What’s up at St. Agnes parish’s High School?

Years ago I heard Card. George tell a large meeting of Catholic journalists that it was our responsibility to report on the life of grace and God’s action in our midst.

I have something to report.

The fascinating famous parish of St. Agnes in St. Paul (MN – USA), where the late Msgr. Schuler was pastor for over three decades, has three schools, an elementary, a middle and a high school. 

These schools, especially the high school, have drawn the parish’s resources severly.  Operating expenses are great.  Enrollment wasn’t keeping up. 

Two pastors, Msgr. Schuler and Fr. Welzbacher, had dealt with the problems of the school, each doing what had to be done as they faced their challenges.  Schuler kept the place going through the cataclysmic 70’s. After Schuler retired, some problematic and dissenting teachers stirred troubles Welzbacher had to cope with.  He shored up the faculty, but some damage had resulted and enrollment suffered.

The new pastor, Fr. John Ubel had to bat clean up.

Fr. Ubel (there for about a year now) faced a difficult set of choices regarding the high school.  The bottom had finally caught up.   The high school probably had to close.  Some 1.5 million was needed to deal with debt and provide a foundation for the future. 

Fr. Ubel put the facts before the people.

The results were amazing.

Two anonymous donors gave contributions of $1 million and $1.6 million.

The school raised $750,000. 

67 new students were enrolled

All told, some $3.2 million were raised.

This all took about three weeks, during which time the parish also buried its long beloved retired pastor Msgr. Schuler and received a personal message from Pope Benedict XVI to boot.

What happened? An anonymous couple had promised a $500,000 matching grant.  The school fundraising did more than meet it.  So, the couple pledged another $500,000 Monday.  The anonymous gift of $1.6 mill will be used for an endowment.  Of the $750,000 raised by the school, $100,000 was from a benefit performance of the spring musical Beauty and the Beast.  $15 came from a class of fourth-graders.  Rich and poor alike did what they could.

But there is more to this, I think, than a simple success story for the school.

The good news from St. Agnes is revelatory. 

Transparency and realism about the state of affairs made real solutions possible.

Lay people and clergy have complimentary roles.

Obstacles require grace, but grace builds on elbow grease.

As a Church we are facing frightening challenges.  We must bring them into the light and look at them squarely for what they are.  Otherwise, we will never find the right path.   Each one of us have a role to play here according to our vocations and means, each in our own time and place.  One person or group can’t do it all.  When even one person or group drops out, we all suffer the loss.  We must all of us do everything we are capable of doing, even as we call upon God for help.  All good things are of God.  He gives us our good work to do. When we cooperate with His will and reach our hands out to the task, He then makes our hands strong enough for the labor.  So, our successes are at the same time ours, everyone’s and His, in Whom they have their origin and their goal.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in SESSIUNCULA. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. flabellum says:

    Viva il Papa!
    What a good way to start a comment.

    With that level of financial commitment to the parish schools, one might dare to hope that it is matched by an enthusiasm to communicate the Catholic faith, and also to the kind of voluntary lay involvement that can really ‘make a difference’ to the lives of the students, and help them realise that real education is more than book learning, and that faith is better lived than taught, or rather best taught by being lived.

  2. Andrew Fanco says:

    Any St. Agnes parishioners out there?

    I am going to be in the area, watching my beloved Tigers play.

    I was wondering what the 8:30 Sunday Mass was like. I am fairly certain it is the NO, which is typically my MO, but how does it go usually? If anyone could provide a quick rundown that would be great.

  3. Fr. Totton says:

    I am not one to canonize an individual apart from the authority of Holy Mother Church, but I wonder if St. Agnes does not now possess a powerful intercessor before the throne of the Lamb!

  4. Kevin says:

    See the school and church web sites and the story in today’s St. Paul Pioneer Press newspaper.




  5. Fr. Totton,


    I would be inclined to agree. Perhaps by acclamation?

    God grant St. Agnes many years!


  6. The turnaround at St. Agnes is a fine example of what the members of the
    Church Militant can do together.

    Andrew: The 8:30 Sunday Mass at St. Agnes (I’m not a parishioner but I attend Mass there on occasion) is English N.O. All Masses are said ad orientem. Very reverent. Fair
    numbers of women in mantillas. Communion is only ever done kneeling at the altar rail at St. Agnes. Period. Male altar servers, once and awhile a layman will be the Lector but, usually, it’s one of the Deacons. Good stuff.
    But, nothing out of the ordinary for St. Agnes. Even the weekday Masses in the Chapel are well done.

    The neighborhood around St. Agnes is not the safest one my city has to offer so don’t leave anything valuable in the car. There is a small parking lot off of Thomas and a larger one across the street from the main entrance on Lafond.

    Go Twins!

  7. danphunter1 says:

    So we all know that politicians or anyone who vote for killing babies are automatically excommunicated,what about the priests cardinal and bishops who knowingly give them Our Lord in Holy Communion?
    God bless you.

  8. danphunter1 says:

    What is the difference between being excommunicated and the act of excluding yourself from communion?They both accomplish the same thing and have identical results.
    Repudiation of Authority.

  9. Tadhg Seamus says:

    This is wonderful news! Just as with her vocations, St Agnes gathers the harvest planted so long ago and tended so carefully. You’d think parishes around the country struggling to keep schools open, foster vocations, and keeping Mass attendance up would look to a success story like St Agnes to find out what it’s doing right and use that as a model for their own success. You’d think so, wouldn’t you?…

    May God continue to bless the priests and people of St Agnes!

Comments are closed.