Q&A with the archbishop

| Jennifer Janikula | September 27, 2012 | 0 Comments

Father Erik Lundgren of Divine Mercy in Faribault gives a high five to Archbishop John Nienstedt during a question-and-answer session. Dave Hrbacek / The Catholic Spirit

Archdiocesan Youth Day provided an opportunity for young Catholics to get to know more about Archbishop John Nienstedt. The teenagers were encouraged to pull out their cell phones and text questions to him. Here is an abridged sample:

How were you called to the priesthood?
At 3 years old, I told my mom I wanted to be a priest. In fourth grade, my teacher asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I explained that as long as anything, I’ve known that I want to be a priest. Then, in high school, I went to parties, met girls, liked to dance. When I was a junior in high school, I realized that I needed to make a decision about the seminary. While kneeling for an hour during adoration, I said to God, “I need to know before this hour is over if I should go to seminary. Don’t be subtle. A lightening bolt would be fine.” Nothing earth-shattering happened, but at the end of the hour, I had a deep sense of peace and had to go try seminary. Besides, they should know what a good priest looks like. If I didn’t fit in, they would tap me on the shoulder and say get out of here.

What is your favorite sport?
Hockey.

A kid in my confirmation class came out on his Facebook page. How should we all treat him now that we know he is gay?
This person is made in the image and likeness of God. It could be that he has been struggling with the issue. I think you need to offer him friendship and understanding and just treat him like a decent human being.

Besides doing things related to church, what do you like to do?
I love to read novels. If I can get a couple novels read on vacation, that’s a good vacation for me. When I go with priest friends, they call me the video king. I’m the one to go down to the video store and pick out all the movies we watch in the evenings. I go for walks, I walk every morning.

Are you allowed to go to confession over text message?
The short answer is no. But why? Jesus says in St. Matthew’s gospel that where two or three are gathered together, He is present with them. So the sacramental encounter really presumes that at least two people are together representing the body of Christ. And so the priest has the awesome resposibility of standing in the place of Christ, but it has to be direct and it has to be an auricular confession, meaning that I am going to tell him my sins in their kind and number.

What are your favorite prayers?
Our Father, Memorare, rosary.

Which saints do you pray to?
St. John the Evangelist, St. John the Baptist, St. John Vianney, St. Thérèse of Lisieux, St. Joseph.

What have been your most memorable experiences as archbishop?
I like confirmation — meeting individuals and families — watching them come together. I like visiting our Catholic high schools and our Catholic elementary schools. I also like visiting the parishes. I have been to 175 of the 203 parishes in the archdiocese. I plan to visit all of them.

How can we keep our faith alive in college?
Focus on Christ. Use your time well —advance your education and human formation and relationship with Christ. Then you will come out a better person in four years.

What is your greatest hope for us as youth and what we can do to serve our local church?
Right now you are serving the local church and you are doing it well. My greatest hope is that you will grow in your faith, you’ll grow closer to Christ, and you’ll come to respect and be a participating member in the body of Christ. It’s an awesome church. It’s an awesome faith, and you have so much to give. The world and the church are just waiting for you to give it.

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