Archdiocese announces new Cathedral rector, other appointments

| May 4, 2012 | 0 Comments

Father John Ubel sits in a pew at the Cathedral of St. Paul. He will become rector of the Cathedral and pastor of the Cathedral parish on July 1. (Dianne Towalski / The Catholic Spirit)

Father John Ubel has been appointed rector of the Cathedral of St. Paul and pastor of the Cathedral parish effective July 1, the archdiocese announced May 1.

The current pastor of St. Agnes in St. Paul replaces Father Joseph Johnson, who has been named pastor of Holy Family in St. Louis Park beginning July 1. Father Johnson was rector for six years.

Father Ubel said he was caught by surprise when Archbishop John Nienstedt met with him after a Presbyteral Council meeting and invited him to serve as the Cathedral’s next rector.

“I’ve been [at St. Agnes] for six years, and so I was not anticipating a move at this time,” he said. “But I’ve always tried to follow the advice that when we are asked to do something we respond generously.

“I’ve got a tremendous love for the history of this archdiocese, so I thanked [the archbishop] for entrusting the spiritual care of the people of the Cathedral to me as well as the magnificent building,” he said.

Father Ubel will serve as pastor to more than 2,000 families who belong to the Cathedral parish.

He will be the 22nd rector of the Cathedral of St. Paul, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was designated a national shrine in 2009. Tens of thousands of people visit the cathedral every year.

“It’s a parish-plus,” Father Ubel said.

Good years at St. Agnes

Father Ubel was ordained a priest in 1989. In addition to his most recent appointment as pastor of St. Agnes, he has served as associate pastor of St. Joseph in West St. Paul, co-director of the archdiocesan Vocation Office, chaplain at St. Thomas Academy in Mendota Heights, and at the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity.

“St. Agnes has been the most rewarding assignment I’ve had in 23 years, without question,” he said.

During his time at St. Agnes, Father Ubel worked to unite the parish and the school and eliminate debt.

“I think the parish feels like it’s healthy and ready for the next phase,” Father Ubel said. “I was absolutely delighted at the appointment of Father [Mark] Moriarty [as the next pastor of St. Agnes]. That really quite honestly helped to soften the news that I would be leaving sooner than I had anticipated.”

Father Ubel said he often prays the rosary while walking around Calvary Cemetery, which overlooks downtown St. Paul. “You see the magnificent dome of the cathedral as well as the more-than-200-foot bell tower, the ‘onion’ dome, at St. Agnes, and they’re really lined up very nicely next to each other from that vantage point right near the tombs of the archbishops.”

St. Agnes is exactly 1.51 miles from the cathedral, Father Ubel said. “I Mapquested it.”

In the next few months, Father Ubel will say his goodbyes to parishioners at St. Agnes and pack his belongings for the short move to the cathedral rectory, which he’ll share with three other priests.

His final day as pastor of St. Agnes will be June 10, when the parish will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the church building, which was completed on June 9, 1912.

“Archbishop [John] Ireland came for that dedication,” Father Ubel said. “I was just looking through some records, . . . and he said at that time: ‘You can be proud of your church, next to the cathedral the grandest church in St. Paul.’

“I would agree that they are the two grandest church buildings in the city,” Father Ubel said. “But I would probably at this point decline to rank them — at least until July 1,” he added.

“I’m passionate about the beautiful building and everything that the cathedral represents to this city,” Father Ubel said. “It really is a treasure.”

Other appointments

In addition, the following appointments have been announced:

• Father James Kelleher, a member of the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity, was granted permission to minister in the archdiocese, beginning March 31. He will work with Father John Paul Erickson, archdiocesan director of worship, to plan two rosary processions.

• Dominican Father Andrew McAlpin was granted premission to minister in the archdiocese, beginning April 3.

• Father Thomas Fitzgerald, pastor of St. Genevieve of Centerville, will retire from full-time ministry Friday, June 15. After Father Fitzgerald was ordained in 1966, he served as an assistant with the Catholic Youth Center in St. Paul and as an assistant pastor at the Cathedral of St. Paul. He has also served at St. Michael in Stillwater and St. Rita in Cottage Grove.

• Also beginning June 15, Father Gregory Esty, pastor of St. Thomas Aquinas in St. Paul Park, will serve as pastor of St. Genevieve and St. John the Baptist in Hugo.

• Father Mark Moriarty, pastor of Mary, Queen of Peace in Rogers, will begin serving as pastor of St. Agnes Sunday, July 1.

• Also on July 1, Father Patrick Kennedy, pastor of Pax Christi in Eden Prairie, will begin a two-year leave from his archdiocesan ministry to serve in the Diocese of Tucson, Ariz.


His Excellency, the Most Reverend John C. Nienstedt, has announced the following appointments in the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis.

Effective March 31, 2012

Rev. James Kelleher, SOLT, permission to exercise ministry in the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis from March 28th to November 7th, 2012. Father Kelleher will be working with Rev. John Paul Erickson, Director of Worship, to plan two major rosary processions during that time, and this work will take him to various parishes and institutions in the Archdiocese.

Effective April 3, 2012

Rev. Andrew McAlpin, OP, granted the faculties of the Archdiocese for as long as he remains a priest in good standing with the Dominican Order.

Effective June 15, 2012

Rev. Thomas Fitzgerald, accepted resignation as pastor of the Church of Saint Gene­vieve of Centerville, Minnesota, and granted the status of a retired priest.

Rev. Gregory Esty, appointed pastor of the Church of Saint Genevieve of Centerville, Minnesota, and the Church of Saint John Baptist (Hugo).

Effective July 1, 2012

Rev. John Ubel, accepted resignation as the pastor of the Church of Saint Agnes of Saint Paul, Minnesota, and appointed Rector of the Cathedral of Saint Paul, and pastor of the Cathedral of Saint Paul parish.

Rev. Mark Moriarty, accepted resignation as pastor of the Catholic Church of Mary Queen of Peace in Rogers, and appointed Pastor of the Church of Saint Agnes of Saint Paul, Minnesota.

Rev. Joseph Johnson, accepted resignation as rector of the Cathedral of Saint Paul and pastor of the Cathedral parish, and appointed Pastor of the Church of the Holy Family of Saint Louis Park.

Rev. Patrick Kennedy, accepted resignation as pastor of the Church of Pax Christi of Eden Prairie, and granted permission to serve in the Diocese of Tucson for a period of two years.

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