Remembering three special people Print
Written by Mary Uhler   
Thursday, Nov. 06, 2014 -- 12:00 AM

Over the years, I have observed that deaths often come in threes. Three people I know often die within just a few weeks of each other. This seems to happen especially with priests.

Whether this is a true phenomenon or not, a coincidence or not — people do seem to die in threes. As a believer in the Catholic faith, I wonder if it somehow has to do with the Trinity of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

This past week, it happened again. Three people of significance in the Catholic Church in the Diocese of Madison died close together. They are Msgr. George Hastrich, who died on October 27; Dorothy Lepeska, who died on October 31; and Fr. George Horath, who died on November 2.

These are three people who had an influence on so many people in the Church in our diocese. They deserve some thoughts beyond the obituaries we have published in the paper this week, both print and online. I encourage people to read more details of their lives in those articles.

And because of the timing, it is not possible for most people to attend their visitations or funerals, if they haven’t already heard about their deaths. There might be an opportunity at the last-minute to attend Father Horath’s funeral for those who get the Catholic Herald in time.

In any case, we can all pray for the repose of their souls and remember them in our thoughts and conversations.

Msgr. George Hastrich

Monsignor Hastrich is someone I’ve known for the past 41 years, ever since I started working at the Catholic Herald. When I met him, I had the impression of a gentle, kind priest. He was indeed a compassionate, thoughtful person.

But as I got to know him better, I found Monsignor Hastrich to be a strong man, steadfast in his faith, and a leader who got things done.

Throughout his priesthood, Monsignor Hastrich worked in parishes and in education. But he was perhaps best known for his work in the missionary activity of the Church. He was the founder of the Latin American Mission Program (LAMP) in our diocese 50 years ago, working with people in Mexico. He continued as president of LAMP until his death.

LAMP was founded in response to the Vatican’s appeal for a mission program involving priests, Religious, seminarians, and laity. Its aims were to teach the basics of the faith to children and adults; train catechists; teach basic rules of health and nursing; hold classes in carpentry, sewing, and other areas; and bring charity and the Gospel of Christ to our southern neighbors.

LAMP considered itself an organization comparable to the Peace Corps. Monsignor Hastrich and his brother, Bishop Jerome Hastrich (an auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Madison and later bishop of the Diocese of Gallup, N.M.) often made visits to Mexico with the volunteers.

Monsignor Hastrich wrote in one LAMP newsletter in December of 2004 after the celebration of Thanksgiving, “Even if only mentally, most of us have completed our list of things for which we are grateful. For people involved in the Latin American Mission Program, our Catholic faith is at the top of the list,” he wrote.

“Without realizing it, a Thanksgiving list reveals our life priorities. Whatever means much to us, we want to share with others. Their faith means much to LAMP volunteers, and so they go to the Mexican missions to share that faith with our brothers and sisters south of the border. My thought is that since this is the motivating factor for LAMP people, we ought to be keep growing in the knowledge and practice of our faith.”

Monsignor Hastrich inspired many people in our diocese and in Mexico to share their faith enthusiastically. He continued to celebrate Mass at the Catholic Multicultural Center in Madison until only recently. He always attended diocesan Masses and events, even when he needed assistance. I remember when my husband and I gave him a ride home from one diocesan event. He was gracious in thanking us for our help.

Dorothy Lepeska

I have probably known Dorothy Lepeska almost as long as Monsignor Hastrich.

Dorothy was ahead of her time as a journalism major at Marquette University. She wrote for the Catholic Herald as a correspondent for many years and also sent in articles for the Madison Diocesan Council of Catholic Women (MDCCW). Her daughter, Jane Lepeska Grinde, is continuing in her mother’s footsteps as a writer for the paper and the MDCCW.

I attended Dorothy’s 90th birthday party four years ago. She enjoyed the party tremendously, especially having fun with her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

She, too, loved her faith and shared it with everyone she knew.

Fr. George Horath

I didn’t know Father Horath personally, but everyone who knew him seems to have great respect for him.

Perhaps he is best known for starting Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration at St. Mary Parish (now Queen of All Saints Parish) in Fennimore. It was the first parish in the diocese to do so.

May all three of these outstanding Catholics rest in peace!