LA CROSSE, Wis. -- - Monsignor Joseph Hirsch has been sharing lessons with students through stories, music and magic tricks for more than three decades in the La Crosse area.
He first started his music and magic presentations at Cathedral Elementary School in La Crosse when he was a college student at UW-L.
But the long-standing tradition is coming to an end as he heads off on a new mission to Bolivia.
His teaching style is one that generations have come to love at Cathedral Elementary School.
Hirsch started performing once a year at the elementary school 36 years ago.
"I started doing songs in 1976," said Hirsch.
"Whenever I do presentations with kids, it's a combination of songs with magic, little manipulative tricks, strings, ropes, puzzles, whatever it might be," said Hirsch. "Every time I do a trick with the kids it's to say, 'If you want to understand the trick, you have to get in touch with the source, which is me.' If you want to learn about the secret of life and your vocation and mission in life you have to get in touch with the source, which is God," said Hirsch.17798868
The lessons seem to stick with his students, some whose own children are now Hirsch's audience.
"I especially love to see, sometimes at these programs, the parents talk, parents that were students of mine," said Hirsch.
"The kids learn a lot of lessons from him but the teachers have been very impressed by him. I think everybody just appreciates when he comes," said Cathedral Elementary music teacher Regina Chihak.
The curtain closed for the last time on Friday as Hirsch is being sent by the La Crosse Diocese to serve at a parish in Bolivia.
"I will be total in South America five years," said Hirsch.
"I think he'll be missed a lot. I think the kids really look forward to it," said Chihak.
Even though he won't be performing for the kids at Cathedral Elementary anymore, you can be sure it won't take him long to find a new audience.
"I have a little bag that will go with me and over at the orphanage the kids love the magic. The guitar will go with me and we have a lot of songs, we have a repertoire in Spanish now," said Hirsch.
Hirsch says he is excited about his new adventure in Bolivia even though he will miss the community he has built in the La Crosse area.
He said he is not sure what assignment the La Crosse Diocese will give him after his five years in Bolivia, but if he returns to La Crosse he said he will definitely go back and perform at Cathedral Elementary School again.
Hirsch has been a priest for 27 years.
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