By Dave Hrbacek
Father Joseph Taphorn will be building on two decades of rich priestly experience when he assumes the role of rector of the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity in January.
Ordained a priest in 1997, Father Taphorn served in a variety of pastoral and administrative assignments in the Archdiocese of Omaha, Nebraska, before being named to his present assignment as director and pastor of the St. John Paul II Newman Center in Omaha, which serves students at local colleges.
Father Taphorn, 47, was one of three finalists who emerged from a broad search process that began in late April when Msgr. Thomas Richter, who had been slated to assume the rector position in June, was unexpectedly recalled to assume new responsibilities in his home diocese of Bismarck, North Dakota.
Sixty names were submitted in response to the request for recommendations. Archbishop Bernard Hebda said that he was edified that “so many priests, religious and faithful of the Archdiocese [of St. Paul and Minneapolis], as well as seminarians, alumni, seminary faculty and bishops of our province took the time to not only suggest names but also to express their views on the qualities essential for the next rector.”
From those names, three candidates were invited to participate in a process that Bishop Andrew Cozzens, who served as chairman of the search committee, called “very intensive.” They were each questioned by the same three teams of interviewers, drawn from seminary board members, faculty members and staff and the members of the search committee.
Bishop Cozzens noted that all were impressed by Father Taphorn.
“It’s certainly true that I knew Father Taphorn from my own history, and I knew that he would be a good candidate,” Bishop Cozzens said. “But, it was really the search committee that saw his gifts and skills, and recommended him to the archbishop as their No. 1 candidate.”
Father Taphorn brings some “very unique gifts” to the table, Bishop Cozzens said, including “vast experience in working with priests,” strong intellectual ability and recognition of the importance of lay formation.
Another member of the search committee, Deacon Ramón Garcia of St. Stephen in Anoka, Minnesota, is excited to have a rector who is proficient in Spanish. He noted that Father Taphorn spent time in his hometown of Cuernavaca, Mexico, and studied Spanish there.
Sensing a call to the priesthood, Father Taphorn entered seminary shortly after graduating in 1993 from Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas. He studied at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio, earning a Master of Divinity degree and a Master of Arts degree in theology before his ordination. Subsequently, he earned a licentiate in canon law at the Gregorian University in Rome.
After serving in a variety of both parish and administrative roles in the Archdiocese of Omaha, including moderator of the curia, chancellor, judicial vicar and vicar for clergy, Father Taphorn became the founding pastor and director of the St. John Paul II Newman Center. He helped to plan and develop the center, which opened in 2016 near the campus of the University of Nebraska at Omaha.
Father Taphorn will continue directing the Newman Center until January. To ease the transition, a priest of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Father Jake Anderson, will minister in Omaha at the Newman Center for 11 months, beginning Aug. 1. He currently is parochial vicar of St. Odilia in Shoreview.
Father Taphorn replaces Msgr. Aloysius Callaghan, who was appointed rector in 2005 and who as rector emeritus will continue to serve the seminary in the areas of advancement and community relations. He will also serve the archdiocese as one of the ministers for clergy and as vicar for retired priests.