There are more than 17,000 Catholic parishes across the United States, but it’s difficult to imagine many of those being as tight-knit as St. Thomas More Catholic Community in St. Paul, Minnesota. Just from its name, St. Thomas More stands out—the Jesuit church and school aren’t two separate entities; they form a community founded on relationships, a commitment to justice, and a shared love for their brothers and sisters in Christ.
St. Thomas More is home to both the only Jesuit elementary school and the only Jesuit parish in the state of Minnesota, and the community is led by pastor Fr. Warren Sazama, SJ, and associate pastor Fr. R. J. Fichtinger, SJ. Working alongside the school’s principal, Patrick Lofton, these Jesuits strongly believe in walking alongside others on their faith journeys. St. Thomas More devotes time and resources to engaging their parishioners, with efforts like “Donut Sunday,” the young adult ministry, and the STM Free Store.
Donut Sunday is popular among parishioners as it allows them to connect with new faces sitting beside them in the pews. After every Mass, Fr. Sazama challenges people to talk to someone new and is quick to remind them, “Don’t cheat!” Parishioners and visitors alike appreciate the welcoming and inclusive environment. Lofton says, “When we talk about community, it is rooted in relationships, and [those] relationships are built and fostered over many years.”
Leading such an engaged, unified group may seem like a daunting task, but for Fr. Sazama, it’s a passion project, as he believes having strong parish ministry is “where the rubber hits the road.”
Father Fichtinger spearheads the young adult ministry, which is committed to serving those in all stages of young adulthood, with a diverse group that includes doctors, lawyers, young parents, and graduate students, who come together to share their love for God and one another. One active member of the young adult ministry is Jessica Miller, a self-described “cradle Catholic,” who spent months looking for a parish community where she and her son felt truly welcome. After her first experience at St. Thomas More, Miller thought to herself, “These people get me; this is our home.”
The sense of community is not limited to just the official parishioners; St. Thomas More does extensive outreach to the marginalized, including owning the Holy Family Apartment, which provides shelter to those who may be threatened by deportation. The community provides companionship, food, and clothing to residents of the apartment. Additionally, the STM Free Store, which is run by parish volunteers, connects the church with the wider St. Paul community and provides clothing and toiletries to those in need.
Given this wide range of ministries, St. Thomas More has outgrown their facilities, prompting prolific fundraiser Fr. Sazama to launch a capital campaign to cover much- needed updates to the church and school buildings. This includes improving accessibility and infrastructure and creating a new parish center for gathering and hosting ministry programs.
The parish’s ministry continues beyond Minnesota borders with a sister parish, St. Francis Xavier Parish in the Kohima region of India. The two parishes are committed to maintaining a strong and supportive relationship. For example, St. Thomas More plans to donate $10,000 from its capital campaign to help St. Francis Xavier construct a new church building.
The future of St. Thomas More Catholic Community is bright, with a steadily increasing membership, exciting developments, and meaningful new relationships being formed regularly. Lofton looks forward to the completion of the renovations and ongoing projects and the continuation of the community’s growth, saying, “We’re trying to build the Kingdom of God right here and now at 1065 and 1079 Summit Avenue.”
David Hart is an intern for the
Midwest Jesuits and a senior at
Loyola University Chicago, where
he is majoring in advertising and
Joe Whittle is a former intern
for the Midwest Jesuits and a
graduate of Loyola University Chicago. This fall, he will start
graduate school on full scholarship
at the University of Cincinnati.