from today's Waukesha Freeman -
‘Finally the big man on campus’
By Arthur Thomas
WAUKESHA – As president of Catholic Memorial High School, the Rev. Paul Hartmann is now running his alma mater. He sat down with The Freeman recently to talk about a number of issues, including Pope Francis and young people, the value of Roman Catholic education and what the future holds for his school..
THE FREEMAN: Pope Francis has definitely generated headlines in his first few months in office. Which of his actions stand out to you the most and what do you think of the direction he has taken the church?.
THE REV. PAUL HARTMANN: I think the direction he’s taken the church is wonderful. It’s very much a compliment to the great philosopher that John Paul was, the great theologian that Benedict was and now a true, true pastor at heart. So that idea, in much the same way that John Paul did when he started, just going out and meeting the people. As he said, to smell like the sheep means being among the people and working with the people and he’s taken that very seriously.
I think he’s reinvigorated all of us that have a lot of administrative responsibilities, and pastors of large parishes, priests today, have a lot of administration to do. It’s a reminder that we have to get out there and really get to know the people we’re working with and working for.
FREEMAN: Clearly the people you’re working with are young people. In your view, how have young people, particularly those here at Catholic Memorial, reacted to the first few months of his papacy?
HARTMANN: I think certainly there was an excitement that, in this age group, this was the first time they had ever seen the transition of a pope, even though Benedict had only been in about seven years. ... I think they’re also just finding Francis very accessible. As I said, he wants to be among the people, he wants to be among young people, he wants to be with people where they’re at. For them, that’s almost like a grandfatherly figure. I think they certainly, at least here, have great respect for Benedict before and the memory that most of them have of John Paul, but this is truly that active, fun grandfather that they have.
FREEMAN: Switching gears, the school choice program continues to expand statewide. How confident are you that Catholic Memorial would be among the schools next year, or going forward, that are incorporated into that?
HARTMANN: Well, I probably wouldn’t say confident. I’m hopeful. I think it’s a program, an opportunity, that would be of great service to families of Waukesha County. Not only the city of Waukesha, but the entirety of Waukesha County, because there’s need throughout the county, there’s more than people see and understand.
I think the structure of most significant enrollments makes a little bit of a challenge in the sense that we have only one entry point, ninth grade. In the sense that we kind of have to divide our attentions between 26 parishes, 40 different grade schools. Where on the one hand that seems like a lot of places to draw from, but it also is a lot of other options that these families have.
I’m hopeful, I’m confident that we’ll work not only with other community partners, in particular here in the city, a lot of coordination with La Casa de Esperanza to serve the families that would benefit from this.
FREEMAN: What’s the value of a Catholic school versus any other private school and also versus a public school?
HARTMANN: Certainly the faith dimension adds something. Whether our student is Catholic or not, it adds a dimension of faith in God that changes how we interact with one another. It adds a dimension of discipline and expectation that may not always be handled the same way in other schools. It adds a whole life perspective. We’re educating and preparing these kids not just to get good scores on tests, but to truly make a difference in the world...Probably our bigger competitors more so than other private schools, other Catholic schools, are very good free, or property-tax paid, public schools. What we add, what we offer is that confidence a family can have in the partnership we have with parents that faith is so integral, and a lived experience of faith is so integral, it’s worth the investment. And it bears great fruit, not only when they get to college, but when they get to whatever goal in life that they have for them.
FREEMAN: You went to Catholic Memorial. What’s it like to now be running the school that you went to growing up?
HARTMANN: It took me 25 years but I’m finally the big man on campus. It’s been interesting, I’m back now in my sixth year. A number of the faculty and staff were here when I was a student and so they are for me in many cases still Mr. So-and-so or Mrs. Soand- so. Somehow I have to tell myself and they have to remind me, I’m the boss.
I think what I bring to the table is just a love for what this institution had been for over 60 years. Certainly 30 years of my life, when I came in 1980 as a freshman. That investment in what’s been, that hope for what it can be and a vision for what the future holds.
I think it brings something unique. Not only as an alum, but as a priest. Fewer and fewer priests can be assigned to education work nowadays. As someone who has different connections and different roles within the community, I’m glad to be able to do this.
FREEMAN: Are young people today more or less religious than when you were in school?
HARTMANN: I would say they are more religious to the extent that I think they are far more discerning in their religious faith practice. I was still on the tail end of very much a cultural Catholicism. You went, if your family could afford to do so, you pretty much fulfilled the expectation, you went to the Catholic grade school. If you could afford it and there was an option, you went to the Catholic high school and so on down the line.
Whereas now, with a lot more options, a lot more difficulty in those financial decisions, a lot more discernment, the family environment is different. So the kids that practice their faith now come from blended families, different types of family experiences, come from having had other opportunities.
They come with a little more skepticism. They want their questions answered in a few minutes rather than say take a lifetime to learn it. Our kids here have a far mature faith than I think I did at that age, but there are still the vast majority who, kids are kids. But even in that case, they realize that it’s not only sacraments. It’s service, its learning the faith and it’s being able to proclaim it, to speak about it to others.
FREEMAN: Each January we always hear stories marking the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision. Will there ever be a point where this country comes to an agreement that isn’t controversial over abortion?
HARTMANN: Well, I certainly pray that we reach that someday. Whether that will be the case or not, most people would be skeptical.
We have to come to an agreement about the personhood of a child. We have to come to an agreement that abortion is not merely another form of contraception. That family planning is about decisions that individuals make. Sexuality are decisions that people make, realizing the consequences. To say that it’s all of those rolled up into one, I’ve just made it more complex than most people will think about it, but it goes to show that it will be a difficult process.
I think the first step, and the first steps that most of the pro-life groups are taking as they kind of reset themselves in the last five to 10 years, is to say we have to take some strides to look at the most egregious circumstances. Whether on the one hand it’s partial-birth abortion or whether its the sad example of the doctor in Philadelphia who was just truly abusing women in the process of taking their money. I think that incrementalism, but also a realization that this is a civil rights issue. Not only the rights of an unborn child, but how the system has been disproportionately stacked against minority women, against poor women, the system to leave them seemingly no other choice than to abort, is a civil rights issue.
FREEMAN: What does the future hold for Catholic Memorial?
HARTMANN: We’ve got some great surprises in the offing. We are in the early phases of a comprehensive campaign. We want to continue to invest in this facility, in our presence in the city of Waukesha and that is both capital expenditures here, it’s participating in choice, it’s working with the growing Hispanic community of the city of Waukesha and Waukesha County in general. It’s making the investment this community has made in us over the last 60 years and now we’ve got to start standing on our own and make that investment again. We’ve got a lot of great alumni and past parents and community partners who are helping with that. We are looking to do, for us, a major comprehensive campaign of about $10 million and really institute our presence here, but then to do so with academic programs like the International Baccalaureate, Project Lead the Way, Memorial Propel is our innovation process, Catholic service learning project, these are all new things, the student growth plan, are all new projects and new endeavors that we’ve been putting in place over the last couple years.
A framed piece of his school work hangs in the Rev. Paul Hartmann’s office at Catholic Memorial High School. It depicts him saying Mass, with the text reading:“I want to be a priest when I grow up and I will say Mass every Sunday in front of a lot of people.”
Charles Auer/Freeman Staff
Name: Paul Hartmann
Family: Mother, Ellen; father, Bob (deceased), four brothers and two sisters
Occupation: Roman Catholic priest; president of Catholic Memorial High School
Education: B.A., Marquette University; M.Div., St. Francis Seminary; JCL, Catholic University of America
Get to know: The Rev. Paul Hartmann
My greatest achievement is: Having become the president of my own alma mater, Catholic Memorial
My favorite book: The Bible
My favorite TV show is: “Law & Order: UK”
My favorite movie: “Lawrence of Arabia”
My favorite childhood memory: Christmas mornings, waiting with my brothers and sisters at the top of the stairs for dad to tell us that it was OK to come down
The person I most admire: Blessed Pope John Paul II, soon to be canonized a saint
Three words people describe me with are: Faithful, intense, consistent
The worst job I had as a teenager: Had two, liked both. Working at a gas station and as a gym coordinator at St. John Vianney
The food I like best is: Good, true Mexican food
My favorite hobby is: Golf
My goals for the year: Raise $10 million for CMH, parental school choice and implementing Memorial Propel My favorite music group is: Great Big Sea, a folk rock group from St. John’s Newfoundland
My pet is: Sorry, no pet
My favorite vacation place is: New York City or Washington, D.C.