By Linda Scherer
WINSTED, MN Fr. Anthony Stubeda, 52, a native of Litchfield, became pastor of Holy Trinity Church and School in Winsted July 1.
He is also pastor of St. Pius X Church and School of Glencoe (for four years), and Holy Family Church of Silver Lake (for one year).
The three parishes that Stubeda is now pastor of make up one of 23 area faith communities (AFC) in the Diocese of New Ulm.
The concept of the AFC began in the diocese in 2003 with a plan to combine multiple parishes into an AFC and assign one pastor to each.
“The decision-making process gets streamlined and is able to develop the cooperation and vision easier with one person leading,” Stubeda said.
To help with the restructuring of the parishes, Fr. Anthony Hesse, who had been pastor of Holy Trinity, was appointed parochial vicar (senior associate) of Holy Trinity in Winsted, and is to assist in the AFC.
Fr. Patrick Okonkwo will remain associate pastor of Holy Family in Silver Lake and will also assist in the AFC.
With Stubeda officially becoming pastor at Holy Trinity, it was another step forward in the transitioning process for the AFC of Holy Trinity, St. Pius X, and Holy Family.
As of July 1, 10 of the AFCs have just one pastor.
“We have not named our AFC, but that is part of the process that we have to go through this year,” Stubeda said. “The parishes will remain parishes unto themselves, but we are always looking for ways to cooperate and to use skills and resources in order to accomplish the mission of the church in a broader area.”
Becoming pastor of an AFC is a first for Stubeda, but he has served during the formation of other AFCs in various capacities and responsibilities.
“I am excited to be here,” Stubeda said of his recent appointment, but acknowledges that there will be a lot of challenges ahead in developing a vision for the AFC.
“I like to tell people, to help them understand, that we are like a big ship and it takes a long time for us to turn,” Stubeda said.
“The first few months, you do what is in front of you,” Stubeda said of becoming pastor at Holy Trinity. “You put out fires, patch roofs, make sure school opens on time, and staff is in place. But, little by little, you learn and develop a vision out of those experiences.”
Dividing his time between three parishes is a complicated process, and a work in progress, according to Stubeda, who said he uses a “monster calendar” to keep on schedule.
“We call it the monster calendar, because you move one meeting and it starts a chain reaction of other things that have to change,” Stubeda said.
The monster calendar is also shared with Hesse and Okonkwo. The three priests divide their time, as evenly as possible, for weekend worship, which gives the parishioners a better opportunity to get to know each of them.
Hesse will continue to play a vital role in Holy Trinity parish and school, according to Stubeda. He will say daily Mass, and will be the school chaplain, working closely with both schools Holy Trinity, preschool through 12th grade; and St. Pius X, preschool through sixth grade.
Stubeda said Holy Trinity School is the single largest ministry of the parish and also the largest of the area faith community.
“Certainly, our plan is for this school to be here, and we need to find ways to support it,” Stubeda said.
“We want to try to find ways that our three communities can work together in Catholic education, support one another, and share resources that make this possible,” he added.
Okonkwo, too, will be given additional responsibilities outside of serving in Silver Lake parish. Stubeda said one of his areas will be seeing to the spiritual needs of parishioners if they are hospitalized.
However, Stubeda plans to be present, when his schedule allows, to do his part in school, as well as making hospital visits.
Since becoming a priest in 1985, Stubeda has served in several parishes and spent much of his priesthood working with the Hispanic ministry.
It was his work in Hispanic ministry that helped prepare him for his current responsibilities.
Learning Spanish, a language he now speaks fluently, has been invaluable at St. Pius X, and allows a Spanish Mass be said each Sunday at 11:30 a.m.
Besides learning to speak Spanish, he traveled approximately 55,000 miles a year as part of the ministry.
He calls his current commute between Holy Trinity, St. Pius X, and Holy Family “a piece of cake,” Stubeda said. “Now, I am just driving up and down the same road.”
It was during Stubeda’s service in the diocese’s migrant ministry, he discovered a love for the people and saw a need for a Hispanic mission in the diocese.
Upon Stubeda’s recommendation to establish the ministry, New Ulm Bishop Raymond Lucker asked him to become pastor of St. Clara in Clara City in 1988, which was at the heart of the migrant population of the diocese, and at the same time become the director of the office of the Spanish ministry.
In 1991, Lucker again asked Stubeda to move, this time to the diocese’s pastoral center to work in the development office and continue to concentrate on the Hispanic ministry where Stubeda remained until 2003.
When Bishop John Nienstedt assigned Stubeda to St. Mary’s in Willmar, he continued to be the director of Spanish ministry of the diocese. After a year, he was assigned to parishes in Kandiyohi and Lake Lillian, working in the AFC with the other parishes in Willmar and Spicer, and he continued his work in the Hispanic ministry in Willmar.
When he became pastor of St. Pius X in Glencoe in 2007, it was the first time in Stubeda’s priesthood, that he was pastor of just one church, and worked in one place.
Stubeda grew up in Litchfield
Stubeda is one of seven children of Wallace and Pauline Stubeda of Litchfield.
His mother, Pauline, died 21 years ago after being ill during most of the time Stubeda was growing up.
According to Stubeda, his parents set an amazing example of faithfulness to him and his siblings.
“We were poor because of illness, but we went to Catholic school, so they made a lot of sacrifices,” Stubeda said. “But even with the economic troubles and really serious health issues with my mother, there was never any doubt that my parents weren’t going to stay together. They loved each other completely.”
Stubeda attended St. Phillips Catholic School in Litchfield, first through sixth grade.
It was in second grade, Stubeda first announced to his classmates and his teacher, Sister Yvonne, that he was going to become a priest. It was a way he hoped to get back into the good graces of Sister Yvonne.
“I didn’t like Sister Yvonne from the very first day of school and I got the distinct impression from her that she didn’t like me either, so I spent a lot of time in the corner,” Stubeda said.
One day Sister Yvonne was going around the room asking the class what they wanted to do when they grew up.
“There were kids who wanted to be teachers, lawyers, doctors, and nurses, and it was in the ‘60s so an astronaut came up,” Stubeda said.
“I was sitting there thinking what I could say that would make her leave me alone,” Stubeda said. “So I said I wanted to be a priest and without even missing a beat, she looked at me and said, ‘You’re not good enough.’”
The comment stayed with Stubeda all of these years, but he never changed his mind about becoming a priest from that day on.
“Maybe God was speaking to me even then,” Stubeda said.
The only thing that changed over time was his idea of the priesthood and how it would impact his life and those around him.
“When I was in elementary school, I thought priests didn’t do much, but they were wonderful people involved in people’s lives,” Stubeda said.
During his time at the seminary, he began to understand the sacrifices he would be making, but was also aware he had the opportunity “to share faith, teach faith and to celebrate our Catholic way of life,” Stubeda said, “to be present in the sacrament of people at important times in their lives showing them how God is speaking to them.”
After attending Catholic elementary school, Stubeda went to Litchfield High School, where he graduated in 1977.
After high school, he attended the University of St. Thomas and graduated in 1981, with a degree in English with minors in classical languages, philosophy, and theology.
After obtaining two master’s degrees from the St. Paul Seminary a master of divinity and master of arts he was ordained to the priesthood in 1985.