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Closing of Perham church; merger with larger Catholic church inspires meetings

"Becoming One in the Spirit" will be the theme of a series of presentations and discussions, as St. Henry's and St. Stanislaus churches prepare to merge.

A highly sought after pastor and speaker, the Rev. Tim Nolan will lead the discussions, set March 1-4 at St. Henry's.

Nolan's visit was prompted, in large part, after the recent announcement that the diocese will close St. Stanislaus, and the parish will be absorbed into St. Henry's.

The sessions will provide an opportunity to reflect on the spiritual mission of the churches as they combine and move forward.

Parish mission events

at St. Henry's Church

Nightly, 7 to 8:30 p.m.

March 1: What is God's

plan for me?

March 2: Receiving God's love

March 3: Obstacles that prevent

the experience of God's love

March 4: Mass: Receive the

Holy Spirit

It wasn't a great surprise for most parishioners when St. Cloud Bishop John F. Kinney informed the congregation in January that the 133-year-old St. Stanislaus would be closed. Still, is was disheartening for longtime members--many of whom were descendants of the Polish immigrants who helped found the St. Stanislaus mission in 1876.

"I think most people are at peace with the decision, but I'm sure there is sadness as well," commented St. Henry's parishioner Trudy Swanson, who was a part of Rev. Nolan's Church of St. Paul parish when her family lived in Ham Lake. Swanson played an instrumental role in bringing Nolan to Perham for the "Becoming One with the Spirit " series.

"We are moving into who and what are we going to be as a Catholic community," she added.

Much of Nolans's message and the related discussions will be of universal interest, so the general public is also invited to attend, noted Swanson.

Nolan was priest at the Ham Lake church for 23 years. He has since retired, and is living at a hermitage retreat center in Isanti, where he serves as spiritual director.

Local pastor, Rev. Joe Herzing, will be welcoming Nolan at the sessions. Herzing will have the challenge of bringing St. Stan's and St. Henry's congregations together over the next year.

"We're hoping for a unity of spirit... not that there is disunity now, but we feel Father Nolan will help bring us together for what God has in store for us in the future."

The stately brick building, which will now be closed, was constructed in 1922. Reportedly, there are plans in the works to preserve the building.

"It is with sadness that I am officially announcing the closing of Saint Stanislaus Parish in Perham," wrote Bishop Kinney, St. Cloud diocese, in a January letter to parishioners. "I ask the two current parishes to select a new name for the newly formed parish. I will leave the actual date of the closure to your pastor, trustees and parish pastoral council."

Perham is perhaps one of the last towns, of its size, in the state that has supported two separate Catholic churches.

"The Bishop gives us a parish and as a community quite a bit of room to work to settle these questions," wrote Rev. Joseph Herzing, in a letter that accompanied the letter from the bishop. "We recognize the questions of what do we do with the church building, how do we memorialize what has been such a presence in our lives, when and how should be celebrate a closing mass, how do we move toward working together with St. Henry's? These questions and others are yet to be decided and call us to work on them."

From March 1-4, Rev. Nolan may help members of the two congregations begin working on answers to those questions.

Father Nolan was ordained in 1967 for the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis. Over the years, he has served as Chaplain at Benilde High School, Spiritual Director at Saint John Vianney Seminary, Archbishop's Liaison to the Charismatic Renewal and founding pastor of the Church of Saint Paul in Ham Lake. He retired in 2004 after 23 years as pastor of the Church of Saint Paul, which can be described as an alive, Spirit-filled parish in the spirit of Vatican II.

He now resides at Pacem in Terris, a Hermitage Retreat Center, where he has joined the staff and ministers to hermit/guest/retreatants. He has conducted numerous retreats in the USA and abroad.