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Pat Barnes '97
St. Nicholas Catholic Church

Alumni Q&A

1997 Grad Father Pat Barnes

In a series of interviews with notable alumni about their experiences at Assumption, we recently caught up with 1997 graduate Father Pat Barnes, pastor at Saint Nicholas Catholic Church in Elko New Market, Minnesota.

Q.  What are you up to now?
Currently I am assigned as pastor of Saint Nicholas Catholic Church in Elko New Market, Minnesota.

Q: How did you become Pastor of St. Nicholas Church?
The process of becoming pastor is long, it began in 1978.  Then in 2005 I entered the Saint Paul Seminary at the University of Saint Thomas.  I was ordained a Deacon in May of 2009 and a priest in May of 2010.  I served as Parochial Vicar at Saint Charles Borromeo in Saint Anthony, MN, basically Northeast Minneapolis and was part time chaplain of DeLaSalle Catholic High School during that time too.  I was then asked to be pastor of Saint Nicholas and here I am.

Q. What made you want to enter the priesthood?
Having heard of the need for priests and the priest shortage I thought maybe I could help.  Also going through a personal conversion through prayer and meeting some wonderful Catholic people after graduating from UNI, I had a desire to follow Christ more seriously and to do His will.  The priesthood became a focal point of my discernment.

Q: What is a typical day like for you?
Regular days include Mass and hearing Confessions in the morning, time working on the Sunday homily, email and voicemail correspondence.  I often meet with people for pastoral conversations or spiritual counseling, and most of the parish meetings such as finance council, parish council, trustee meetings, etc. are in the evening.  I also have meetings with marriage preparation couples and families preparing for funerals.  A bike ride somewhere in there is important for me and starting the day with personal prayer is critical. Also the prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours is part of each day.

Q.  What do you enjoy most about the priesthood?
In the priesthood, I enjoy working with marriage preparation couples when they open up to God and His plan for their marriage.  I love encouraging them to pray and helping them get ready for the big day.  I enjoy working with funeral preparation families because they are often very open to God at that point.  The best for me as a priest is Sundays, namely Mass and then visiting with the families and people of the parish.  I love seeing new people in church.  This was key in leading me into the priesthood, the opportunity to evangelize and talk about God any time.

Q: What are some of the things you learned at Assumption?
At Assumption I was taught the importance of thinking, not being spoon fed, but thinking.  With our youth group, I encourage them to think, and to bring their thinking to prayer.  I also learned how to run the Motion Offense in basketball and how to hit a bunker shot on the golf course!  Coach K made sure we knew how to play out of the bunker and I still enjoy making a sand save every now and then.

Q: What are a few of your favorite memories from your time at Assumption?
Dressing up for Homecoming Senior year in some old school plaid golf pants was great fun.  I enjoyed meeting and making friends with classmates from the other Catholic grade schools.  Another great memory is when we beat North High School in basketball when Ricky Davis (future NBA player) played for them.  On a deeper level, I recall telling people while I was at Assumption that I was going to be a shepherd and tend my flock.  I was trying to be funny, thinking of an actual shepherd.  God has a great sense of humor, for now I am a pastor.

Q:  Looking back on your time at Assumption, what are some of the experiences that helped prepare you for what you’re doing now?
The fact that Assumption offered the Sacrament of Confession helped me stay connected to this sacrament.  Now, going regularly comes natural, and it is very important for me to receive God’s mercy in order to be a minister of His mercy.  Also the discipline required in athletics, the focus required to play golf, the perseverance in basketball, are natural virtues with which I have a long way to go, but they help me to this day.  

Q: Who were some of your biggest influences during your time at Assumption?
Mrs. Howard was a big influence on me because she didn’t put up with any extra-curricular activities in the class room.  I have great respect for her.  Coach Randy Norton inspired me because he believed I could play when I thought I would certainly be cut from the team.  His confidence in me was influential in my life. 

Q:  What suggestions or advice do you have for our students who may want to pursue a career in the ministry?
Be not afraid to actively seek out God’s will for you through a life of daily prayer.  Whether you are called to be a priest or nun or to get married, you will be fulfilled and happy if you live a life of prayerful reflection.  You will find meaning far deeper than what you see with your eyes.  If you discern a vocation, continued and consistent prayerful reflection is critical if the ministry will be fruitful.  Otherwise we are just busy bodies.

Q: Any last words of encouragement for the Class of 2015?
Sure, I would encourage you to keep in the forefront of your mind your true identity.  You are children of God.  This identity is far more important than any other.  God is a good Father and He cares about you.  I would encourage you to remember this and rest in this fact, especially if you become stressed about college or about your future career, or about some other drama in life.  And pray the Rosary!

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