Société des Missions Africaines –Province de Strasbourg

HESS Pierre né le 10 février 1872 à Bishoffsheim
dans le diocèse de Strasbourg, France,
membre de la SMA le 10 mai 1893
prêtre le 29 juin 1895
décédé le 1er avril 1967

1895-1898 Clermont, puis Cork
1899-1905 missionnaire au Nigeria
1905-1921 Keer et Pont-Rousseau
1922-1937 Géorgie et Tenafly, NJ
1937-1939 Haguenau, directeur spirituel et repos
1939-1967 Tenafly, travail en paroisse dans les diocèses
de Newark et Paterson

décédé à Tenafly, USA, le 1er avril 1967
à l'âge de 95 ans

Father Pierre HESS (1872 - 1967)

Pierre (Peter) Hess was born in Bischoffsheim, Molsheim, Alsace, in the diocese of Strasbourg, on February 11, 1872.
He died in the American Province Provincial House, at Tenafly NJ, on April 1, 1967.

There is certain confusion as to the date of Pierre (Peter) Hess’s birth. The Society Etat records it as February 10, 1972, while a copy of his birth certificate made in 1925, now in the American Province’s archives at Tenafly, sets it on February 11th. He was born Etienne Andree and Marie Rufine (nee Sommer) Hess. His father was a carpenter. Peter attended the Society’s Apostolic School at Clermont-Ferrand, France. He then entered the Major Seminary at Cours Gambetta, Lyon, where he studied philosophy and theology. He was received as a member of the Society on May 10, 1893 and was ordained a priest in the seminary chapel at Lyon on June 29, 1895. Ordained with him on that day was Eugene Peter who was also to serve in America.

After ordination Peter was sent to St. Joseph’s College, Wilton, Cork, Ireland, to learn English. This was to prepare him for service in the British Colony of Nigeria where English was required for day-to-day business as well as in schools. During his time in Cork – he spent two years there – Peter also taught in the apostolic school. He was then sent to the Vicariate of the Bight of Benin, in south-west Nigeria arriving in that territory in the autumn of 1899. He was to spend six years in Lagos before falling ill and returning to Alsace Lorraine. He taught in the Society’s colleges there and in Nantes during the First World War. He also ministered to the spiritual needs of many American soldiers stationed in France, his knowledge of English greatly aiding him in this work.

In 1920 Peter was assigned to the works of the Society among African Americans, where he joined another Alsatian, Fr. Ignace Lissner, founder of those works. During the next six years he ministered in the Society’s mission parishes in Macon and Augusta and especially in the church of Our Lady of Lourdes, Atlanta. In this latter appointment he was frequently threatened by the Klu Klux Klan who resented the efforts of the Society in improving the lot of African Americans. In 1926, after a series of stressful incidents with the KKK, he was re-assigned to the American Branch’s headquarters at Tenafly, where he was made superior. Eleven years later he fell into ill-health and returned to Alsace-Lorraine in order to recuperate. He was sufficiently recovered by 1939 to return to America where he was stationed for a year as bursar of Queen of Queen of Apostles Seminary in Silver Spring, Maryland, before being re-assigned to St. Anthony’s Mission House, Tenafly. He lived here in semi-retirement until the time of his death. In 1955, after celebrating his Diamond Jubilee of priesthood, he returned to Alsace-Lorraine to celebrate and visit with his family. During almost four decades spent in Tenafly, Peter assisted on weekends in many parishes throughout the Archdiocese of Newark and the Diocese of Paterson, particularly in Hudson and Bergen Counties. He also was confessor for various communities of sisters, served for a while as assistant chaplain at Holy Name Hospital, Teaneck, and spent long hours in the confessional in the chapel at Tenafly.

Peter became an American citizen on June 15, 1928. He was admitted to the American Province in June 1946. He was ninety-five years at the time of his death.

He is buried in the SMA Community plot, Mount Carmel Cemetery, Tenafly, NJ, USA.