July 31, 2009

Be Our Guest / Kathryn Jacobi and Dale Durham

Father Mike Hilderbrand’s dedication to Our Lady of Providence High School will be truly missed

Father Mike Hilderbrand has been the chaplain and guidance counselor, as well as teacher, friend and colleague, here at Our Lady of Providence High School in Clarksville for the past 32 years.

Throughout these years, he has not only worked full time at Providence, but has ministered to many parishes throughout southern Indiana as well as served as a grief counselor to public schools in the area.

However, now Father Mike will leave all that behind as he begins a new phase of his life as pastor of St. Mary Parish in Lanesville. This move is definitely our loss and their gain.

And it is with profound sadness that we say goodbye to him after all these years of service to our students, faculty and staff, and community at large.

Father Mike was a fixture here at Providence. He arrived by 6 a.m. every single morning and stayed most days well into the evening.

Every morning after Mass in our chapel, he stood at the center of our second floor hallway and greeted our students.

In the afternoons, he donned one of his many “crazy” hats and directed traffic. It will be sad next fall when those spots will be empty and our students will not have the presence of a priest in their midst throughout every school day.

Father Mike’s expertise in college application and scholarship application was unsurpassed. He networked through the many colleges, universities and academies across the country as he spent many, many hours researching and communicating with admissions officers in order to bring the best opportunities to our students.

Father Mike can be proud of his work in this area—especially this year—as 97 percent of the Class of 2009 will attend college this fall. Thanks to Father Mike’s work and the quality of our students, the Class of 2009, with 104 members, has garnered more than $7 million in scholarships.

Father Mike understands the heart of adolescence. It is evident how much he truly loves our kids as his dedication to them through two generations of Providence students attests. He is first and foremost a priest, and his embodiment of this kind of dedication and vocation has not been lost on our student body and staff.

So we will miss him—on our retreats, at our liturgies, in our hallways and in our classrooms. His presence will be missed at our athletic and theater functions and our fundraisers. We will never be able to thank him enough for his unwavering dedication to Providence High School during these past 32 years.

In a world in which there are fewer and fewer priests, we have been so very blessed to have one very special priest for so long. His good heart, sense of humor, hard work and unrelenting service will be sorely missed.

We know we speak for the entire Providence community—students, alumni, faculty and staff, administration, parents and friends—when we say we are a better school thanks to Father Mike and his ministry.

(Kathryn Jacobi teaches in the English Department at Our Lady of Providence High School in Clarksville. Dale Durham is the school’s director of campus ministry.)

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