About PetersPioneersRev. Robert T. Hesse, CSC

Nan Crowther contributed to this family history.

Index      Uganda Map      Home Page

Robert Born in 1926

Edward Hesse
1862-1900/10
German Flag
Joseph John Hesse
1888-1975
Emma Braun
1865-1950
German Flag
Robert T. Hesse
1926-2007
William Peter Drueke
1853-1926
German Flag
Louise Drueke
1889-1965
Elizabeth Berles
1858-1941
German Flag

48-Star US Flag 1912-1959Grand Rapids, 1926-1952. Robert T. Hesse was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on December 15, 1926, the sixth and last child of Joseph and Louise Drueke Hesse. In 1926, there were 48 states in the Union. Calvin Coolidge was President of the United States.

His father Joseph, a retail rug and drapery merchant, was the son of Edward and Emma Braun Hesse. Edward had emigrated from Germany in 1880, and Emma in 1882. His mother Louise was the daughter of William and Elizabeth Berles Drueke. William had emigrated from Germany, in 1871. Elizabeth was born in Grand Rapids, but her parents had emigrated from Germany.

St. Thomas the Apostle Church
St. Thomas the Apostle Church
The family lived in St. Thomas the Apostle Parish, which had been founded in 1924. They lived at 315 Woodmere Avenue and then 56 Benjamin Avenue. He went to St. Thomas the Apostle Grade School and Catholic Central High School in Grand Rapids. Robert attended Grand Rapids Junior College. He served in the U.S. Air Force during World War II. He graduated from the University of Michigan, obtaining a degree in engineering. He did postgraduate work at the University of Notre Dame. He entered the Congregation of Holy Cross in November 1951. The Congregation of the Holy Cross operates the University of Notre Dame and maintains its western headquarters there.

Father Hesse
Rev. Robert T. Hesse, CSC.

Robert Professed in 1952

Ordination Clipping

South Bend, 1952-1958. Robert took his first vows in 1952 and final vows in 1955. He trained at the Holy Cross Foreign Mission Seminary for service in Bengal (now Bangladesh). He was ordained a priest at Sacred Heart Church on the campus of the University of Notre Dame on June 4, 1958, by Most Rev. Leo A. Pursley, DD, Bishop of Fort Wayne. He said his First Mass at St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Grand Rapids on June 8.

Hoima, 1958-1961. Father Hesse's assignment was shifted to Uganda. His first assignment there was at Hoima Parish in the Bunyoro region of western Uganda, where he was the curate in charge of schools from 1958 to 1961. Hoima is near Lake Albert.

Uganda
Uganda Map.
Uganda was still a British protectorate in 1958. It is on a high plain in equatorial East Africa, bordered on the east by Kenya, the north by Sudan, on the west by the Congo, on the southwest by Rwanda, and on the south by Tanzania. The southern part of the country includes a substantial portion of Lake Victoria. The Nile River runs through Unganda from Lake Victoria, near Jinja. Uganda has wildlife that includes mountain gorillas, chimpanzees, tree climbing lions, elephants, hippos, and giraffes. The official language is English, but indigenous languages are also spoken. The distribution of religious affiliations is: Roman Catholic, 33%; Protestant, 33%; indigenous beliefs, 18%; and Muslim, 16%.

Fort Portal, 1962-1963. In 1962, Father Hesse became secretary to Bishop Vincent McCauley in Fort Portal. In 1963, he became pastor of Bukwali Parish in Fort Portal.

In 1962, Uganda became an independent nation, with Edward Muteesa II as King and Milton Obote as Prime Minister.

Kitagwenda, 1963-1989. In 1963, Father Bob was transferred to the Holy Cross parish in Kitagwenda. He then gave twenty-three years to developing the parish of Kitagwenda where he was known for his creative work with catechists and lay leadership, and also for the emphasis he put on education.

In 1965, Father Bob's mother, Louise Drueke Hesse, died at age 76 in Grand Rapids.

In 1975, Father Bob's father, Joseph Hesse, died at age 87 in Grand Rapids.

From 1966 to 1986 there occurred a series of coups and counter-coups by dictators including Milton Obote and Idi Amin which resulted in two decades of government mismanagement, rebel activity, and civil war.

South Bend, 1989-1990. In 1989, Father Bob was transfered to the Holy Cross Mission Center in South Bend, Indiana.

Father Hesse and Marian Drueke Ederer
Father Bob, 63, eating lunch with his cousin Marian Drueke Ederer, 81, at the home of Bill and Doris Drueke in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in May 1990. Photo by Bill Drueke.

Bugembe, 1990-2007. In 1990 Father Bob generously responded to the community's request that he move to Juija as the founding pastor of Holy Cross parish in Bugembe. When he asked to retire as pastor, he continued to serve the people of Bugembe as an assistant to three succeeding Holy Cross pastors until his death. Convinced of the importance of education for the development of Uganda's people, he demonstrated a passion for the development of the facilities and quality of Bugembe's schools.

Father Hesse
Holy Cross Church, Bugembe, 2004.
Father Hesse
From card commemorating the death of Rev. Robert T. Hesse, CSC. On the back is verse 51 of chapter 8 of the Gospel of St. John: "Whoever keeps my word will never see death."

Father Hesse Dies in 2007 at Age 80

Rev. Robert T. Hesse, CSC, died on February 3, 2007, in Kampala, Uganda. He was buried on February 5 in front of the new Holy Cross Church which he had helped to build in Bugembe.

A memorial Mass for Father Bob was celebrated on February 17 at St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Grand Rapids. The following description of Father Hesse's life as a missionary was provided at by Holy Cross Mission Center, P.O. Box 543, Notre Dame, IN 46556, USA.

Rev. Robert T. Hesse, CSC
December 15, 1926 - February 3, 2007

The Holy Cross Mission Center extends sympathy to all the family and friends of Rev. Robert T. Hesse, CSC. We received word from the Holy Cross Community in East Africa that Father Bob died on Saturday, February 3rd, at 4:30 p.m. (9:30 a.m. EST) in Kampala International Hospital, Kampala, Uganda.

Father Bob, who turned 80 on December 15th, was one of the four Holy Cross pioneers in Uganda, arriving in November 1958 and serving there until his death. It appears he had a heart attack at the community residence in Holy Cross Parish in Bugembe, near Jinja, on Friday evening and was immediately taken to the hospital in Kampala. Father Fred Jenga, CSC, and seminarian Prosper Tesha, CSC, were with him when he died.

Robert T. Hesse was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan on December 15, 1926. He went to St. Thomas Parish Grade School and Catholic Central High School in Grand Rapids and maintained a close relationship with St. Thomas Parish and his many Grand Rapids classmates throughout his life in mission - nearly 50 years in Uganda. He attended the University of Michigan, obtaining a degree in engineering; and did postgraduate work at Notre Dame. He entered formation for Holy Cross in 1951, took first vows in 1952 and final vows in 1955. Trained at the Holy Cross Foreign Mission Seminary for service in Bengal (now Bangladesh), and with his trunks already headed in that direction, his assignment was shifted to Uganda in 1958, the year of his ordination as priest. He never looked back!

His first assignments in Uganda were at Hoima Parish in the Bunyoro region of western Uganda, where he was the curate in charge of schools (1958-61), as secretary to Bishop Vincent McCauley in Fort Portal (1962-63), and as pastor of Bukwali Parish, Fort Portal (1963). He then gave twenty-three years to developing the parish of Kitagwenda where he was known for his creative work with catechists and lay leadership, and also for the emphasis he put on education. The people of Kitagwenda still consider him their father in the faith.

In 1990 Father Bob generously responded to the community's request that he move to Juija as the founding pastor of Holy Cross Parish - Bugembe. When he asked to retire as pastor, he continued to serve the people of Bugembe as an assistant to three succeeding Holy Cross pastors until his death. Convinced of the importance of education for the development of Uganda's people, he demonstrated a passion for the development of the facilities and quality of Bugembe's schools.

Father Bob's life was celebrated with a huge crowd of his friends and colleagues and he was buried on Monday in front of the new Holy Cross Church which he had helped to build. He is survived by a brother, John, and a niece, Mary, both of whom now live in Florida. Letters and e-mails are already coming in from around the world, testifying to his great missionary spirit and deep love for the people of Uganda.

A memorial Mass is planned for February 17 at 11 a.m. at Moreau Seminary, Notre Dame. One of his first colleagues in East Africa, Father Frank Zagorc, will preside. We join with the Holy Cross Community in East Africa in mouming the loss of this wonderful man and exemplary missionary. May he rest in peace!

Phone: 574-631-5477. E-Mail: Ho.hcmc.l@nd.edu. Fax: 574-631-6813. Corporate Title HOLY CROSS FOREIGN MISSION SOCIETY INC.

The following obituary appeard in the Grand Rapids Press.

Grand Rapids Press, February 6, 2007
Hesse, Father Robert
Father Robert Hesse CSC, passed away on February 3, 2007 in Jinja , Uganda East Africa. Father Hesse was ordained in the Congregation of Holy Cross on June 4, 1958. He went to Uganda on November 4, 1958 with Bishop McCauley. He was born and raised in Grand Rapids, MI, the son of Joseph and Louise Hesse. He was born December 15, 1926. He graduated from St. Thomas Aquinas Elementary School, Grand Rapids Junior College and the University of Michigan. He entered the Congregation of Holy Cross in November 1951. He was preceded in death by his parents, Joseph and Louise Hesse; brothers, Joseph and William Hesse; sisters, Francis De Pauw and Mary Louise Hesse. He is survived by his brother, John (Marie) Hesse; his sister-in-law, Phyllis Hesse; his special nieces, Mary Hesse and Barbara Bennett and special friends, Ernest Mika and Richard Jablonski. Father Hesse served in the U.S. Air Force in WWII and was a missionary in Uganda, East Africa for 49 years, establishing a parish and school in Kitagwenda, Ft. Portal Diocese for 23 years and spent 17 years at Bugembe Parish, Jinja, East Africa. Services were conducted at Bugembe Church, Bugembe Parish with internment at Bugembe Parish on February 5, 2007. Memorial contributions may be sent to Holy Cross Missions, PO Box 543, Notre Dame, IN 46556. Contact St. Thomas Aquinas Church at 616-459-4662 for time and date for memorial service.

The following obituary appeard in a Uganda newspaper, The New Vision.

The New Vision, February 6, 2007
Jinja priest laid to rest
JINJA
The Rev. Fr. Robert Hesse of the Holy Cross congregation in Bugembe, who died on Saturday, was laid to rest on Monday. He passed away at Kampala international Hospital. Born in Michigan, USA in 1926, he joined the Holy Cross group in 1951. Fr. Hesse was commonly known as Omulangadhu (the graceful one) among the locals. He came to Uganda in 1958 and served in Hoima and Fort Portal, moving to Bugembe in 1990. He founded Lake View secondary School in the same year. “He was a father to all. we shall miss him,” said Fr. Richard Kayaga of the congregation.

Index      Uganda Map      Top      Home Page