By Gabe Licht
DELANO, MN Before Father Nathan LaLiberte knew he would have the opportunity to serve as priest at the St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish in Delano, he was feeling led to the area.
“I had actually felt very drawn to Delano, even last year, so when I saw it come up on the open listing, I felt called and prompted to put my name in the hat,” LaLiberte said.
Fellow priests asked LaLiberte if he had done his research on Delano.
“I said, ‘This is how I did my research. I went to the adoration chapel, knelt down, and I prayed, ‘God, where are you calling me?’” LaLiberte said. “When I felt called to Delano, that was my research. If He’s calling me here, He’ll bless it.”
The archdiocese affirmed that call and gave him his assignment to Delano on Good Friday.
He began serving the parish July 1.
Throughout the process, LaLiberte said, “A great love began to grow for the Saint Maximilian Kolbe.”
LaLiberte admires how Kolbe gave his life for a man picked to be killed by Nazi guards at Auschwitz.
“Maximilian Kolbe stepped forward and said, ‘I will take his place,’” LaLiberte said. “The Nazi guard asked, ‘Who are you?’ and his response was, ‘I’m a Catholic priest.’”
Being selfless is something every priest is called to do, LaLiberte believes.
“My hope is, ‘God, please give me the grace to lay down my life for my people, and for my people to lay down their lives for one another,’” LaLiberte said.
When LaLiberte arrived at St. Joseph’s Church for his first Mass, he was greeted by a pentagram, the satanic sign of worship, spray painted on the church sign. He reported it to the Wright County Sheriff’s Office and did not let it discourage him.
In his first sermon, he focused on the Eucharist, and he plans to focus on it moving forward, as well.
“One of the things I pitched to the parish my first weekend was I want our parish to let the Eucharist lead,” LaLiberte said. “That’s the perpetual sacrifice of Christ. It’s a reminder and participation of Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection. Whenever we celebrate the Eucharist, we’re celebrating Christ, who laid down his life.”
LaLiberte said the parish, and community as a whole, has received him well. He believes the parish is “beautifully rich in faith.”
Before coming to Delano, LaLiberte served for two years as an associate pastor at St. Michael’s Parish in St. Michael.
“Coming from St. Michael’s there’s a lot of double-dipping,” LaLiberte said. “They have family in both communities. Some people in Delano met me in St. Michael. It was fun to have some familiar faces.”
Prior to his time in St. Michael, he served two years as an associate pastor at St. Stephen’s Parish in Anoka.
LaLiberte was ordained in 2011, after receiving his master’s of divinity degree at St. Paul Seminary on the campus of University of St. Thomas, where he had also earned his bachelor’s degree in philosophy and Catholic studies.
A self-proclaimed Minnesotan “lifer,” LaLiberte grew up in Lakeville and graduated from Lakeville North High School in 2003.
His family is spread throughout the country, with his dad in Bend, OR, his brother in the Bronx, and his mother nearby in Bloomington.
He has extended family in Greenfield and Loretto.
“My grandma’s maiden name was Kaiser,” LaLiberte said. “My grandfather was a Thomas.”
He is also related to Doboszenskis through marriage and has a special Mass and meal at Dobo’s Café each Christmas and Easter.
His hobbies include archery, running, reading, and strategy games such as Settlers of Catan.
As a member of the Companions of Christ priestly fraternity, LaLiberte lives in Mound with another priest and gets together with other priests on a monthly basis.
“That’s a really important part of my life,” LaLiberte said. “They mean the world to me. They help carry the burden and heaviness sometimes.”
LaLiberte has hit the ground running in Delano. He has been a part of hiring a youth minister, faith formation director, and faith formation administrator.
He said he enjoys every aspect of his job.
“I love being a priest,” he said. “I’m so grateful for my vocation.”