The Church of Saint Agnes: My Spiritual Home

19 Jun

Saint Agnes Church - Saint Paul

Everyone has a place that’s their spiritual home: a church, synagogue, mosque, dojo, yoga center, bedroom, closet, wherever. For me and my family, that spiritual home is the Church of Saint Agnes in the Frogtown neighborhood of Saint Paul. I’ve received all my sacraments there, as has our son (only baptism so far), and truly feel at peace when praying or participating in the space. To me it is holy, magical, sacred, beautiful, reverent, and most importantly, God’s house.


I’ll start with the logistics of the church and then move to my particular attachment to it.

Clergy: Father John Ubel is the pastor with three other priests in residence: Father John Paul Erickson, Father James McConville, and Father Timothy Cloutier. We also have three deacons: Deacon Harold Hughesdon, Deacon Bernard Pedersen, and Deacon Nathan Allen.

Mass: Sunday mass times: anticipatory on Saturday 5:15pm, 6:30, 8:30, 10am, and noon. Weekday masses: 8am M-Sat, 5:15pm MWF.

Confession: Two different time slots on Saturdays, 3:30-5pm and 7:30-9pm, as well as the first, third, and fifth Tuesday night circa 7:45pm.

To give you a brief historical overview, the church is over 100 years old and was built primarily by the German and Austro-Hungarian immigrants who lived in the neighborhood. The baroque style is modeled after the abbey church in Kloster Schlagl, a monastery in upper Austria. Unique features are its oxidized copper onion-shaped bell tower, its enormous statues of Saints Peter and Paul in the sanctuary, and its beautiful side altars dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph, on either side of the main sanctuary. There are several chapels as well: a lower level chapel, a back chapel on the main floor with a beautiful altar dedicated to Our Lady. I was baptized in the font at the back, as were our children!

The chandeliers are from the old State Capital, and the ceiling dome boasts beautiful artwork of Saint Agnes being welcomed into Heaven by Christ. The gold leaf adorning the ceiling was redone in the 80’s (I remember because slivers fell to the floor and we got to collect them!), and the stained glass windows are to die for. The choir loft and organ are large as well, and the lower level is complete with a large assembly room (Schuler Hall) as well as a kitchen, restrooms, and bride’s room.

What’s unusual about our church? The liturgy. We are one of the ONLY churches in the world where Haydn, Bach, and Beethoven masses are performed with members of the Minnesota Orchestra and Twin Cities Catholic Chorale. The exception is during Lent and the summer months, at which time you get the treat of the Gregorian Chant Schola (my dad’s been a member since forever). Have you ever experienced an orchestral mass? Did I mention that the mass is in Latin at the 10am mass? And that every other week, it’s the Extraordinary Form? This isn’t your normal mass. And it is all accomplished in under two hours. You don’t have to be Catholic or even spiritual to appreciate the beauty of the High Mass.

Saint Agnes Church - Saint Paul

What’s the kernel of our church that has kept me coming back all these years, now as a parishioner? The reverence. The verticality of it. The peace. The sense of quiet reflection. It’s a church where we kneel for communion at the communion rail, where you see all ages & family sizes (especially the larger families!), and where the focus is all on God. The mass is truly a reenactment of Calvary in that it’s the sacrifice of the mass. It’s a church where people from many walks of life, faith, and the spectrum of Catholicism are welcome. I feel spiritually replenished when I’m there.

Yes, there are lots of community groups to join, yes there’s a vibrant and booming coffee & donuts replete with children running around, yes there’s a role for everyone who wants to become involved. But you don’t have to be involved in the social aspect, and no one will be pressuring you at the back of church to become so.

It’s been my spiritual home for decades, and we plan to stay here with our children. After every mass, both my husband and I remark on our appreciation for Saint Agnes on our way to the car. Having lived in other states (and countries), there’s just no place like your spiritual home.

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-Nell Alt

3 Responses to “The Church of Saint Agnes: My Spiritual Home”

  1. Molly June 28, 2012 at 6:40 pm #

    I love the idea that a space can contain a spiritual presence, even though God is all around us always. Clearly St.Agnes is a special place, one where the hush has a vibrancy and the candles an energy that brings joy to a prayerful soul.


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