Jubliarians reflect on their priesthood

Six diocesan priests — and one religious order priest currently serving as a pastor in the diocese — are celebrating milestone ordination anniversaries in 2021.

55 Years

FATHER ROBERT HARREN

Reverend Robert Harren

Q. Looking back over the years, what have you enjoyed most about being a priest?

A. It has been an awesome blessing to share in the ordained priesthood of Jesus Christ. In a special way, I enjoy celebrating the sacraments, especially the Eucharist. It is the “source and summit of the Christian life” as described by Vatican II. I am grateful to God for the call to servant leadership in the Church and for the opportunity to accompany some of God’s people on their journey through life.

Q. Share a favorite memory or a favorite quote from one of your homilies.

A. Ordination day was a Spirit-filled occasion to share with my faithful family, friends and wonderful classmates. Some people remember the two sayings with which I occasionally conclude my homilies. One is “Let’s try to keep our heads in heaven, our hearts with Jesus on the cross and our feet on the round.” The other is the Christopher motto: “It’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.”

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FATHER ROGER KLASSEN, OSB

Q. Who or what inspired you in your ministry as a priest?

A. My parents and my parish prompted me to want to be like our Benedictine pastor, Father Cyril Ortman. With seven vocations to the priesthood and even more women from neighboring farm families called to the convent, I was the 26th priest ordained from the small parish of St. Martin. Community life in family and parish eventually drew me to community life at St. John’s Abbey.

Q. Share a favorite memory or a favorite quote from one of your homilies.

A. My first pastoral assignment was pastor of St. John the Baptist Parish in Collegeville. They had only an abandoned school building in which to gather or worship. At my “welcoming picnic” parishioners told me, “We need our own place.” In the next two years they gathered funds, donated time, talent and treasure and built a parish center. Within two years we needed an addition such joy to build a church physically and spiritually.

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FATHER LEROY MAUS

Q. Looking back over the years, what have you enjoyed most about being a priest?

A. I liked the diversity of ministry. My first assignment was to teach 10th-graders religion at Pierz Memorial High School — a total disaster! For three years I was in Venezuela but couldn’t learn the language. (Years later an aptitude test indicated that learning languages was rock bottom on things I could do.) I helped the Crookston Diocese with three parishes spread over northwestern Minnesota — and hated to leave. Then I collaborated to establish a new and vibrant parish in Isanti, where I served for seven years.

Q. Share a favorite memory or a favorite quote from one of your homilies.

A. As a chaplain in the federal prison system, I constantly tried to get people to receive the sacrament of reconciliation, Nothing seemed to work. They thought we were wired (microphones hidden in our clothes). To assure them of no hidden mics, I sat in the middle of our round chapel. The next Sunday a large number of men attended Mass. I began with a penance service in preparation. From the middle of the chapel, I asked the men to whisper two or three of their greatest sins. I was amazed at the number who came to confess.

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FATHER TIMOTHY WENZEL

Q. Looking back over the years, what have you enjoyed most about being a priest?

A. I especially enjoyed pastoral ministry. A priest is to be a person of “compassion,” which means to “suffer with” someone. I believe it’s important to be with people and pray for them in times of sickness, dying and grieving. I enjoy celebrating the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, bringing God’s people together with music, participation, Scriptures, preaching and the presence of Jesus. During the 1970s and 80s, I celebrated Masses in Spanish and helped organize a school for children of Hispanic migrant sugar beet workers in the Red River Valley. They gave me more than I gave them.

Q. Who or what inspired you in your ministry as a priest?

A. My parents, Anthony and Anna Wenzel, instilled faith by word and example and supported my vocation. Father Harold Kost, pastor at St. James in Randall, encouraged me to give the seminary a try. I went to Crosier Seminary as a high school senior in 1957 and continued at St John’s in Collegeville.

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60 Years

FATHER ANTHONY KROLL

Q. Who or what inspired you in your ministry as a priest?

A. Dorothy Day inspired me. She practiced what Berrigan evangelized more in jail than I did out of it. Greta Thunberg inspires me. She awakened the whole world by daring to do what has to be done to save Mother Earth.

Q. Share a favorite memory or a favorite quote from one of your homilies.

A. A 12-year-old boy was wearing his cap while I was saying Mass. That flustered me — I was a horrible basket case! Then the Holy Spirit poked me. “Tony, you are more concerned about what that kid has on his head than what you have in your heart.” All that week, this was in my heart and head. I decided to use it in my homily and put on my old straw hat to process in — the people did look. I put it back on during the homily. Eighteen years later, Karen Allen said, “Father Tony, thank you for saving me lots of money. The Sunday when you wore that straw hat my kids talked about it and never once did they ever ask me to buy them stylish clothes.” All I could say was, “Thank the Holy Spirit.”

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65 Years

FATHER RICHARD LEISEN

Q. Who or what inspired you in your ministry as a priest?

A. In second grade, after listening to a Maryknoll priest, I knew I wanted to become a priest. My father died when I was in the seventh grade. My brother, Father Leo, and I became the Cathedral’s “fifth and sixth assistants” because we served at Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral, at devotions and ran errands for the priests. Leo went to seminary after eighth grade and I made a similar choice, but my mother didn’t think we could afford to have two boys there. Msgr. Mahowald, our pastor, made a fund available to help me go to Crosier Seminary.

Q. Share a favorite memory or a favorite quote from one of your homilies.

A. I served on Catholic Relief Services’ national board for 10 years. My last CRS visit was near Bombay, India, where CRS staff had taught villagers how to work 15 acres of salt-filled land. We saw people rejoicing over a beautiful patch of medicinal plants. I thought they rejoiced over the money to take care of their needs or send their children to school. But the people rejoiced because it changed them — their efforts to grow beautiful plants gave them worth and dignity. They could make a difference. I celebrated Mass with Pope John Paul II in Rome and had my picture taken with him. I’ve met two other saints: St. Pope John XXIII and St. Mother Teresa (three times).

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70 Years

FATHER HAROLD PAVELIS

Father Pavelis was ordained on June 2, 1951, at St. Mary’s Cathedral in St. Cloud. He served for a time as diocesan director of sacred music and professor of sacred music at St. John’s Seminary. He also served at St. James Church in Randall and Ave Maria in Wheaton, among his assignments.

Author: The Central Minnesota Catholic

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

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