2024 Humanae Vitae award recipient: Father Greg Paffel

“What kind of happiness are you looking for?”

Pete and Allison Norgren and their four children pose with Father Greg Paffel following the baptism of the newest member of their family. (Photo submitted)

This is the question Father Greg Paffel asks each of the couples he counsels during marriage preparation, a ministry which has not only brought him immense joy, but one that has won him the 2024 Humanae Vitae award from the Diocese of St. Cloud.

“Humanae Vitae” translates to “of human life.” It is an award distributed annually to a person of the St. Cloud Diocese who best exemplifies the teachings of the Church and God’s plan for marriage and family.

Jill and Isaac Uphus, parishioners of Our Lady of Angels Parish in Sauk Centre, nominated Father Paffel for the Humanae Vitae award.

“Father Greg has changed many lives over the course of his time as pastor of our ACC, particularly in the area of marriage and family life,” they wrote in their nomination letter.

“He has always been a strong advocate for marriage and families, however, we have seen that advocacy excel in recent years. Engaged couples getting married in our ACC receive natural family planning information as part of their marriage prep. Some couples choose to pursue NFP on their own, while others need a loving nudge. Father Greg provides that nudge through his thoughtful conversations with couples which allow the Holy Spirit to work on their hearts.”

Father Paffel serves as pastor of the Parishes on the Prairie ACC which includes St. Donatus in Brooten, St. Alexius in West Union, St. Francis de Sales in Belgrade, Sts. Peter and Paul in Elrosa, Our Lady of the Angels in Sauk Centre and St. Paul, both in Sauk Centre.

Father Greg Paffel kisses the head of the youngest of the Norgren family after his baptism this winter at Our Lady of Angels Parish in Sauk Centre.

Father Paffel was surprised when he first heard the news that he would be the recipient of this year’s award.

“I don’t feel like I’ve done anything spectacular. I’m just doing what is asked of me as a priest in the way of supporting families,” he said.

For him, serving God through supporting healthy marriages in the Church doesn’t feel like work. It’s something he feels called
to do.

His call to the priesthood began more than 23 years ago. Father Paffel grew up Catholic but it wasn’t until he attended Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, that he truly encountered God and discerned his vocation.

“In short, I fell in love with Jesus Christ,” Father Paffel said.

Early in his ministry, Father Paffel traveled south with friends and visited the famous stairs of Loretto in Mexico. The stairs are rumored to have been built by St. Joseph himself so that the nuns there might climb up to the choir loft of the chapel. While sitting in prayer and meditating on the Holy Family, Father Paffel felt a strong conviction come over him. He felt a need to spend the rest of his priesthood upholding marriage and families.

He says the reason families are under so much attack in today’s world is because they are a reflection of God’s love.

“It’s nothing new. It’s exactly the same thing the snake was doing in the garden. He wanted to cause division between Adam and Eve.”

Father Paffel also added that today’s spirit of individualism, however good it’s deemed, has proved unnecessarily harmful to marriage and families.

“The world tells us that we’re individuals and we have to protect individual’s rights. And when you focus on individuals as dramatically as the world does, you lose the sense of how important community is and that communities have rights.”

What makes the document Humanae Vitae so beautiful, according to Father Paffel, is that, “it’s not about individual rights, it’s about the right to life, the right for life to live from conception to natural death.”

After all, Father Paffel argues, what greater gift have we been given than the gift of life?

“If we don’t have life, we don’t have anything. We don’t have time. We don’t have family. We don’t have friends. We don’t have anything.”

Instead of focusing so much on ourselves and what will make us most happy, Father Paffel encourages people to focus our attention outwards. How is God
calling us to live out our lives? How is he calling us to love? True happiness, he says, “comes from living out the calling God has placed on each of our hearts. What kind of happiness are you looking for?”

Humanae Vitae Mass and award reception

This event will be held July 25 at 7 p.m. at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Cloud with Bishop Emeritus Donald Kettler presiding. A reception will follow, with the presentation of the 2024 Humanae Vitae Award to Father Paffel.

Story by Rachael McCallum

Author: The Central Minnesota Catholic

The Central Minnesota Catholic is the magazine for the Diocese of St. Cloud.

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