‘Why be a priest?’ Once skeptical, Father McClellan now has his answer

| June 3, 2016 | 0 Comments

Part of a series of profiles of nine newly ordained priests in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

When Father Michael McClellan was in grade school at Divine Mercy in Faribault, his mother would tell people she thought her son would be a priest someday.

His response? “I’d always get really embarrassed and say, ‘No, there’s no way,’?” he recently recalled.

But then he got the same words from a priest at his parish.

“I was 12 years old and had recently started altar-serving at church,” said Father McClellan, 26, the son of Jim and Kathy McClellan. “I remember specifically after a school Mass, the priest who said the Mass was talking to the servers, and I remember him asking me if I had ever thought about the priesthood before. And, I told him no, it had never occurred to me. He said, ‘Well, I want you to think about what you’re supposed to do with your life, and I want you to ask God if you’re supposed to be a priest.’”

Again, the young McClellan scoffed at the idea and brushed it off. He said to himself, “Why would I ever be a priest?”

He’s not scoffing anymore. Along with his classmates, he was ordained at the Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul May 28 by Archbishop Bernard Hebda. Though initially put off by the encouragement of his mother and parish priest, he chose to take a look at the priesthood and ask God if he was calling him to that vocation.

By the time he graduated in 2008 from Bethlehem Academy in Faribault, he felt drawn to the calling and enrolled at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul as a seminarian at St. John Vianney College Seminary.

No doubt, that priest who first encouraged him — Bishop Andrew Cozzens — supports his decision. And, Father McClellan now is grateful for then-Father Cozzens’ direct words. Although Father McClellan was hesitant about the priesthood, he enjoyed the chance to have the future bishop at his parish.

“He was a cool, young priest,” Father McClellan said. “I thought he was awesome. He came at the same time as Father Kevin Finnegan, whom we had for 15 years. [Father Finnegan], for sure, was very influential on me as a steady encouragement.”

Father McClellan’s path toward the priesthood moved steadily forward through his high school days at Bethlehem Academy and SJV. After his graduation from St. Thomas in 2012 with a degree in philosophy and Catholic Studies, he went straight to the St. Paul Seminary.

He is excited to be part of the first class to be ordained by Archbishop Hebda.

“I think all of my classmates were pleased that the bishop was named prior to our ordination, and very blessed to have Archbishop Hebda,” Father McClellan said. “He seems just fantastic. In the interactions I’ve had with him, he’s been very caring, very fatherly, and I look forward to having him as our archbishop.”

Not only that, it’s possible McClellan could serve under Archbishop Hebda for 19 years, when the archbishop reaches the mandatory retirement age of 75.

“Some of us were talking and we realized we’d all be 45 years old by the time Archbishop Hebda retires, God willing we have him for the 19 years left of his active ministry as archbishop,” Father McClellan said. “That’s just crazy to think of that. He is still so young, and to have that continuity for that number of years will be a really good thing.”

Archbishop Bernard Hebda appointed Father McClellan parochial vicar of the Church of Saint Ambrose of Woodbury.

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Category: Ordinations