Wednesday, January 2, 2008

New Catholic faith community forming in Northern Minnesota Lakes Area in Duluth Diocese

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A new Catholic faith community is being formed just north of Baxter, meaning changes are in store for existing churches in Nisswa, Pequot Lakes and Pine River.

Those changes won't include one megachurch or any church closings, said Deacon Mike Knuth of Pequot Lakes.

"It was evident in our studies that we will need all existing parishes," Knuth said, because demographers predict a tremendous influx of people in the lakes area.

Rather, the six parishes in the Southern Brainerd Deanery will be reclustered, and the deanery will gain a priest.

The new parish, which likely will draw most of its people from Brainerd, Baxter and Nisswa, will become the central cluster with St. Christopher's Catholic Church in Nisswa.

The northern cluster will be St. Alice Catholic Church in Pequot Lakes and Our Lady of Lourdes in Pine River. St. Alice may undergo an expansion in the future.

Currently, the Nisswa, Pequot Lakes and Pine River churches are clustered. Father George Zeck is pastor and Father Bruce Engen is associate pastor of that cluster.

The southern cluster will include St. Francis, St. Andrew's and St. Mathias Catholic churches.

A seventh area Catholic church, St. Thomas of the Pines at Madden's Resort in East Gull Lake, is a seasonal, mission church of St. Francis.

Regarding the new faith community that will be formed, Bishop Dennis Schnurr is expected to assign a priest in the next year.

"We're going to need another priest to help meet the growing population needs," Knuth said, noting demographers predict that by 2030, the lakes area population will equal that of Duluth.

"That's a lot of people," Knuth said, noting demographic studies predict tremendous growth up the Highway 371 corridor, as well as east into the Pelican Lake area and north of Pine River into Backus.

The Catholic Diocese of Duluth owns a 57-acre parcel of land a mile off Highway 371 on Barbeau Road just north of Baxter. However, Knuth said it's unkown whether a new church would be built there, or the land sold to buy elsewhere.

That will be up to the new faith community to decide, he said, though it appears to be the most feasible location between Brainerd-Baxter and Nisswa-Pequot Lakes.

Parishioners from all six parishes will be invited to start the new faith community.

Knuth said that within 10-15 years of a major exodus of people, demographics show those parishes will be where they're at now in terms of parishioners and growing.

The timeline for the new parish, which is one of 10 recommendations Bishop Dennis Schnurr approved for the Southern Brainerd Deanery, is as follows:

  • By September, an advisory council with representation from the six parishes will be established, and the deanery will begin the formation of leadership for the new parish.

  • By next July, the new parish is expected to be incorporated and the surrounding parishes will be preparing to set the new leadership model into effect.

  • By July 2009, the balance of the recommendations will begin to be implemented. It is expected that well before July 2009 a new pastor will be assigned.

  • By July 2010, the recommendations are expected to be fully implemented.

    It's unknown when a new church will be built. That will depend on how the people come together and how they raise money.

    "How, as a Catholic community, are we gong to help a sister church get started in order to help meet the needs of all of us?" Knuth asked, noting the next step in the process is determining how to do this.

    "There are challenging, but exciting times ahead, but it's inevitable because we're all facing change with the population coming in," he said. Pine and Lakes.com August 2007


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