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Pope Francis names new auxiliary bishop for St. Paul-Minneapolis Archdiocese

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Father Michael John Izen has served the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis as a priest for almost 18 years, and Pope Francis has decided he will be the archdiocese’s next auxiliary bishop.

“I was surprised, humbled, and a little terrified when I received the call from the apostolic nuncio informing me that Pope Francis had appointed me as an auxiliary bishop,” the bishop-designate said Thursday.

Izen, 55, said that Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda of St. Paul and Minneapolis has been “very supportive and reassuring” and “very fatherly” since he was informed of the decision.

“I look forward to being an extension of him to our archdiocese, and serving and being present to the people of God,” Izen said.

Hebda praised the appointment, saying, “It is with deep gratitude to Pope Francis and Christmas joy that I welcome the wonderful news of the appointment of Bishop-elect Michael Izen as an auxiliary bishop of this archdiocese.”

“The priests and faithful of the archdiocese should be honored that once again the Holy Father has chosen a priest of this local Church to serve as a successor of the apostles.”

He praised the bishop-designate as “a generous and capable pastor with a great love for Christ and for his sheep.”

“I have particularly admired his ability to collaborate effectively with brother priests, religious sisters, and lay leadership in advancing the work of the Church,” Hebda added. “His impressive natural gifts all suggest that the Lord has long been preparing him to serve as a bishop.”

“I am confident that the archdiocese will benefit greatly from his leadership and experience, and I personally look forward to working with him more closely as he begins this new ministry,” said Hebda, who encouraged the faithful to pray for the bishop-to-be.

Izen is scheduled to be ordained a bishop on April 11 at the Cathedral of St. Paul.

Izen currently has several roles in the archdiocese. He is pastor of the Churches of St. Michael and St. Mary in Stillwater, Minnesota, a city on the Wisconsin border on the east side of the Twin Cities metro area. He is the parochial administrator of the Church of St. Charles in nearby Bayport and the canonical administrator of Stillwater’s St. Croix Catholic school.

He was born Jan. 12, 1967, in Fairmont, Minnesota, more than 100 miles southwest of the Twin Cities, in the Diocese of Winona-Rochester. He was the youngest of six children of John and JoAnna Izen.

Several Izen family members attended a Jan. 6 press conference with Hebda and Izen, where the bishop-designate praised his late parents’ examples of love and holiness.

“Just seeing them love each other, and — being the youngest — I got to see that in my last few years of high school when I was the only one in the house: how much my dad loved my mom and my mom loved my dad,” he said.

His father lacked a college education but was a reader of Thomas à Kempis’ ”The Imitation of Christ” and the autobiography of St. John XXIII. His mother was “very devotional,” and dedicated to the Mass and the family rosary.

Izen described himself as an introvert, a tendency which the pastor at his first assignment as a priest deliberately sought to counter.

“I remember he told me at coffee and donuts once, he said: ‘Izen, you have to go say ‘hi’ to every table before you sit down and have a donut.’ And so I still do that today,” the bishop-designate recounted.

Izen said he had never viewed himself as a bishop, but he also realized “that I would never say ‘no’ to the Church.”

Izen grew up in Fairmont and attended St. John Vianney grade school and Fairmont High School, from which he graduated in 1985. He earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and computer science at St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota. After working for nine years as a systems analyst for 3M, he decided to discern a vocation to the priesthood. He earned a master’s of divinity at the St. Paul Seminary in St. Paul and was ordained a priest on May 28, 2005, by Archbishop Harry J. Flynn.

Following ordination, he served at Divine Mercy Catholic Church in Faribault until 2007, when he became pastor at St. Timothy in Maple Lake. Five years later, he became pastor at St. Raphael in Crystal, where he served until 2015, when he was assigned to Stillwater. He has also worked in Hispanic ministry and post-abortion outreach.

The archdiocese covers 12 counties of eastern Minnesota. There are about 750,000 Catholics in the archdiocese out of a total population of 3.5 million.

Another priest of the archdiocese, Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Williams, was ordained to serve the archdiocese in January 2022.

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Pope Francis names new auxiliary bishop for St. Paul-Minneapolis Archdiocese