Fr. Ted Hochstatter was ordained a priest on May 24, 1980 after finishing theological training at St. Meinrad School of Theology in Indiana. He served as a diocese priest for his first 13 years in the diocese of Peoria, Illinois. He grew up in North Central Illinois, on a rented farm where his father worked hard to raise corn, beans, oats, cows, pigs, and chickens. His father called it the “ All American Farm”. He realized his calling to serve as a missionary through the inspiration of Mother Teresa whom he met in Rome on Sept. 15, 1990. He responded to her invitation to work with her communities throughout the world beginning in Rome and Albania from 1993 to 1995.
On December 3, 1995, with his hands in the hands of Mother Teresa, Fr. Ted Hochstatter pledged the vow that she asked of all members of her order—a day that Fr. Ted will always remember. Kneeling before Mother, Fr. Ted promised “whole-hearted, free service to the poorest of the poor”, to take no salary, keep no savings, and having nothing of his own. To this day, Fr. Ted is still working with the Missionaries of Charity, the order that Mother Teresa started.
From 1993 to 1995 he served a parish of 10,000 people scattered over remote mountains in the Albanian Alps in an assignment that Mother Teresa gave him. It was very hard for her to get priests to go there, as the language was very difficult and the life very cold and rough, but Albania was her home country, and she was anxious to set up religious houses there after communism fell. The whole country was in bad shape and he worked in the poorest part.
He made his headquarters at the village of Breglumi. It was a place without stores, doctors or clinics. His living space was a converted storage area, the size of a large closet. If he needed water for drinking, bathing, or cleaning, he had to carry it upstairs to his area. The houses had no running water, bathrooms or telephones. The electricity was off more than it was on, so the room was also unheated. On winter nights, he would lie in his cot with all his clothes on and his coat and pull a blanket over himself. He froze. In order to get warm, he would go and visit someone’s home who had a fire place.
In his room, he lived out of a suitcase. When he visited parishioners, he carried whatever he needed for mass in a backpack, from communion wafers to his vestments. His hands had to be free to climb. The mountains were snow-capped almost year-round, but the altitude never bothered him. The air was so clean and beautiful, he just got adjusted to it. Villages could be several hours apart along unmarked mountain trails. So the Reverend Hochstatter got children to lead him until he memorized the way. The families learned to adapt and survive in the harsh climate and those harsh conditions, and so did Father Ted.
Child mortality is high in Albania but so is longevity. If you survived your childhood, you were strong and lived a long life. Look at Mother Teresa – look how strong she was. She died in 1997 after her 87th birthday and that was after spending the last 50 years of her life selflessly caring for outcasts, children, the ill and the dying. While working with Mother Teresa in Albania, Father Ted made a trip to Rome, and on November 29, 1995, he concelebrated Holy Mass with Pope John Paul II in his private chapel. After mass, John Paul II gave Father Ted two rosaries. Father Ted asked him, why two rosaries? The Pope answered, “I give double for Albania”.
After serving with Mother Teresa in Albania, he returned to the USA and served in the Alleluia Community of Augusta, Georgia until 1998 when he went back to Missionary work in the West Indies. On July 2, 2001, he left for Uganda, East Africa where he taught at St. Paul’s Seminary in Kabale, after which he taught in Kampala for the Missionaries of The Poor and the Sisters of Mother Teresa. From there he moved over the border into Nairobi, Kenya, East Africa where he remains to this day. His work consists of teaching and assisting in retreats for the Contemplative Evangelizers of the Heart of Christ as well as helping the young people get out of the Kibera Slum. He tries to provide them with housing, food, education, medical needs, religious instruction, and whatever else is necessary to try and give them a proper life. He also teaches at the seminary. This past year 8 of his students were ordained deacons and 3 others were ordained priests to help carry on carry on the work of God. He also continues to work with the Sisters of Mother Teresa, giving them the sacraments and classes. He also works at the parish of St. Michaels assisting wherever necessary.
For the past 10 years, Father Ted Hochstatter has labored tirelessly, trying to help God’s poorest of the poor in the Kibera slum and surrounding slums in Nairobi, Kenya, East Africa. He provides his adopted family with housing, food, education, medical needs and the beautiful word of Our Lord and Savior.
The Kibera slum is the second largest slum in the world and the largest slum in Africa where 1.5 million people live on 630 acres of land with over 100,000 orphans. There is no electricity, no sewage system and water is very scarce and very expensive. Last year, Kenya, East Africa, suffered the worst famine in 60 years. The number of hungry Kenyan’s has reached 11 million this past year, with many starving to death daily, and water so scarce that it is very expensive just to try and buy some to drink. His handful of family members that he tries to care for has grown from a handful to over 56 now. Yet he works tirelessly day and night to provide some of the basics of life such as food and water for God’s poorest of the poor.
He thanks God for the gift of knowing Mother Teresa and being with her a number of times, as well as the privilege of concelebrating mass with Pope John Paul II in his private chapel and sharing some personal time with him afterwards.