by Gordon Nary
Gordon: When you received your vocation, with who did you first discuss it, and what was their advice?
Father Ted: I felt called to be a priest when I was in primary school, a small rural school in north-central Illinois taught by Franciscan Sisters. The sisters and my parents encouraged me and a Franciscan priest who gave a mission at our parish was the most encouraging in his advice.
Gordon: Where did you attend seminary, and what was the most challenging course that you took, and why was it so challenging?
Father Ted: In 1963, I attended St. Joseph's Franciscan High School Seminary in Oak Brook, IL, and then Our Lady of Angels Franciscan College Seminary in Quincy, IL. After my 2nd year, I went to the Franciscan novitiate at St. Paschal's in Oak Brook, IL. It was a very good experience. After college, I studied theology at CTU in Chicago IL. The greatest challenge was not in the courses but in living Franciscan spirituality. I felt called to deeper poverty than what I experienced at CTU. I asked for a transfer and was sent to a poor inner-city parish in Cleveland OH. From there, I took a job as a child care worker at Parmadale Children's Village in Parma, OH. During that time, since I had left the seminary, I dated a lovely girl named Cheryl. This was a difficult challenge since now my vocation was at a turning point: priesthood or marriage? A priest then asked me to work in his inner-city parish which was the center for Deaf Catholics in the Cleveland area. He advised me to return to the seminary and discern from there. I was advised by my home diocese to attend St. Meinrad Theology in IN and it was a good experience. I was ordained as a diocesan priest on 24 May 1980.
Gordon: What was your first assignment and what did you learn there?
Father Ted: My first assignment was assistant pastor at St. Pius X Church in Rock Island, IL. 3 months later, the good pastor died who was like a father to me (my dad died suddenly 3 weeks before my diaconate ordination). I was given much to do and had to quickly learn how to take care of so many needs in this big parish.
Gordon: Please share with our readers what happened when you met Mother Teresa.
Father Ted: While attending the International Retreat for Priests in Rome with Mother Teresa as a guest speaker, I was invited to con-celebrate Mass for her sisters in their chapel on 15 Sept 1990. After Mass, Mother asked to speak with me. She told me that there were no priests in some places where she wanted to send her sisters. She asked me to consider becoming a missionary for her sisters. I was humbled and overwhelmed and told her that I would ask my bishop's permission to serve her sisters anywhere she wanted me.
Gordon: What was the first assignment that Mother Teresa gave you and describe your experience there?
Father Ted: On 20 July 1993, I arrived in Rome to live with the contemplative priests and brothers of Mother Teresa and learn missionary life. I was sent to Albania on 8 Sept of the same year to learn Albanian. On 10 Feb 1994, Mother Teresa sent her sisters and myself into the Albanian Alps to open a new mission there.
The environment was very rugged: no running water in any home and only pit latrines outside. No vehicles so we had to walk thru the mountains to offer the sacraments. The farthest village for walking was 4 hours one way and walking back 4 hours the same day.
Another village was on the other side of the mountain so I had to stay overnight. Communism was strongest in Albania for 40 years. They tortured and killed all the clergy and religious, imprisoned all who professed faith in God, and destroyed all the churches.
We were able to rebuild St. Stephen's Church with no wheelbarrows or machines. We mixed cement in a hole in the ground and carried it in buckets. Our Albanian experience was very challenging and difficult. The people were extremely poor yet spiritually rich from enduring 40 years of oppressive communism.
Gordon: Why is child mortality so high in Albania?
Father Ted: Where we lived in the mountains, there were no hospitals or clinics. Only very healthy children survived.
Gordon: When and why did you go to Nairobi, Kenya and what are some of the primary challenges that the people whom you served had to address?
Father Ted: I was invited to teach at St. Paul's Seminary in Uganda and arrived there on 3 July 2001. I also taught in the primary school of Mother Teresa's sisters there. In December 2003, I was invited to teach in Kenya and serve the Sisters of Mother Teresa in the Nairobi area.
The biggest slum in Africa is called Kibra (2nd biggest in the world) and is located outside Nairobi. The sisters' home is nearby. I became aware of the severe poverty of those living in the slums. Young people needed help and the sisters took care of the very young and handicapped but asked me to care for older youth.
We chose the name "Family of JESUS" and now we are caring for over 570 poor youth and their families. Besides physical poverty, there is the greater poverty of broken homes, child abuse, lack of parental care (especially dads who neglect their children). It is a great challenge to deal with so many problems: lack of food, housing, education and medical care.
Gordon: When and why did you go to Ethiopia and what are the challenges that the people whom you serve have to address?
Father Ted: I was invited by the sisters of Mother Teresa to serve in a place where there were no priests. This was the summer of 2016. The sisters had opened a mission in northeastern Ethiopia where 96% of the population is Muslim. It is one of the hottest places on earth with temperatures reaching 148 F. This area was formerly volcanoes and some still exist there. The Eastern Catholic Rite is Ge'ez and almost no one speaks English. While serving the sisters, I was also chaplain for the local university where English was taught. The poverty was extreme and the prevailing culture presented many challenges.
Gordon: What impact has the Covid-19 pandemic had in Ethiopia and how accessible are vaccines?
Father Ted: I left Ethiopia and returned to Kenya in 2018 to continue serving the sisters and the poor there. Before Covid reached Africa, we were suffering from a locust plague.
Around March 2020, covid became serious. Due to our extreme poverty and following the locust plague, Covid was a severe hardship for the poor who suffered greatly from the shutdown of work due to the virus. In August, the news reported, "At least 15 of 100 people who have died of Covid-19 are youth aged between 20 and 40 years." The vaccine finally became available in the spring of 2021, however, the 2nd dose is still not available because we get it from India.
Gordon: What are the primary challenges that you face in your ministry and how can our readers help support your ministry?
Father Ted: As I minister the sacraments every day and counsel youth and their families, our biggest need is to provide financial help for food, housing, education, and medical care. If anyone would like to donate to our mission, these are the ways:
Fr. Ted Hochstatter
c/o Donella Anderson
15765 N. 1150th Rd.
If you want a tax-deductible donation, make your check to and mail it to:
Fr. Ted’s Kids Mission in Kenya, Ltd.; 1200 Gleneagles Ct.; Lake Geneva, WI 53147.
We also have an account with Pay Pal. Use our name:
Fr. Ted’s Kids Mission in Kenya or use our website:
frtedskids.org and donate from there.
May God bless you all! We love you very much! Your brother, Fr. Ted
Gordon: May God continue to bless and inspire you in your extraordinary commitment to those in poverty.