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Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Guest Post: A Hero's Life by Fr. James Sobus

Dr. Donald Hofreuter, M.D.
 Editor's comment: There are many saints     who walk among us who will likely never be canonized. They simply go quietly about their days doing the duty of their state in life. They touch so many using their talents to do God's work.

I never had the privilege of knowing Dr. Hofreuter, but I know many others who are grace-filled, kind, humble souls who bless those whose lives they touch. You can read more about Dr. Hofreuter here.

Please, in your kindness and gratitude for the life of this man, pray for the repose of his soul. This is an especially appropriate post for the start of Advent when we remember two very special babies growing in the wombs of their mothers, our Lord, Jesus Christ, and his messenger, St. John the Baptist.

Two special memories of Doctor Donald Hofreuter M.D.
by Fr. James Sobus

The world lost a loving servant but the Kingdom gained a Holy Saint.

It was around 1993 and I was the pastor at Saint Michael Parish School in Wheeling. We had a woman, Pat Morton, a true Literature and English scholar who had the responsibility of teaching our junior high students.

One morning I was sitting in the Parish School office after the children had arrived to begin their school day. Mrs. Morton walked in the office to see the principal and as soon as she saw me she approached me and asked if she could speak with me momentarily. After she finished her business with the principal we stepped outside into the hallway and she whispered to me and said, “You’ve got a big problem!” She caught me completely off guard. I asked what the problem was. She informed me that 75% of the junior high students were “pro choice”. I looked at her and told here, first, there’s no such thing as being pro-choice, that the pro-choice designation was a cheap was of saying “pro-abortion”. She responded vehemently, “Father, THEY ARE PRO-ABORTION!” Finding it difficult to believe that so many students in a Catholic school could possibly be pro-abortion, we set up a meeting during which I would address this most important issue with her students.

At the meeting I asked the students to raise their hands if they were pro-choice. I was stunned when 90% of them raised their hands. I caught my breath and very calmly asked a couple of probing questions for the clarification of their response. To my dismay, they used rather complex arguments in defense of their position. Without doubt they had been well educated by Planned Parenthood and their minions. I was sick. I prayed and prayed to be able to come up with a plan to do something that would change their hearts and win over their minds.

An idea came to mind: I called Dr. Hofreuter, the CEO of our Catholic hospital and after explaining my dilemma we set up a meeting at his office for the very next day. 
As we sat I had the opportunity to explain what I had discovered with our students. I asked if he could send to the parish school one of the hospital’s portable ultrasound units. He agreed without hesitation. My plan was to have several mothers from the parish who were at various stages of pregnancy lay down on a gurney and be examined with the ultrasound.

On the arranged date Doctor Hofreuter sent to the parish school auditorium a portable ultrasound unit along with two technicians and a registered nurse. We had the pregnant mothers come in and lay down and be examined with the ultrasound while children from grades one through eight funneled into the area and got a look at the ultrasound screen where they could see a beating heart. What an amazing “SHOW AND TELL” experience that was!

Needless to say, hearts were converted ON THE SPOT. It became impossible for the former pro-abortion students to deny what they had witnessed with their eyes. What they saw was no longer merely a POC=product of conception or anonymous “clump of cells”. but rather, a living baby with a beautifully beating heart!

The Parish School community from that point became a rock-solid, pro life, anti-abortion community thanks to the help of Dr. Hofreuter. It could never have happened without his assistance. Without realizing it Dr. Hofreuter has saved the lives of many unborn children who would’ve been aborted by their parents and those children who saw the ultrasound production that day went on to be vibrant witnesses to human life. I am sure that their friends, spouses, colleagues and their own children for many years to come will learn through their experience in that school auditorium the value of each baby, each human life. Dr. Hofreuter, God rest his soul, made a huge and lasting impact on many many lives!

Dr. Donald Hofreuter was a man of tremendously deep faith in addition to being a man of service, who had a heart of pure gold. I would like to share with you a story about a time when Dr. Hofreuter’s true character was revealed to me.

Back towards the end of the 1990’s Sister Constance Dodd, a Marist order sister, ran the 18th Street Neighborhood Center in downtown Wheeling. It was a special place for the hungry and homeless of the entire area. Sister could never do enough for the poor and she always referred to them as “God’s Poor”.

I was the pastor at St. Michael parish on National Road and due to our efforts at Christian Stewardship the parish was a major supplier of food, money and volunteer services to the 18th Street Center. One day I received a phone call from Sister Constance asking if I could stop by at some point to talk. I went down that day because I sensed an urgency in her voice. We met in her office and she told me that so many of her people were the “working poor”, people who work hard every day for minimum wage but who just could not afford health insurance, healthcare, medical services and medicines. She asked me if there was some way we could come up with a plan to help these people.

I was aware that at Saint Mike’s parish we had several upper end management people from the major pharmaceutical companies who came to church faithfully. I called a meeting with them which took place at the parish rectory one evening. I told them Sister Constance needed medicines and they were all very excited about providing medications at no charge to the 18th Street Center. But there was one issue that had to be resolved: They needed a medical doctor to sign off on the medications.

I called Dr. Hofreuter the next day and asked if Sister Constance and I could come over and meet with him and he graciously had us come over within a couple of days. He served us lunch in his office during which time I told him about our idea of providing medicines for the poor at the 18th Street Center. Without hesitation, he told us that he would gladly sign off on the prescriptions himself. He then went on to tell us that he would have medical residents come to the Center to examine the patients and provide medical care a couple days a week and Doctor Hofreuter took his turn with them!

Needless to say Sister Constance and I were thrilled beyond belief! In addition to medical services we also invited retired barbers and hairdressers from Saint Mike’s parish to do hair and grooming for the poor. We had retired dentists and hygienists offer dental services. We had an Opthmologist do eye exams and provide glasses. We had people from various professions go to the 18th St., Center on a regular basis to offer many different services to the poor, all done with Christ-like care.

Dr. Fred Giustini, a renowned OBGYN specialist after hearing about what Dr. Hofreuter was doing for the poor pulled me aside after mass and said, “Father Jim, if you have any woman who needs a baby delivered, I will do it at no cost to her!”

So many wonderfully incredible things were being done for the poor at the Center but it all began with Dr. Hofreuter’s gift.

What a loving and compassionate man he was! Doctor was loving and compassionate because he had a profound faith in Our Lord Jesus. Doctor Hofreuter LIVED the words of Jesus found in Matthew 25:31ff: “I was hungry, thirsty, ill, naked…and you cared for me…Whatever you did for the least of My people, you did it for Me.” My faith tells me that when Doctor took his last breath, it was not St. Peter who welcomed him into Heaven, it was, rather, the poor whom he had served at the 18th Street Center….


  1. All those good people stepped up because Fr James was the catalyst! He did not sit back and do nothing but jumped in to show the truth of things and with the love of God and for the salvation of souls, all the rest flowed forth.

  2. A good shepherd has that effect on people. It's a scandal that Bransfield essentially ousted him, one more thing for which he will have to answer. How desperately we need good bishops!

  3. An incredible saintly life. I'd sooner ask for this good man's intercession than some of the recent people the Vatican has made Venerable, Servant of God, Blessed or Saint.