FIVE CHURCHES, ONE PRIEST

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Father John Haugen

By Pat McTaggart

Freelance Writer

 

When Father Paul Peters retired earlier this year, the task of shepherding the parishes of St. Joe’s, Elkader, St. Mary’s, Strawberry Point, and Sacred Heart, Volga, became the responsibility of Father John Haugen, who was already pastor of St. Mark’s, Edgewood, and St. Patrick’s in Colesburg. Due to a shortage of priests, Fr. Haugen now finds himself in the position of several priests in the Archdiocese of Dubuque, who are pastors to multiple parishes.

Born and raised in Waterloo Iowa, Fr. Haugen is the oldest of seven children. His parents, John (recently deceased) and Cy, retired in Cedar Falls. In college, he studied music education and philosophy, earning an undergraduate degree in philosophy. He went to seminary at the Saint Paul Seminary, (St. Paul, MN), and was ordained in 1984. Afterwards, having the opportunity to attend Creighton University, he earned a graduate degree in Spiritual Direction and Retreat work.  

He has spent 25 years in education and administration (high school and college), and has served on several Archdiocesan Committees including Worship, Board of Education, Permanent Diaconate Faculty and Formation Board. Fr. Haugen is currently a member of the Church Design and Renovation Commission, and the Medical Moral Commission. 

He was asked how he will deal with being the pastor of five parishes, working with five different parish councils. “A lot of it depends on how you define being a pastor,” he replied. “The main thing is connection and communication. You can administrate, but it is difficult to pastor five churches. They are five different communities, and there are different challenges for each parish. As a pastor for all five, you have to be really multi-faceted.” 

“I am firmly convinced that this is about thriving, not survival,” he continued. “We want to focus on where God is calling us and where we are headed. The Church and parishes need to develop a vision. We have to move from ‘me’ to ‘we’.”

Interestingly, Fr. Haugen was a student of Fr. Peters. “He was a tremendous mentor,” Fr. Haugen recalled. “I worked with him a lot. I met him in 1969 when I entered high school, and I learned a lot from him. We played piano duets together. I always felt that he treated me as an equal, not just a student. We had a great relationship. I think of him as a great mentor, a great teacher and a great friend.”

Looking to the future, Fr. Haugen is optimistic about his own calling and that of the Catholic Church. “This is indeed an exciting time in the church as Christ calls us to ever deeper discipleship and participation in His body, the church,” he said.

 
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