Once a priest at ‘parish to the mall,’ Father Thompson maintains Franciscan spirituality

| September 27, 2018 | 0 Comments

Father Dennis Thompson, who retired in September, served as pastor at St. Michael in Farmington, Immaculate Conception in Lonsdale and now-closed Most Holy Trinity in St. Louis Park during his active ministry. Dave Hrbacek / The Catholic Spirit

Father Dennis Thompson hasn’t been a member of the Franciscan order for 15 years, but he considers himself “a Franciscan at heart.”

“I love the Franciscan spirituality, and I always enjoy still reading books and things on Francis,” said Father Thompson, who left the Franciscans to become a priest of the archdiocese in 2003. Despite that change — which he made to be closer to family — he still takes a Franciscan approach to ministry.

Father Thompson said he enjoys taking the Sunday Gospel reading and observations of the world to form his homilies. He said that “was always Franciscan charism of the Gospel life and plugging that Gospel into our world today and seeing our world through that lens of Jesus and his preaching and his values and holding up those values to our world today.”

A Minneapolis native who grew up with eight siblings, he joined the Order of Friars Minor Conventual in the 1980s. He credits the help of the late Bishop Paul Dudley, pastor of St. Edward in Bloomington at the time, and the Conventual Franciscans in Prior Lake as major influences in his vocation journey.

With the Franciscans, Father Thompson studied at St. Louis University in St. Louis and Washington Theological Union in Washington D.C. In 1986, he was ordained 20 minutes from his hometown at St. Bonaventure in Bloomington, a Conventual Franciscan-run parish.

Father Thompson’s first assignment was in campus ministry at the St. Joseph University Center at Indiana State University in Terre Haute, Indiana. He said the Sunday evening Mass in particular drew college and high school students with the upbeat music, which “was kind of unusual at that time,” he said.

Father Thompson then returned to St. Bonaventure from 1991-1995 at the time when the Mall of America opened nearby. He recalls busloads of visitors coming for Mass in the early years of the nearby tourist attraction.

“Sometimes there would be a group there and they would want to come to the daily Mass,” Father Thompson said. “We became kind of the parish to the mall.”

Next, he was pastor of now-closed Most Holy Trinity in St. Louis Park from 1995-2002, followed by St. Michael in Farmington from 2002-2014. While at St. Michael, he oversaw the de-consecration of the parish’s original church and worked with capital campaigns to pay for the parish’s new church.

Father Thompson officially left the Franciscans to become a priest of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis in 2003 while in Farmington. He later bought a house in Lakeville to further “put down roots” in his home state.

After St. Michael, Father Thompson took a sabbatical in Ireland and Scotland to learn about his heritage.

When he returned, he ministered as parochial administrator at St. Margaret Mary in Golden Valley from 2015-2016, pastor of Immaculate Conception in Lonsdale from 2016-2017 and pastor of St. John Neumann in Eagan from 2017 until his Sept. 1 retirement.

Father Thompson, 65, said his older brother’s death last year at age 66 factored into his decision to retire. Father Thompson said his older brother told him that “he wishes he had spent more time being able to retire and enjoy retirement years” before his death.

“I want to be able to visit family now, brothers and sisters who are in Florida, and enjoy some retirement years,” Father Thompson said.

He is currently assisting 92-year-old Father John Clay, pastor of St. Stanislaus in St. Paul.

“He’s a fantastic priest, and I really enjoy being there and helping him,” Father Thompson said.

 

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