Deacon Evan Koop
Home parish: St. Rita, Cottage Grove
Parents: Steven and Debra Koop
Education: Bachelor’s degree in history from Washington University in St. Louis (2004), St. Paul Seminary
Teaching parish: St. Michael, St. Michael
Pastoral learning experiences: Hospital ministry (CPE) at Minneapolis VA Medical Center; Spanish immersion summer in Mexico; deacon summer at Jesucristo Resucitado, mission parish in Venezuela
Hobbies: Playing basketball and golf; reading
Favorite book: “Quo Vadis” by Henry Sienkiewicz
Favorite movie: “Lord of the Rings” trilogy
Person you most admire: St. Thérése of Lisieux
Thanksgiving Masses: 10:30 a.m. Sunday, May 27, St. Rita, Cottage Grove; 10:30 a.m. Sunday, June 3, St. Michael, St. Michael
Deacon Evan Koop doesn’t recall ever thinking, as a child, that he wanted to be a priest, but he does remember being intensely interested in God.
“One of my earliest memories is my mom, who is a very faithful woman, taking me out onto the front porch of our house in Woodbury,” he said. “I was probably 5 or so. She told me all about Jesus and led me through the process of inviting Jesus into my heart, to have him live there, and make him my closest friend.”
Because the memory is so vivid, “it must have had a great impact on me,” he said.
“I did want to belong totally to God. As I look back, I can see that was my deepest desire. Now, I see in that the seeds of my vocation.”
Deacon Koop said he grew up leading a normal suburban Catholic life. He is the youngest of four siblings — all the others are married. His brother Brendan and sister Allison live in the Twin Cities area. Another brother, Colin, lives in New York.
As a child, Deacon Koop often spent time with his mother’s parents, Mike and Jeanie Weydert, who will be celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary during the same week he will be ordained to the priesthood.
“Some of the older devotions, like the rosary, I picked up from them,” he said. “I know they are very happy to have a grandson becoming a priest.”
High school awakening
The first time Deacon Koop seriously considered a vocation to the priesthood, he was a ninth-grader at St. Thomas Academy in Mendota Heights.
“We had a vocations day, where priests and other people come in and talk about vocations,” he said. “A priest in my religion class said, ‘I’m sure at least one young man in this room has a vocation to be a priest.’ I thought immediately, ‘Oh no, it’s me.’”
From that point on, the thought of priesthood never left and, in fact, began growing bigger, he said. Throughout high school, he found himself drawn to spending time with the Eucharist in the adoration chapel at Holy Trinity in South St. Paul.
After completing his bachelor’s degree, his love of history and academics prompted him to apply and be accepted for graduate school. However, he also encountered a group called the Fellowship of Catholic University Students.
The college evangelization program, which is similar to St. Paul’s Outreach, focuses on student outreach on college campuses.
A friend encouraged Deacon Koop to apply to be a missionary with him.
“To my surprise, I was accepted,” he said. “I tend to be a bit more reserved so I was unsure about [evangelizing others].”
During his two-year commitment with FOCUS, Deacon Koop said he “was getting a little taste of spiritual fatherhood, in terms of ministering to other people’s spiritual needs, seeing them grow in the spiritual life and the joy of that.”
But he also learned that a large part of evangelization is about listening to people and one-on-one relationships.
“By the end of two years I was at a point that I was sure God was calling me to seminary,” he said.
After briefly discerning a call to a religious order in Peoria, Ill., and the possibility of attending seminary in Denver with some friends from FOCUS, Deacon Koop was introduced to the Companions of Christ in St. Paul.
After spending spring break with the community at its house on Marshall Avenue in St. Paul, Deacon Koop applied and was accepted to the seminary.
It was sometime during Theology I that he knew he was on the right path. He was assigned to read and meditate on Luke 5:1-11, in which Jesus teaches from Peter’s boat and then tells the disciples to let down their nets.
Peter questioned the command because the men had already fished all night without any success. When the nets came up overflowing, Peter asked Jesus to send him away because he was sinful.
Jesus told Peter and the rest of the fishermen: “Don’t be afraid. Follow me.”
“It was clear the Lord was speaking to me [through that Scripture],” Deacon Koop said. “I had an image of priesthood of — will I just be alone? That was a false image of diocesan priesthood.
“In the Scripture, it says Peter called to his companions. I do have my companions — the Companions of Christ and my other diocesan brothers.”