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New priest is settling in at St. Michael's

Father Ben Little has a clear memory of the moment he finally knew for certain what he wanted to do with his life.

Little, who took over as priest last week at St. Michael’s Catholic Church, had grown up with the idea of going into the priesthood. But he also had an interest in politics, and he graduated from the University of Dallas with a degree in politics and government. He took a job at a political think tank in California.

The job was fine. Little wasn’t unhappy. He just didn’t feel at peace. Then, as he was running errands one day and talking to his mom on the phone, it all came out.

“Before I realized it, I said it right out loud,” Little said. “I said, ‘Mom, I want to be a priest. She said, ‘I know. Come home.’”

From that moment, everything made more sense. Little came home to Minnesota. He attended seminary at the University of St. Thomas, and was ordained in 2012. He spent two years at St. Peter’s in Forest Lake and another at Saint Olaf in downtown Minneapolis.

Now, as of July 1, he is in Farmington, serving a congregation that has not had a full-time priest for a year. He presided over his first Sunday service Fourth of July weekend, and he’s spent the past several days learning his way around the church and getting to know the people who make up his new congregation.

He has had to swallow his pride a few times and ask people to repeat their names, but so far Little has found the members of St. Michael’s to be very welcoming, and said they are excited to have a permanent presence at the church.

“They’ve gotten so accustomed to seeing a priest for a weekend and not seeing him again,” Little said.

Little was very active in his own church growing up in Little Canada. His mother worked for the church, and Little was an altar server and a lector.

“I liked that I got to be close to the Lord,” he said. “For me, it was a sense of privilege being close to the life of the church.”

When he was in fourth grade, a seminarian assistant came to his parish. Little remembers that being the first time it occurred to him he could someday become a priest. That there was an education process and that priests didn’t simply crop up somewhere fully formed.

He took his detour along the way, but once Little found his way back to the seminary everything made sense. He loves life in the church — preaching and hearing confessions and being part of the sacraments. Already on Tuesday he was meeting with the family of a church member who died recently.

“You get to be brought into people’s life at really, really profound moments,” he said. “It’s the privilege of the priest.”

In his free time Little likes to bike and ski. He is also a member of a fraternal order called Companions of Christ. Members of the group in the Archdiocese of Minneapolis and Saint Paul live together in small communities and eat together several times a week. They have an annual summer conference and a silent retreat.

Little is still getting settled in Farmington, but he is happy with what he has found so far, and he’s looking forward to the future.

“There was a sense of excitement in the church,” he said. “I’m hopeful it can be a new day for the St. Michael’s community.”

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

(651) 460-6606
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