A new calling for Father Mader of St. Ambrose
St. Ambrose of Woodbury is quite a bit different than the parishes the Rev. Father Stan Mader has been serving for the past six years.
More or less, all three churches combined have about 500 fewer seats available than the sanctuary of Woodbury’s Catholic church. And the size of the congregation is easily the largest he has ever had — or likely, will ever have — the opportunity to lead.
Mader started his new assignment on July 1. He comes to Woodbury from three small churches in southern Dakota County — St. John the Baptist in Vermillion, St. Mary’s Church in New Trier, and St. Mathias Church in Hampton.
The fields that surround St. Ambrose are a nice point of transition for Mader, who was born and raised on a farm in St. Bonifacius, Minn.
He didn’t set out to be a priest. He grew up in the Catholic faith, but originally sought an education in mathematics from St. John’s University. After graduating, he took a job as a systems software specialist in computer data communications.
“And then,” he said, “the most logical next step is to go into the seminary.”
Mader started thinking about becoming a priest back when he was 17, but the idea, at the time, seemed far fetched. Like more of a commitment than he could make at that young age. But age, it has a way of putting things into perspective. Soon, he decided computers would have to wait — he had a bigger calling in this life.
“I learned that commitment didn’t have to be a drudgery. Commitment could be a great thing in life,” he said.
He applied for seminary and was accepted by the Archdiocese of St. Paul. Four years later, in 1992, he was ordained. He spent two years in Hopkins, the four years working in the co-vocation office at the Archdiocese and serving St. Mark’s parish in St. Paul on a part-time basis. From there, he was called to Our Lady of the Lake in Mound, where he spent 11 years. His last six years were at the three parishes in Dakota County.
There is a stark difference, and an exciting challenge, that comes along with moving from three small parishes to one of the largest parishes in the Archdiocese of St. Paul, with about 12,500 members.
“The challenge will be, how do you pastor this many people?” Mader said. “As more building goes on around here, this will probably become one of the very largest (parishes) in the archdiocese.”
While a box of cards and letters from members of his former parishes sits on his desk, Mader is gradually getting settled in at his new home. He took all four masses on his first weekend at St. Ambrose — which was also the Fourth of July weekend, so attendance was down a bit — and planned to do the same in his second weekend.
St. Ambrose is a young parish, compared to where he had been in the past. He’s learned that this year, there were about 230 children who took their first communion at St. Ambrose, and another 275 of the congregation’s members graduated from high school.
He received the call to go to St. Ambrose just before Easter. It did not take him long to answer the question of whether or not he should make the move.
“The archbishop asked me, ‘Where are you going to spend the next 12 years?’ Basically, this is the rest of my full-time ministry,” he said. “It’s like saying, ‘I do.’”
The introduction to St. Ambrose is made easier by the fact that Mader and the Rev. Father Thomas Walker, who is leaving the parish, have known each other since their college days at St. John’s. The two have stayed touch over the years, so Mader was familiar with St. Ambrose before even coming to Woodbury.
“I’m excited to be here. It’s a lovely place. It very much has a feeling of being a church, rather than being a stadium, like you see in some larger ones. There’s a lot of energy, a lot of faith,” he said.
He’s also looking forward to working with a large, professional staff.
“There’s a lot of joy around here. A lot of excitement for what’s going on,” he said.
Behind the collar
Mader is an avid baseball fan. So much so, he plays on an over-50 league, and has participated in the Minnesota Twins Fantasy Camp on several occasions. Through that, he’s also made the acquaintance of several Twins players.
“I love everything about the game,” he said. “I will be 60 next year, but I’m still playing baseball.”
He’s fond of traveling, too. He’s been to 48 of the 50 states, and to 22 different countries. He’s visited the Holy Land seven times, and led tour groups through Italy and Germany.
An admitted bookworm, Mader loves to read. He especially loves history, but he’s fond of books on literature, poetry, science, baseball and “religious stuff.”
The third of seven children, he has 16 nieces and nephews, 67 first cousins and, he said, “an untold number of second cousins, I’m guessing somewhere around 400.”