StarTrib: A youth movement in the priesthood

What is Minnesotans’ image of a Catholic priest in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis today? Many likely think of gray-haired men performing empty rituals for dwindling congregations in the shadow of the recent clergy sex-abuse scandal. They may imagine young men recoiling from the prospect of a life of “thou shalt nots,” leaving seminaries empty.

Folks with this view probably haven’t met the Rev. Andrew Brinkman, 29, assistant pastor of Nativity of Our Lord Church in St. Paul. As a boy, Brinkman dreamed of becoming a professional skateboarder and thought being a priest was “the scariest thing I’d ever heard of.” Today, he still rides his board weekly, doing “360 flips” while wearing his priest’s collar.

Or how about the Rev. Marcus Milless, 27, of All Saints Church in Lakeville? At 15, an acquaintance asked him to help with a child with a disability. “I was 4 foot 11, weighed 85 pounds and had a big mouth,” he says. His first thought was mercenary: “How much money could I make?” But over time, his work of feeding, bathing and caring for children with disabilities taught him the power of love and helped lead him to the priesthood.

Then there’s the Rev. Spencer Howe, 28, of St. John Neumann Church in Eagan. As an adolescent, he says, he was a rebel, searching for something on which to stake his life. On a trip to England at age 18, he was inspired by the English martyrs of the 16th century — priests who risked their lives to bring the sacraments to others in a hostile environment.

“I realized this was a lot more dramatic than I had thought — it was not ‘a church for grandmothers,’ but had a kind of fighting spirit,” he says. “Standing before a cathedral, looking up at that great edifice of faith, I recognized the call extended even to me.”
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