Fr Justin Intro

First of all, I am absolutely delighted to get to work as your new parish administrator in June! I officially got the news just before Easter and I still don’t quite believe it. It will obviously take a lot more than a single article for all of us to get to know one another, but this is as reasonable a place as any to get a few basics out of the way.

It is my jubilee year as of May 17, marking me as a priest of 10 years. I was an associate pastor for two years in Saint Francis Borgia in Cedarburg and then an associate pastor in Saint Frances Cabrini and Saint Mary’s in West Bend. I’ve spent the last six years as administrator of Sacred Heart in Horicon and Saint Matthew’s in Neosho.

My latest assignment was quite a change for me at the time: I went from four years of large suburban parishes to a rather small rural congregation. Therefore, I have gotten very skilled at blessing cows and very used to long driving times as a regular part of my work day.

Prior to my priestly years, I went to Beloit College (Beloit, Wisconsin) for my undergraduate degree in physics. Shortly after college (with the idea of priesthood becoming somewhat stronger in my head), I joined the Peace Corps and taught math and science in Burkina Faso, West Africa, from 2006 to 2008.

When I got back, I was ready for seminary and I applied to Saint Francis de Sales in Milwaukee for the 2009 fall semester. After my five-year priestly formation program, I was ordained in 2014.

For this coming assignment, I look forward to meeting a new church of people and ministering from “Square One,” so to speak. There is real delight in that, and I hope that Sunday Masses can be inspiring moments of your weekend. I also can’t wait to have a parish school as a part of my daily responsibilities, and I will be as active there (as well as in religious ed) as best as my schedule allows. I believe that being present to the parish’s youth is a key and essential responsibility of any priest.
In terms of personal needs, I am delighted to be closer to my family in Pewaukee. Once I get a place in town near the parish, I also look forward to cycling to work at least a couple of days per week during good weather.

These days, cycling is what I do for my health, and my default preference for my annual vacation is a 300-miles-or-so journey throughout two weeks. So far, I’ve done that in Puerto Rico, Spain, and New England. Frankly, it’s a very “Returned Peace Corps Volunteer” kind of vacation: it’s a very physically active and very cheap way to travel and see a new part of the world.

Coming into Saint Joseph’s will also be a new challenge for me, and I can’t really predict how those challenges will take form until I walk in the door. However, this will be my first experience being responsible for the administration of a school and I will have a lot to learn there. I hope my great love for Catholic education will somehow help me in that way.

It’s also worth mentioning that Horicon and Neosho amount to about half of Saint Joseph’s current membership. So for six years, I enjoyed a parish where I had a fairly easy time getting to know people and remembering names ... and even then I was hardly 100% successful. So please understand that I’m going to need to get used to a bigger parish as well as double the administrative needs coming to my desk.

In terms of my overall style, I am a moderate in most ways. I own and wear a cassock from time to time, but I won’t wear it every day and I don’t wear it for any reason other than the fact that it’s a valid uniform for priests. I lean a bit conservative when it comes to politics, with my strong Pro-Life stance being the lion’s share of that. I do my very best to obey the rules of the Church and Archdiocese, but I try not to get excessively bent out of shape if things do not go perfectly according to plan somehow.

Sunday homilies are ideally between eight to 10 minutes, as one strong clear lesson per Sunday is the best way to help people grow during that part of the Mass. I speak sloppy but passible Spanish and fairly decent Japanese, at least for a white guy who’s lived the majority of his life in Wisconsin. Japan is a country near and dear to my heart, so I practice the language for the enjoyment of it as well as for the sake of travel: I am fully aware that Japanese is not the most useful language for an American priest to have. Still, sometimes you gotta do what you love, even if it doesn’t pay out professionally!

Finally, and more than anything else, please know that I simply strive to be a good priest who deepens peoples’ relationship with Christ. I am profoundly thankful for the rich depth and beauty of our Catholic faith, and my only wish in life is nothing more nor less than to share and develop such faith with as many people as possible.
See you all in person in June!

- Father Justin Lopina