Deacon Joseph VanDenheuvel: Curiosity led him to the seminary

Bishop Patrick Nearly lays hands on Deacon Joseph VanDenheuvel during the Rite of Ordination June 8. (Photos by Dianne Towalski / The Central Minnesota Catholic)

Deacon Joseph VanDenheuvel grew up a block-and-a-half away from his childhood parish, St. Joseph in Bertha, where the parish community was his second family.

“When they have a potluck after Mass, or any church activity, if there are 200 people attending Mass, there will be 198 attending the event after Mass,” Deacon VanDenheuvel said. “We are one big family and appreciate spending time together.”

From the ages of 8 to 13, Deacon VanDenheuvel served at Mass nearly every Sunday and was curious about his faith.

“As a kid, I had a ton of questions about the faith and I wanted to know everything the Church teaches, just out of a general curiosity,” he said.

In his teenage years, Deacon VanDenheuvel lost that curiosity. He enrolled in the National Guard right out of high school and became an air traffic controller for the United States Army and later started studying political science and pre-law at South Dakota State University in Brookings, South Dakota.

Through FOCUS missionaries, a group that works on college campuses to form disciples, Deacon VanDenheuvel connected with the Pope Pius XII Newman Center on campus.

“I learned more about the Catholic faith and could hear God calling me to the priesthood,” he said. “My time at the Newman Center reignited that same curiosity I had as a child about God and God’s work in creation.”

After two years at SDSU, Deacon VanDenheuvel transferred to St. Mary’s University and attended Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary, both in Winona. He initially studied philosophy with a minor in ceramic art.

Now ordained as a transitional deacon June 8, Deacon VanDenheuvel will serve the parishes in the Red River Valley ACC this summer. The ACC includes the parishes of Breckenridge, Kent and Tintah.

“I look forward to being able to walk with people in their sacramental life — through assisting with baptism and marriage preparation and I also look forward to visiting the sick and homebound,” he said.

“I’m seeing deeply how God wants to have a relationship with each person so I continue to grow in relationship with God,” Deacon VanDenheuvel said. “Day by day, I hope to grow in holiness.”

Author: Amber Walling

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