From the Aberdeen News in South Dakota:
The Rev. Tom Hartman’s first call was as a father. His second was as a Catholic priest.
Hartman’s path to the cloth is one he loosely calls his resurrection story. It’s not a resurrection of mortal death, but the ending of one path and beginning of another he’d always felt called to.
He married young. After five years, he and his wife had two children and a change of heart. Hartman speaks about that difficult time with love and respect for himself and his former spouse and with a clarity of hindsight only time can yield. Their relationship began in the early 1990s, and he started working full-time at the family grocery store in Milbank. At that time it was called Bill’s Super Valu. It now goes by Hartman’s Family Foods.
“I was just out of high school thinking I knew everything. I got married to the girlfriend, Becky Johnson. Five years later it ended in divorce,” said Hartman by phone. “In that time I realized I didn’t know everything. I really just came back to my faith.”
Now 48, Hartman is the priest for both St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church in Groton and St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Turton. He will also be sacramental minister at the St. Thomas Aquinas Newman Center at Northern State University. The student center has moved away from having a full-time priest to having someone in a part-time ministerial role provide sacraments to the Catholic students.
Hartman, in his decision to divorce, never lost his faith. He’d tell you the opposite happened — it was strengthened.“There was just a moment in my life before the divorce that I felt it was better to suffer with God than to suffer without him. When the time came I knew I was going to cling to my faith,” he said.
There’s much more, including the reaction of his children to his vocation and his thoughts about the annulment process — which made his ordination possible.
A few years ago, in another profile, he had this to say:
Tom’s family has been supportive of his change in direction. He said they don’t see him any differently than they always have. “They will always call me Dad or Tom. Especially [daughter] Natasha, she wants me to be the dad who gives her away when she gets married and not the dad who performs the ceremony.”
He went on to explain that today it is not uncommon for widowers or divorcees with children to enter the priesthood. “I encountered six or seven others at school in my same situation.” He added ministers from other denominations have converted to Catholicism and many are married with children. “Ministers who want to become Catholic priests are allowed to do so and remain married. I think we are seeing this more and more.”