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'Always a good day to be a Titan': Father Hochhalter says goodbye to Trinity after 10 years

"I love Trinity. I don’t want to leave. But I know that God has a greater good in mind and I’m really focused on that God has a greater plan for me," Father Kregg Hochhalter said.

Father Kregg Hochhalter, pictured above, will be leaving Trinity Catholic Schools on June 30, 2022, after serving 10 years at his alma mater.
Father Kregg Hochhalter, pictured above, will be leaving Trinity Catholic Schools on June 30, 2022, after serving 10 years at his alma mater. Hochhalter will be moving onto a full-time position with the parish ministry at the Church of St. Anne’s in Bismarck.
Contributed / Trinity Catholic Schools
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DICKINSON — Nearly always clad in priestly vestments, Father Kregg Hochhalter's second favorite outfit has been wearing the Titan red and white for most of his life. After serving for more than 10 years, Hochhalter is bidding a farewell to Trinity Catholic Schools where he served as principal of the junior high and high schools.

With priests typically reassigned every eight to 10 years, Hochhalter knew for a while that he would eventually be called somewhere else.

“Ten years is a good number. I feel like I did all my firsts and there wasn’t many things in the 10 years that I didn’t do. So I was able to climb up the hill and come down the hill,” Hochhalter said. “... It was very much like a very full book. Ten years allowed me to do what I needed to do.”

As young Titans listen with eagerness, Father Kregg Hochhalter conducts a Mass at Trinity Elementary North, which didn't exist as a normal routine in that particular school prior to his arrival.
As young Titans listen with eagerness, Father Kregg Hochhalter conducts a Mass at Trinity Elementary North, which didn't exist as a normal routine in that particular school prior to his arrival.
Contributed / Trinity Catholic Schools

Starting July 1, he will be full-time parish ministry at the Church of St. Anne’s in Bismarck.

“When you have months to get used to it, it’s way easier and you can handle your own emotions and stuff. But definitely, I love Trinity. I don’t want to leave,” Hochhalter said. “But I know that God has a greater good in mind and I’m really focused on that God has a greater plan for me. And I just have to wait and see what that is. But it’ll be great.”

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Hochhalter , a Dickinson native and 2003 Titan graduate, attended Dickinson State University and majored in biology/physical education. After two years, he entered seminary formation at the University of St. Thomas and St. John Vianney College Seminary in St. Paul. Following graduation with a bachelor’s in philosophy, he completed his master of divinity and master of arts in theology degrees at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in St. Louis.

From 2012 to 2014, Hochhalter served as chaplain at his alma mater junior high and high school. Then, his title changed and became principal for the next eight years.

Some of his proudest achievements during his tenure at Trinity Catholic Schools included being involved in the building process of the new school, hiring valuable teachers and seeing students mature from junior high to their senior year.

Along the way, Hochhalter noted that he also ran into some hurdles.

“Hiring teachers is really tough. Nationally, if you’re an education administrator, principal, superintendent or president, hiring teachers is just difficult,” he said.

A lack of consistency, stability and identity with administrator turnover were also some challenges for Hochhalter.

“I think I can say that without getting red in the face because I am from here. I’m a graduate of the high school. And so I never intended to repeat the past, but I knew that we did some things really well and they were lost when I came back,” he noted.

Students and community members sign a farewell Titan emblem for Father Kregg Hochhalter during his goodbye party Monday, June 6, 2022, at Trinity Catholic Schools.
Students and community members sign a farewell Titan emblem for Father Kregg Hochhalter during his goodbye party Monday, June 6, 2022, at Trinity Catholic Schools.
Contributed / Trinity Catholic Schools

As principal, Hochhalter admitted that he doesn’t always come home with a happy smile. But other days, he sees growth in his students.

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“You come to see the goodness in people in a really strong way… You have like two sets of eyes. One set of eyes being a principal is every day is a bad day — it really is. You have a role to play of constant conflict resolution, constant. But the other side of that, when you call people to goodness and you see it, it makes it all worth it,” he said. “There’s something really meaningful to that work.”

Instead of filling the role of principal five days a week, Hochhalter’s new position will include sacramental efforts, saying Mass, hearing confessions and “being a part of the apostolic efforts of the parish.”

“... Getting into administration never was my will; I was asked to do it and I grew to love it. I fell in love with it, passionately. But I didn’t wake up and be like, ‘Oh, I’m interested in being principal.’ It was never like that,” he said. “... I say that because that was like a gift given. It’s not being taken away, but I’m giving it back. And I really feel strongly about that.”

Father Kregg Hochhalter smiles at his desk Monday, June 6, 2022, at Trinity Catholic Schools.
Father Kregg Hochhalter smiles at his desk Monday, June 6, 2022, at Trinity Catholic Schools.
Jackie Jahfetson / The Dickinson Press

Hochhalter also holds a master’s degree in education from the University of Mary. Originally, he set out to become a priest. After being stationed in a school setting for a decade, Hochhalter noted that he’s excited to get back to his roots.

“It kind of feels like I came out of school with all of these woodworking tools and then I stepped into a room and I’m like, ‘Oh, I’m not doing woodworking anymore. I’m doing metal work.’ So I have to go get metal work tools,” he said. “... I have those tools. They’re in the back of the ship and they’re dirty and I need to wash them off, but I have them and they’ll work very well. So I’m excited to go back and use those. There was a real challenge in being both priest and principal many days. Scheduling was very difficult at times, very difficult. And sometimes it was very hard to juggle both worlds of being a priest and being a principal.”

Father Christian Smith, the school’s chaplain, has been named as the new principal and will be taking courses alongside his daily work to obtain his credentials. Hochhalter has been meeting weekly with Smith since January to help guide the transition process. He offered Smith a snippet of advice: “trust those who know more than you do.”

“It’s always a great day to be a Titan,” he said. “I say that every morning in the intercom. So it’s always a great day to be a Titan.”

Jackie Jahfetson is a former reporter for The Dickinson Press.
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