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Q and A: An important time of year

Father Dennis Thompson has been at St. Michael's Catholic Church 10 years.

After 10 years, Father Dennis Thompson is nearing the end of his 12-year tenure at St. Michael's Catholic Church. We sat down with him this week to talk about his decision to enter the ministry, the Lenten season and his feelings about moving on to another church in two years.

How did you end up in the ministry?

Just through the Franciscan Retreat House in Prior Lake and getting involved in my faith through retreats there. Just getting to know more about my Catholic faith when I was out of high school. I know it kind of wasn't important for me until after. I had my confirmation when I was in college and started exploring, Why do I believe what I believe? Why am I a Catholic? And I started looking at more of the Catholic church.

Was there a moment you remember that it all kind of made sense for you and you said, this is what I should be doing?

It was during Lent. I went on a men's Holy Week retreat at the Franciscan Retreat House and I had been exploring and reading more about my Catholic faith. I had friends in college who were involved in different Christian communities. I said, Why am I a Catholic? So, I started talking to a friend of mine and he really encouraged me to go to the Franciscan Retreat House and make a men's Holy Week retreat. After that I started looking at more of the church and reading more about the Catholic Church. The more I read about the Catholic Church the more I started to understand the beauty of the church.

So, this is an important time of year for a lot of reasons.

It is. It is like a renewal, rebirth. I think Lent is like a reset. You look at your life. You look at yourself in the mirror through the prism of the Bible, the Gospel and our Catholic tradition. Am I living the way I should live? Do I need to reset my life in a more spiritual way? I think lent is kind of a spiritual reset.

We just had book study. We've been looking at rediscovering Catholicism.

Is this a particularly busy time of year for you because of Lent?

There's always something going on for any pastor, any church. But it is probably a busier time. We have confirmation coming up. We have new members being received into the church. It's a point where couples are going to be married in May and June.

It also seems like a time when, compared to other times of the year, people's faith is more visible because you have people talking about what they're giving up for Lent, or Ash Wednesday, you've got the ashes on the forehead.

I think people realize now that the discipline of our lives is more evident. People are not eating meat on Friday during Lent. Ash Wednesday we're signed with the ashes. I know people would go in the stores and they'd still have the ashes on their forehead and that would really make an impression on people. I know people would come back to church because of someone having the ashes from Ash Wednesday. They'd say, I should come back to the church, or I should start exploring my faith. So they will come back because it's more visible. Restaurants are not serving meat. They have fish. I think our faith should be more noticeable.

Do you enjoy this time of year?

I do. I love spring. I love Lent. I love springtime. It's about new life. Most people, it's hard to imagine but I love Lent. I love the discipline of Lent.

I think a lot of times when people think of religious holidays people think of Christmas. But I've talked to more than one pastor who has said this is their favorite as religious holidays go. Lent and Easter.

It isn't what you give up, but what you do. Maybe taking some time to read scripture. Making sure you go to church on Sunday. That you're looking at your faith. I think if people just spent 10 minutes each day, just 10 minutes of quiet time, finding some time to pray. They don't even have to have the scriptures. But I'll challenge anyone to take 10 minutes of quiet time each day. Turn off the TV. Turn off the radio. Turn off the music and just be in a conversation and know that God is present to you. It will change your life. Just 10 minutes each day.

10 years on here, are you enjoying yourself?

Yeah. It's a great community. I'll be here for 12 years. I know at 12 years I have to move on. I'm in denial. I don't even want to think about that. But I think it's good. I think 12 years is a long time.

Is that strange? It's obviously not something you get in a lot of jobs, where you have that deadline. Is it strange as you get closer to that to be thinking, Well, two more years and I've got to start someplace else?

You realize things as you plan, I've been in denial about it, but I know it's going to come. The reality of it, when we're planning for something, long-term planning, my long-term planning is two years. What do we put into motion here?

It is nice. I think 12 years is a wonderful time. I think we all need that change at 12 years.

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.

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