in St. Louis Park has a new priest: Rev. Joseph Johnson.
Johnson took over at the start of the month, replacing Rev. Thomas Dufner.
In a Holy Family bulletin, Johnson greeted his new congregation:
I am very excited to become your new pastor! Father Dufner has done wonderful work over the past seventeen years to make this such a vibrant and faithful parish. I know that you will miss him—but it’s time to share him with others since God wants to make him a blessing to the people of the Church of the Epiphany.
No two priests are alike, just as each person in the world has unique characteristics. Undoubtedly there will be differences in style and personality which people will be quick to point out. Father Dufner had certain gifts which I do not possess and perhaps I may even have a few gifts which he didn’t have. The important thing is that the substance of our beautiful Catholic faith, pure and uncompromised, will continue to be preached despite the change in pastor.
I thought about what to say to introduce myself. I decided that it wasn’t as important as it may seem at first! I am a priest of Jesus Christ sent here to announce the good news of salvation, minister the sacraments, and encourage my brother and sisters as we share this journey of faith to our Father’s house in Heaven. I am here to lead you to a deeper encounter with God rather than to me. We will get to know one another over time as together we seek Him!
Every pastor needs the cooperation of others. I look forward to working with the staff and many volunteers who keep the life of our parish moving forward. I have much to learn but I am eager to start! Many thanks to all who have helped me with the move and been so welcoming! Rest assured of my prayers and dedication to continue building on the good work of Father Dufner!
Dufner, who had been at Holy Family for 17 years, oversaw the reopening of and also spearheaded an expansion plan at the school. Because homes needed to be acquired for the project, a number of neighborhood residents voiced their objections to the project. Years later, some scars remain, but Holy Family is with the Sorensen community.
Dufner wrote the following to mark his goodbye from the church:
As I reflect back on one of the most wonderful weekends I've ever experienced, my heart is overflowing with gratitude. There are so many who deserve to be thanked, and so many things to thank you for, but let me begin at the top with the greatest unsung hero, Fr. Stromberg. Father, thank you for all that you have done for me and for Holy Family for 17 years! You have been here every weekend faithfully, wind or snow, rain or shine. You have formed us with your brilliant teaching and spent long hours in the confessional reconciling our people to God. The great success of Holy Family is the holiness of the people and their communion with God and one another. Without your labor of love I'm not sure that would have happened.
To the Staff at Holy Family, thank you! Your tireless efforts have helped the whole parish come together in holiness and mutual love and brought credit to me that belongs to you. Thank you!
To all who helped put together the enormous parish event of my going away party last weekend, thank you! I don't know anyone who has been treated so graciously and I'm embarrassed. The experience keeps soaking in and my gratitude continues to grow. I was able to fight back the tears on Saturday night, but they won at the end of my last Mass on Sunday. I guess I'm just a softy.
Which brings me to the enormous going away present. To all who contributed to that most generous gift to me, how can I thank you enough? Your names are all secret so I won't know till heaven, but I'm offering Masses for all of you even now. May God pour out his heavenly blessings on all of you!
As far as the expansion project, phase one—which includes the demolition of four homes and creation of green space—should be complete by July 20, Holy Family reports.
Phase two—which is the construction of a new multi-purpose room—is dependent on getting a capital campaign up and running.