Local Catholics reflect: Who do you say that I am?

At the annunciation, the angel Gabriel gave Jesus his name, which in Hebrew means “God saves.” Throughout Holy Scripture, there are many names which describe Jesus: Messiah, Redeemer, True Vine and more than a hundred additional designations. 

People from across the Diocese of St. Cloud have selected a word or phrase that represents who Jesus is to them and have written a reflection on their chosen word. 

It is our hope that readers will use this as an Advent tool, reading one each of the 24 days of the Advent season beginning Dec. 1. May it guide you toward a deeper relationship with Jesus, focusing on him as the Savior who has come and who will come again. 

MORNING STAR           MICHAELA LEBLANC, St. Paul, St. Cloud

Michaela Leblanc

The Morning Star is powerful, can be seen all over the world and with it brings the opportunity for self-reflection and mission. The Morning Star rises daily with the intent to provide strength and power for all of us even if we don’t feel it. The Morning Star shines its intense warmth and light to believe, receive and share. This reminds me of a poem my family grew up with: the Desiderata. The meaning behind this poem is: life is a struggle and can be dark at times but we must continue to strive to be kind and gentle to others and to ourselves. If you have the time to read it, you will find the same inspiration that the Morning Star brings to all of us: Love and light.



FRIEND                              STAN BENDA, St. Mary’s Cathedral, St. Cloud

Stan Benda

This Advent, I want to focus my prayer and meditation on Jesus as friend. In today’s world there is a sort of epidemic of loneliness especially among our young. Could there be any better remedy than to have Jesus as our friend? Jesus himself wants nothing more than this same relationship. He affirms this when the Bible tells us in John 15:13, “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends.” Jesus, the Savior of the world, the Almighty Son of God, wants to have an intimate friendship with me and you. I, too, want this more than anything and I’m going to work on changing what I need in myself to make this happen.


EMMANUEL                     GWEN PEDERSEN, Sacred Heart, Sauk Rapids

Gwen Pedersen

In the Old Testament (Isaiah), it was prophesied that a son was to be born whose name would be Emmanuel. In the New Testament (Matthew), it’s identified again that a virgin shall bear a son and call him Emmanuel, meaning “God is with us.” This child was not just any child. This child was to be the Christ, God made man. Emmanuel, God with us, is such a powerful name for this child. The term Emmanuel tells me that the story of Jesus isn’t just a story in history. However, Emmanuel tells me that God is with me here, now and in every breath that I take.



COMPANION                    JILLIAN REBER, St. Luke, Clearwater

Jillian Reber

As a classroom teacher, I have great respect and admiration for paraprofessionals, whose job it is to help students thrive in school. They walk alongside the students with whom they are entrusted — guiding, directing and helping them. Sometimes it is not a fun or pleasant task, but many would say they find it rewarding. That is how I view Jesus. He’s always walking alongside me, guiding, directing and helping me reach the ultimate goal of eternal life with his Father in heaven, despite how difficult it is at times. And he finds joy in seeing me reach that goal.




OUR CREATOR                SCOTT CRUMB, Newman Center, Morris

Scott Crumb

To put a name on such an all-knowing, all-encompassing King is quite the task of which I think has been wrested with for millennia! With that said, I have been signing off with the name “Our Creator” for many years now. Our Creator takes hold of what I want to portray with the knowledge and love I have for our Lord. With my love for the environment and nature, I see and feel this Creator everywhere. If anyone takes the time to look around, feeling the creation around us, and truly taking in what is all given to us, I think I have succeeded in opening up someone’s eyes and heart to Our Creator.





IDEAL CITIZEN               CHRISTIAN TOWALSKI, Sacred Heart, Sauk Rapids

Christian Towalski

God is perfect good, without any trace of sin or evil. The world God envisions for each of us is one of peace, love and compassion, where each and every person cares for one another and there is no war or strife. Jesus, the son of God, is the ultimate example of a citizen of this world. Jesus was without sin; he never gave in to sinful temptation or put himself above others. Jesus dedicated his life to teaching others to overcome their own sinfulness and become an ideal citizen themselves.




TEACHER                          LINDA LIEBL, St. Louis, Paynesville

Linda Liebl

Countless examples prove that Jesus is the greatest teacher. His parables provide meaning that all ages can understand, his “Lord’s Prayer” taught his disciples to pray, and his life serves as an example and mentor for us to follow. He taught in many ways from huge miracles like the loaves and the fishes to simple yet profound messages like his instruction to the disciples: “A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so also you must love one another” (John 13:34). This core message was repeated often and relates to all his teaching.




COMPASSION                  ELIZABETH GOHMANN, St. Luke, Clearwater

Elizabeth Gohman

When I think of Jesus, I think of compassion. He would always put others before himself and make sure others were taken care of. Compassion is shown in so many ways, shapes and forms. As he has demonstrated, compassion can come from dying on the cross to take others’ sins away to something as simple as opening your arms to someone in need. As I have seen and been shown while working with the dying, compassion can be shown in something as little as smiling at someone. Compassion is a work of mercy we should all strive to model.



TREASURE                        FRANCISCAN SISTER JAN KILIAN, Franciscan Sisters of Little Falls 

Franciscan Sister Jan Kilian

My name for Jesus is “treasure.” Recently reading Matthew 6:21, “Where your treasure is, there your heart is also,” I was startled to hear myself wondering, “What is my treasure?” Well, for Pete’s sake, Jesus is my treasure. Why else am I a Franciscan Sister? Over 60 years ago I, like the farmer in Matthew 13:44, found a treasure in a field and sold all I had to buy that field. That treasure was then, and is now, Jesus. 





EMMANUEL                     BENEDICTINE FATHER MICHAEL PATELLA, St. John’s Abbey and University 

Benedictine Father Michael Patella

Emmanuel comes from St. Matthew’s nativity account (1:18-23), and it means “God is with us.” The parents and Jesus face a political situation so set to destroy them that they must flee King Herod’s wrath before he annihilates the family. Matthew also has the mandate, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me” (25:35). I cannot help connecting all the dots to the situation along our southern border, where the separation policy has destroyed both young and old. In this case, our country ignores the Gospel injunction and instead stands with King Herod in responding to Emmanuel. Advent calls us to do better. 



THE LIVING WORD      SUE RICK, Our Lady of Angels, Sauk Centre 

Sue Rick

Jesus is the personification of God’s word, who, by the mystery of the Eucharist, lives in us. Our Heavenly Father, who used only words to create the world, humbled himself and made his word flesh to dwell among us. The words of his son enter into our spirits through our eyes as we read our Bibles and our ears as we hear the Gospel proclaimed at Mass. Then, as we receive by mouth his body, blood, soul and divinity in the Eucharist, we become a dwelling place for the Lord. What a gift our Loving God gave us in his son, Jesus Christ! 





STORYTELLER                BENEDICTINE SISTER JOYCE ITEN, St. Benedict’s Monastery, St. Joseph 

Benedictine Sister Joyce Iten

Jesus, the loving, observant Messiah, the storyteller who noticed the poor widow’s penny, the farmer sowing seeds, the lilies in the fields, the blind man by the roadside, the grieving widow, Zacchaeus sitting in a tree, a boatload of frightened fisherman, a stressed hostess, a little child, a searching teenager, a hungry crowd, an unscrupulous judge, money changers, tax collectors, the faithful, the grieving, the lost sheep, the racist, the sinner, the ordinary, the competitive, the betrayer. All are welcome, all are loved, all are invited into the kingdom if they so choose, believe and follow. The gift is ours. 




BREAD OF LIFE              SHEILA BALLWEG-PULJU, St. Boniface, Cold Spring 

Sheila Ballweg-Pulju

While there are many different breads in grocery stores today there is nothing like Jesus’ “Bread of Life.” At the Last Supper, Jesus held bread in his hands and said to his disciples, “I am the bread of life. I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world” (John 6:48,51). As Catholics, we are truly blessed that eating his “Living Bread” can satisfy the hunger in our hearts for a spiritual relationship with him forever. 



LAURIE KEENE, St. Augustine, St. Cloud 

Laurie Keene

Ever since I was a little girl, I have loved the pictures of Jesus holding a small lamb. The thought of Jesus as the shepherd has brought me comfort and hope throughout my life. I look to Jesus as a guide for how to live the truth and I have surrendered myself to allow him to lead me to the path that is meant for me. Even if I am not aware of him at a given moment, he is watching over me and leading me to the ultimate pasture — eternal life in heaven with his Father. 



HOPE                                  ANDREW FLOERKE, St. Mary’s Cathedral, St. Cloud 

Andrew Floerke

I am thinking of the song, “Jesus Come to Us” by David Haas and the line “Fill us all with hope.” It is important for us to imitate Jesus and be a person who tries to give a message of hope to the people we interact with each day. People are struggling financially, physically, emotionally. May we all be present to one another and help people in their hope for a better day. 






HEALER                              PAULA SCHLEPPENBACH, St. James, Jacobs Prairie 

Paula Schleppenbach

While Jesus was on earth, he healed the multitudes, and continues to heal us today. How many times have you been asked to pray for someone who needs healing? James tells us that the fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful; and that if anyone is sick, let him call for the elders of the Church to pray over him. Just as God spoke the world into existence, God can bring healing into your body or situation. Healing combines faith, prayer and healthcare. What a privilege for us to participate in the awesome potential of God’s healing ministry. 





AMAZING                          CLARE GOHMANN, 8, St. Luke, Clearwater

Clare Gohmann

When I think of Jesus, I think he is amazing because he did miracles. One simple touch of him could heal you. He made everything. He was sinless. He was a great man. He is amazing.








MESSIAH                          BISHOP DONALD KETTLER, Diocese of St. Cloud

Bishop Donald Kettler

The word Messiah comes from the Hebrew word meaning “the anointed.” Jesus was the Messiah who came to save us from our sins. As we walk through the days of Advent, I am thinking about the coming of the Messiah and what that means for me. What strikes me the most as I read through the Old and New Testament readings is how God’s plan for salvation worked out. That gives me hope that God’s plan for me also will work out.






Mother Mary Barbara Muehleck

My God, where are you hiding?
Your people cry tears of helpless grief,
surrounded by evils!
Feet travel in circles, hands hold emptiness,
voices from the lonely call unceasingly,
Where are you, my God?

Thieves rob the poor and struggling.
Death grasps the weak and depressed.
Threats of war call our loved ones,
Chemicals steal the controls of wisdom,
Violent selfishness envelopes the media
Overpowering evils break crumbling spirits!
Where are you hiding, my God?

I AM here, waiting, hopeful you will turn to me!
I AM the Way, Truth and Life — the answer to all your hopes!


THE REAL PRESENCE  DINO KREMERS, Mary of the Immaculate Conception, Rockville 

Dino Kremers

Sometimes during Mass my mind drifts — thinking about the past week’s events and the coming week’s busy schedule. At Communion time as I get closer in line to receiving our Lord, my soul reminds me of what is about to happen by turning my legs and knees weak and putting butterflies in my stomach. With that reminder my physical mind aligns with my soul and I feel very joyful. If this has ever happened to you or happens frequently, consider that it may be your soul in its excitement about to receive the greatest of all Christmas presents — our God giving himself to us in the real presence of our Lord in the Holy Eucharist.




GROW                                 PAULA MUELLNER, St. Joseph, Grey Eagle

Paula Mueller

Advent is a time to grow closer to Jesus. I challenge myself to be mindful of Jesus and to put his love into the hustle and bustle of the season. I fill my mind with Jesus, as I light Advent candles, bake cookies, wrap presents and spend time with those around us. As we grow closer to Jesus, our light becomes brighter. Advent is a season to be the Light and to be open to the light of others. Shine bright this Advent!







LOVED                                STACY DIAZ, St. Mary of the Presentation, Breckenridge

Stacy Diaz

Within all of the shining orbs and glittering lights, the manger holds a prominent place in our Advent, then Christmas decorations. The animals are there first, but eventually Mary and Joseph and the donkey make their way across the living room to find a place in this makeshift hotel. Jesus is such a vulnerable figure in this setting. He is totally at the mercy of the love and care of Mary and Joseph. Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus, but it teaches us that we, in our vulnerability, need our Heavenly Father and Our Blessed Mother every day. 




MYSTERY                          KYLE LAMB, St. Mary of Mount Carmel, Long Prairie

Kyle Lamb

No one knew how the Messiah would save the world. People expected a king, a wealthy celebrity or perhaps a military leader to take down their oppressors. Instead, from poverty, Jesus worked simply as a teacher and healer, guiding followers to be the hope in the world. Such mysterious actions for God to take!

Today, through tradition, our salvation history is less mysterious, yet we don’t always know our next step. The world is different, but Jesus is still present, and God’s actions are still mysterious! How can we be teachers and healers? How can we provide hope?





Crosier Father Ernie Martello

This idea comes from the hymn, “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming,” an old German Christmas carol. A rose springs through the snow in the middle of winter! In the winter of our alienation from God, the messiah-king comes to free us. Isaiah saw this coming: “A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.” Some ancient translations say “and a flower shall rise out of his root.” Jesse was the father of King David, David is remembered as the messiah-king, and thus the title Son of David is attributed to Jesus at times in the Gospels. Jesus, is the beautiful branch, (read “rose”) that is found shining on Christmas Day. 


Author: The Central Minnesota Catholic

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

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