Fr. Ted Hochstatter was ordained a priest on May 24, 1980 after finishing theology studies at St. Meinrad, Indiana. He served as a diocesan priest for his first 13 years in the diocese of Peoria, Illinois. He was born on August 7, 1949 and 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 in 1993.
On December 3, 1995, with his hands in the hands of Mother Teresa, Fr. Ted 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 have 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 10,000 people scattered in villages over remote mountains in the Albanian Alps–the first 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 condition and Fr. Ted worked in the poorest part. He lived in the village of Breglumi in a small room that the Communists used as a storage room for their police station. It was on the 2nd floor so if he needed water for drinking, bathing, or cleaning, he had to carry it upstairs. 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. 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 his people, he carried everything he needed for the Sacraments in a backpack. 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 happily adjusted to it. Villages could be several hours apart along unmarked mountain trails. So Fr. Ted asked the youth to guide him until he memorized the way. The people learned to adapt and survive in those harsh conditions, and so did Fr. Ted. There were no stores, doctors, or clinics. The Communists had destroyed all the churches and replaced them with prisons.
Child mortality is high in Albania but so is longevity. If you survive your childhood, you are strong and you live a long life. Look at Mother Teresa ??? how strong she was. She died in 1997 after her 87th birthday and that was after spending the last 60 years of her life selflessly caring for outcasts, children, the sick and the dying. While working for Mother Teresa in Albania, Father Ted made a trip to Rome, and on November 29, 1995, he con-celebrated Holy Mass with Pope John Paul II in his private chapel. After mass, Pope John Paul II gave Fr. Ted two rosaries. Fr. Ted asked him, “Why two rosaries?” The Pope answered, “I give double for Albania.”
After serving with Mother Teresa in Albania, Fr. Ted returned to the USA to rest. He served in the Alleluia Community of Augusta, Georgia and then 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. He was then invited to 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 young people get out of the Kibera Slum and other slums of the Nairobi area. He tries to provide them with housing, food, education, medical needs, religious instruction, and whatever else is necessary. He also continues to work with the Sisters of Mother Teresa, giving them the sacraments and classes. The Sisters give poor youth to Fr. Ted since they know he takes good care of them.
In 2016, Fr. Ted was asked to assist the Sisters of Mother Teresa in Ethiopia. He served in the state of Afar, the desert region of northeastern Ethiopia where conditions were very harsh and no priest wanted to stay there. No running water, extreme heat and dust storms made life difficult in this region of 96% Muslim but the Sisters of Mother Teresa served the poorest of the poor with Fr. Ted giving them the Sacraments, teachings and serving as chaplain for the university students. Every 3 months, Fr. Ted returned to Kenya to assist the poor youth that he cared for before crossing the border to Ethiopia. After spending a few weeks with his youth in Kenya, Father would return to Ethiopia until January of 2018.
For over 30 years, Fr. Ted has served the Missionaries of Charity in the USA, Haiti, Rome, Albania, Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia, trying to help God’s poorest of the poor. For the last 15 and a half years, Fr. Ted has particularly assisted the poor youth in Kibera slum and surrounding slums of Nairobi, Kenya. He provides his adopted family with housing, food, education, medical needs and the beautiful words of JESUS. They are called “The Family of JESUS” and now number almost 230 members. Kibera slum is the largest slum in Africa and the second largest in the world where 1.5 million people live on 630 acres of land with over 100,000 orphans. There is little electricity, no sewage system and water is very scarce and expensive. Every year, Kenya suffers from famine. Sometimes the number of hungry Kenyans has reached 11 million with some starving to death–water so scarce that it cannot be found. Fr. Ted works tirelessly day and night to provide 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 con-celebrating Holy Mass with Pope John Paul II in his private chapel and sharing some personal time with him afterwards. Fr. Ted has known two saints–and now he wants to be one.