing beautiful Paris for several days, thence taking in Lyons, the famous desert, in the midst of which, at an altitude of 2,000 meters, nestles the “Grande Chartreuse,” and thence passing through the most picturesque parts of France, the Cevennes, then journeying through Toulouse, and the famous Sanctuary of Lourdes, thence going to the Atlantic coast, Biarritz, Bordeax, and returning by way of Paris to Rouen, and to Belgium, from which country he set sail July 20, 1895, to return hale and heart to the United States, his adopted fatherland.

Rev. Father Van Hootegem is an able and faithful pastor, a genial and companionable friend, having always a felicitous word upon his tongue to both old and young, to rich and poor alike, and ever busy is sowing seeds of kindness to help fellow mortals on their way. He is a man of fine physique and commanding presence, possessed of forcible intellectual qualities, the results of being an extensive reader and a close thinker, while in manner he is social and friendly, courteous and refined, qualities that at once win the admiration and respect of all, and stamp him with the seal of a Christian gentleman.

---Source: Commemorative Biographical Record of the Upper Wisconsin Counties of Waupaca, Portage, Wood, Marathon, Lincoln, Oneida, Vilas, Langlade and Shawano. publ. 1895 by J. H. Beers & Co., Chicago 1110 pages, illustrated; Page 1018-1020


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