Blessed to Live in ‘God’s Country’

This post appeared in the September 12, 2021, issue of the St. Michael Catholic Church bulletin.

One of the smaller blessings of the pandemic was that it forced me to find topics to write about for our parish newsletter beyond our typically active ministries. As a result, the May 2020 issue of DISCIPLE (online at stmcatholicchurch.org/disciple) provides an overview of our parish history. From the beginning, the faithfulness and self-reliance of this community was evident: German Catholic families literally carved their farms out of the wilderness along the Crow River; in the early days, the paths to get here were so poor that visiting priests came on foot rather than risking a ride on horseback.

Jodi and I moved here from Michigan in 2003. I took a job in Minneapolis and came out a month earlier than the rest of our family, shopping for a house and a parish on the weekends. The home we ultimately purchased was the first one I looked at, a mid-‘80s split-level near Four Seasons Park in Albertville. The church we chose was the first I visited too: the historic Catholic church in downtown St. Michael.

I think what drew me there first was the Old-World charm—I’m a sucker for old buildings, and old churches in particular. I arrived early that first Sunday and watched the narrow wooden pews fill and fill and fill. Old folks and young families, with toddlers tumbling into the aisles. Singing mixed with the squeals of infants. The church was overflowing with life. I checked out a couple other parishes in the area, then called Jodi and said, “We don’t have a house yet, but I think I found a church.”

We didn’t know at that time that plans were in the works for a new building. We didn’t know that the historic church we were so fond of was actually the third in this little town, or that it was built by several dozen families to accommodate almost unimaginable growth—and that growth had exceeded everyone’s expectations. More than 2,000 families call St. Michael Catholic Church their spiritual home today—but what do you expect, living in God’s Country?

Even in the early days, this was known as “the Holy Land,” marked by a deep and abiding faithfulness to the Eucharist and the Mass and protected—fiercely at times—from the influences of the World. Fruitful marriages, strong families, and plentiful vocations to priesthood and religious life have flourished here for more than 150 years. On our best days, we continue to be defined by fearless faith, humble gratitude, and joyful service.

As a community, we are abundantly blessed, but from those entrusted with much, much is expected. This community continues to grow, no longer as Catholic or as German as it used to be. As much as we love the small-town feel of St. Michael as it was, our mission is to grow the Church—to share the Good News, invite strangers into God’s family, and make disciples.

Our history is beautiful, but our best days are not behind us. The Kingdom of God is at hand.

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