(photos by Sr. Laura Zelten)
Note: In Langlade County, not far from the Wisconsin/Upper Michigan border, is a quiet parcel of land dear to the Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Cross. It is Kateri Hill, named after St. Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Native American to be canonized a saint (Oct. 21, 2012). Tekakwitha was an Algonquin-Mohawk woman who converted to Catholicism around 1676 at age 20. Upon baptism she was given the Christian name Catherine, or Kateri in Mohawk. She led a simple, pious life in a Jesuit mission village on the eastern seaboard, and it is said that on her deathbed in 1680 her disfiguring chicken pox scars vanished. Many miracles are attributed to her intercession.
Fr. Robert Hogan gifted Kateri Hill to the Sisters in 1985 and for nearly 30 years the Sisters prayed, worked and enjoyed its unspoiled beauty. When the time came to bless someone else with Kateri, the property was transferred to a family. In July 2015, the new owners graciously invited the Sisters to be in the presence of Kateri once more.
Please enjoy this summary of the history of Kateri from an account written by Mary Murphy, Father Robert "Bob" Hogan's first cousin, with additions and edits by Sister Agnes Fischer, Sister Paulette Hupfauf and Renae Bauer.
Robert Hogan was born in 1914, the second living child of John P. Hogan and Anna Murphy Hogan. His sister, Nan Francis Hogan, was born in 1906.
After graduating from high school, Bob entered a seminary in St. Paul, Minn. As usual Bob made friends quickly. A number of seminarians formed a group called the Hermans. They also called each other "Herman." That is how the name "Herman" eventually was given to the property Father Bob and Father Claude Le Clair (also a Herman) purchased together in Langlade County.
The two priests began looking for a rustic getaway in the wintertime because they figured fewer potential buyers would be out and about. The property that they eventually purchased (date unknown) had been used as a mink ranch. Apparently the endeavor had not been successful and the property was sold to cover back taxes. Fathers Bob and Claude first viewed the property in the dead of winter and that limited what they could see. In spring they really explored the property and became aware of the beauty and privacy of the place.
The first cottage built on the shore of the lake was quite cozy: no running water or plumbing. Father Bob would often seek refuge there when the big cottage was full. He enjoyed taking a friend along and talking into the night. He had the name of the lake officially changed from Sunken Lake to Lake Tekakwitha.
The chapel was built on one of the property's highest points not long after the small cottage. The two priests had talked about its construction and received lots of advice. It was eventually moved to its permanent site near the big cottage. It was hauled over there on rolling logs.
The two priests were very generous in sharing the cottage with others. Both their families used the cottage as well as their friends, priests and sisters. In either 1955 or 1956 the two priests decided to build a larger cottage at a higher point on the land overlooking the lake. They also built a sauna and a bunkhouse near the lake. Later Father Bob had a statue of Kateri Tekakwitha placed near the lake.
While building the big cottage the two priests planned to use it for their retirement home. Father Claude retired first and attempted to stay at the cottage but he found himself alone too much. Father Bob never had a chance to retire there because he left Marinette in an ambulance never to return to the home and woods he loved.
At one time, the priests wanted to stock the lake with fish. They contacted the Department of Natural Resources and were informed that if the DNR stocked the lake with fish, the property would have to be open to the public for fishing privileges. They never pursued that idea.
Father Bob had worked with the Bay Settlement Franciscan Sisters both in Marinette and Bear Creek. He had often hosted them at Kateri and he saw how much they enjoyed nature and the whole place. He decided that since Father Claude had died the Sisters would be his beneficiaries. He worked out some stipulations and instructed his sister Nan to remember the Sisters in her will so that they would have the means to keep the cottage.
The property was gifted to the Sisters in 1985. Shortly thereafter, the Sisters christened the hallowed spot Kateri Hill after Father Bob's favorite saint, Kateri Tekakwitha.
To maximize usage of the property, the Sisters built a small addition to the main cottage to allow for a toilet, shower, washer and dryer. Each spring a group of Sisters headed north to Kateri and prepared the property for summer use. In the years that followed, this gift provided the Sisters with a source of untouched nature, swimming, hiking and boating. It became a place where Sisters gathered with Sisters, friends and family for prayer, solitude and R&R.
By 2013 use of Kateri had diminished so the property was sold to a family. Wanting to thank the Sisters for the care they had given to Kateri for so many years, the new owners invited the Sisters to visit in July 2015. During the visit the Sisters observed the restored Kateri statue and extended the Blessing of St. Francis to the new owners.
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