What a great joy it is to be assigned to Our Lady of Grace by Archbishop Hebda! You’ve all made me feel so welcome, and I immediately feel at home! Father Marc left some VERY big shoes to fill, and I hope I can be half the priest he is! Last weekend at the receptions after Mass, I met so many great people. I am impressed with your commitment to your faith, and I admire your willingness to make this community vibrant and thriving. It seems there is something for everyone at OLG!
Many people have asked me about my past, and so I’d like to share a little with you. I grew up just outside Austin Minnesota. I moved to Minneapolis in 2000 and worked as the Director of Information Technologies at a wholesale distributor for 10 years, before quitting my job and entering the Saint Paul Seminary on the campus of the University of Saint Thomas. I had a great deal of fun at work, and loved my job. My role included duties in strategic planning, staff management, budgeting, business analysis, data management, and software development. While I was fulfilled in my job, I did sense a lacking and desire to work in more of a “helping” profession. Working with numbers and computers, wasn’t as rewarding. I felt God calling me to the priesthood, but I was unsure. Before entering seminary, I lived with Father Michael Skluzachek at Saint John the Baptist in New Brighton MN to get an inside-view of the priesthood. Every step in my seminary formation continued to confirm my vocation. God has given me an amazing gift in the priesthood, and I’m so thankful for Him placing me here with you all!
I’ve now been ordained four weeks, and been here at OLG for just over a week. All I can say is that being a priest is amazing! I’ve run the gamut – funerals, anointings, a wedding, many baptisms, countless Masses – and I’ve loved every minute of it! Every day I feel like I’ve poured myself out in service, yet filled up with grace and blessing. God blesses and sanctifies me every day through all of you. Please know of my great care for you, and my daily prayers. I look forward to getting to know you all more in the coming years!
Father Neil Bakker