By Sam Jack
GARDEN PLAIN – Garden Plain-area families have given a warm welcome to the Rev. H J. Setter, who became pastor of the St. Mary, Aleppo and St. Anthony, Garden Plain parishes this June.
“All in all, it’s been exceptionally good,” Setter said. “The people here are tremendous, and they’ve welcomed me with open arms. I’m grateful for that.”
Setter, who celebrated the 30th anniversary of his ordination in May, has previously worked in Wichita and its suburbs. He was the founding pastor at Goddard’s Holy Spirit Catholic Church, in 1998, and became pastor of Wichita’s All Saints Catholic Church in 2007.
“It’s going to take a while to get into a routine and get used to the different settings of country living,” Setter said.
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Before answering his calling to the priesthood, Setter was an ambitious classical musician. He got a bachelors degree in horn performance from Wichita State University, started a chamber orchestra in Wichita and spent time as conductor of the McPherson Symphony Orchestra.
When he got the opportunity to audition for a prestigious conducting workshop under the tutelage of Leonard Bernstein, he made “a kind of deal with God,” he said.
“I had kind of got the inkling that maybe I was being called by the priesthood. … I felt that if I was to continue my conducting career, then (Bernstein) would accept me and I would spend the summer studying with him. If he didn’t, then I would at least enter the seminary and begin the discernment process of becoming a priest,” Setter said.
Bernstein did not come calling, and Setter took that as his clue to focus on religion.
In his work as a pastor, Setter has a laid-back style.
“I don’t have a singular approach; I just try to do the best that I can and use whatever gifts and talents I might have for God’s glory and shepherding His people,” he said. “Between moving in and getting set up and trying to pastor the parish, it’s kind of like changing a car tire while you’re driving down the street. I’m making great progress in getting situated and into a routine.”
Setter’s first name is H, and he goes by Father H.
“My father had gone by his initials, H.J., during the war,” Setter explained. “One of the guys in his squadron ended up going to the same law school and convinced him to change his first name to just the letter H. I ended up being named after him. It’s kind of like the ‘S.’ in ‘Harry S. Truman’ – it doesn’t stand for anything.”
For more information on St. Anthony Catholic Church, visit stanthonygardenplain.weconnect.com. For more information on St. Mary Catholic Church, call 316-531-2662.