Father Long engaged lay staff in ministry

| September 27, 2018 | 0 Comments

Father Jack Long, who retired in June, served at two of the largest parishes in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis in the last decade of his 40 years of active ministry. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

While Father Jack Long always appreciated working with lay staff in his 40 years of ministry, he said their vital roles became more evident in his final two assignments — both parishes with more than 3,500 households.

He refuses to micromanage, he said. “If I’m going to hire a janitor, I’m going to hope that he knows the ins and outs of a boiler, because I don’t.”

Father Long retired after serving five years as pastor of St. Stephen in Anoka and 12 years as pastor of St. Vincent de Paul in Brooklyn Park. He said the give-and-take of working with others has been among the many joys of his priesthood. He knows how needed parish staffs are, too.

“You’re more of an administrator,” Father Long said about serving in large parishes. “But I like being in big parishes. You always have somebody you can delegate something to.”

Father Long, 68, grew up knowing that many hands make light work. His father had a bar in Minneapolis and later Osseo, and Father Long and three siblings helped to clean it. After completing a degree in elementary education at the University of Minnesota and feeling the call to the priesthood as a senior, he joined the first pre-theology program at St. John Vianney College Seminary in St. Paul. He then studied at the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity in St. Paul and was ordained in 1978 at the Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul.

Father Long began his ministry first at St. Peter in North St. Paul as an associate pastor from 1978-1982, then as associate pastor of Guardian Angels in Oakdale from 1982-1983, then its parochial administrator from 1983-1987. He also served as a part-time chaplain at Hill-Murray in Maplewood during his first two parish assignments.

Father Long then took a sabbatical before his next assignment and took courses in administration for parishes while also visiting his sister’s family in New Jersey. The certification program shaped his approach to leading a parish staff.

“It was the best thing I ever did,” Father Long said. “When I became a pastor, … I used all those skills. I was somewhat confident and comfortable in that role as pastor.”

He returned to teach at first, however, at St. Thomas Academy in Mendota Heights from 1987-1991. He considered it a great experience and still considers many former students friends today.

Father Long had his first assignment as pastor at St. Joseph in Hopkins from 1991-2001. He also taught at the parish’s consolidated school with St. John in Hopkins.

“It was a great place to start,” he said.

Father Long taught again at St. Vincent de Paul’s school when serving as pastor. He said that he a great staff at the parish and that “it was a joyful place to be.”

In Father Long’s final assignment at St. Stephen in Anoka, he followed former pastor Father Mike Van Sloun, who had been there almost two decades. They became good friends while ministering in neighboring parishes in the northwest metro.

“We would touch base a lot,” Father Long said. “That carried through when I went to St. Stephen’s and he went to St. Bart’s” in Wayzata.

Father Long worked with many parochial vicars in his final two assignments, particularly at St. Stephen where the parish had two. He said that appreciates the younger priests’ prayerfulness.

In retirement, Father Long continues to mentor younger priests. He also hopes to spend retirement reconnecting with family, particularly his 17 grandnieces and grandnephews.

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