By Gabe Licht
Father Paul Kammen has had a busy four years in Delano. Now, he’s looking forward to getting to work in a new parish, but not before reflecting on what brought him to this point in his life.
Kammen grew up in North Minneapolis and spent his teen years in Champlin, graduating from Champlin Park High School in 1996.
He attended North Hennepin Technical College before studying political science and history at the University of Minnesota.
Talking to a local priest encouraged Kammen to consider a life of ministry over a life of politics.
He began attending and volunteering at St. Vincent DePaul Parish in Brooklyn Park, where he received spiritual guidance from Father Curtis Lybarger and further considered becoming a priest himself.
“I decided to apply to seminary when I was finishing up at the U,” Kammen said of his decision to attend St. Paul Seminary on the campus of St. Thomas.
Kammen spent six years studying to be ordained.
“Once I was ordained, I had my first mass in the parish I grew up in, Our Lady of Victory in North Minneapolis,” Kammen said.
He was then assigned to be an associate pastor at Holy Name of Jesus Parish in Medina.
While there, he got a taste of Delano, as well.
“I would help out in Delano every once in a great while, while the priest was on vacation,” Kammen said.
But, it wasn’t time for him to move to Delano just yet. First, he went on to serve as an associate pastor and temporary administrator at St. Hubert’s Parish in Chanhassen.
July 1, 2011, Kammen began serving St. Peter’s and St. Joseph’s parishes in Delano.
He described the churches as “two kinda quiet, country parishes.” It wasn’t long before the two parishes became one.
“Within the first month, several people approached me to say they had been clustered, working together with one priest and the same volunteers for 20-plus years. ‘We’ve been looking at a merger. What are your thoughts?’” Kammen said. “We looked at it, talked about it, and decided to move forward with a lot of meetings and discussion.”
The church wrote the bishop to say many were in favor of a merger.
“We said we thought it would be good for unity,” Kammen said. “Nothing has changed. The building names are the same. The liturgies are the same. This was just in the name of unity. We needed to emphasize we’re one Christian body.”
Parish members have been focused on unity in Kammen’s time with what has since been St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish, he said, calling it “a very positive experience.”
A new social hall was built in fall 2012. More recently, a capital campaign raised $1.1 million.
“A lot of parishioners wanted to step up to the plate and shore up funds for the future,” Kammen said. “They’re looking at how they’ll distribute the money for the future needs of the parish. It’s been encouraging to see so many people give to it and say, ‘I love my parish and want to be involved.’”
As for Kammen’s move from the parish, he said the process began in January.
“The Clergy Advisory Board lists parishes and sends out the list to all the priests saying, ‘These are the parishes coming open. If you’re interested, drop us a line,’” Kammen said.
Before that list circulated, priests were sent a questionnaire asking what they like in a parish. That gives the board an idea of who would be a good candidate for which parish.
Some parishes, such as St. Joseph’s in Rosemount, were not on the list. However, Kammen learned the position at the parish would be coming open and was asked to take a look at it.
“I got a little bit of a feel for it by talking to the outgoing pastor,” Kammen said. “I thought it would be a good fit for me. It’s a very active community, with all hands on deck. You could say the same for the parish here in Delano.”
Kammen has enjoyed his time in the local parish. More importantly, he believes he has grown in more ways than one.
“I’d say I’ve grown as a human being and as a priest, just learning over the past four years,” Kammen said. “That’s what I try to emphasize: all of us are on a journey. We can’t say, ‘I’m perfect and I’m at the finish line, so let me into heaven.’ I still have a lot to learn, but I have learned a lot from great people here.”
Though he has preached his final sermon, he has one last message for the parish.
“Thank you for loving your church, living out your faith, caring about your parish and the universal church, and for not being a 55-minute-per-week Christian, but someone who lives out your faith day in and day out, making the parish a wonderful place to grow in faith.”