Meet Janet Gould, the woman who spent nearly four decades helping Saint Paul Seminary rectors keep their heads on straight

janet gould saint paul seminary
Janet Gould, 2022 Saint Paul Seminary Distinguished Alumni Award recipient

Almost 40 years. Five rectors. Close to 500 ordinations.

Former administrative assistant to the rector Janet Gould saw just about everything while working at the seminary from 1984-2022. Whether it was preparing for the next Board of Trustees meeting or making sure the rector’s — think seminary president/CEO — calendar was up to date, Gould played a crucial role in making The Saint Paul Seminary what it is today. She quickly became known throughout the community as an extremely reliable, trustworthy, service-oriented steward of the seminary’s mission.

After serving rectors Fr. Charles Froehle, Fr. Phillip Rask, Fr. Frederick Campbell, Msgr. Aloysius Callaghan and, most recently, Fr. Joseph Taphorn, Gould retired in the summer of 2022. For her contributions, she is the first staff member to receive The Saint Paul Seminary Distinguished Alumni Award.

NOTE: This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

When you look back on your time here, what stands out? What are you most proud of?

It’s always the people, working with people for a common goal — to educate people for service in the Church. Being there as long as I was, it’s like different eras of people too. I’m still in touch with people I met when I first got there, which I think is pretty special.

What’s it like watching hundreds of men discern the priesthood?

It’s amazing. I looked back and did the math, and it’s close to about 500 priests who were ordained. Isn’t that something? I don’t know what to say more than “amazing.” I’m really proud to have been at least a small part of it.

Let’s go back to the beginning. Where did you grow up, go to school, etc., and how did you first come to the seminary?

I grew up in South Minneapolis and attended Washburn High School, then vocational technical school after that, then started working. My first full-time job was at St. Olaf Catholic Church in downtown Minneapolis. And how I ended up at the seminary was actually because of Fr. Pat Kennedy; I met him at St. Olaf, and he was associate pastor there — that’s what they were called in those days — and then he got his first assignment at the seminary, which was dean of students. He knew there were a couple of job openings there, and he knew I was working part time, so he encouraged me to apply at the seminary. My first thought was, “What the heck is that and where is it?” Of course, I knew what it was, but St. Paul was foreign to me; I was a Minneapolis girl all the way.

What inspired you to stay in one place for so long?

Well, obviously, I like routine. I honestly think, too, even when there was the turnover of staff and even rectors, for that matter, every time a new person came in it was like a new beginning. And I think it’s also just the stick-to-itiveness I have. I liked what I was doing, and it was conveniently located just 10 minutes away from my home. That played a part, too.

How would you describe the nature of your work?

It was basically just … tending to all the day-to-day tasks of running an office. I’m a planner. I’m someone who looks ahead and sees what needs to be done next.

How has the seminary changed during your time here?

It’s gotten so much bigger — not even just in terms of numbers of students, but all the different institutes and different areas of study. And now they’re adding counseling services; we were just doing more and more all the time.

What does it mean to be recognized as a distinguished honorary alumni of the seminary?

I’m very proud of it. I’m delighted that I lasted that long and enjoyed it for all that time. Now it’s time for somebody new to take over.

What are you doing with your time that you’re retired?

I don’t know what I’ve been doing with my time, but somehow, I’ve been busy every week. Right now, I’m dog sitting. Right now, there’s a pug sitting with me. But there are no particular plans right now; with the weather being so nice, I’m just trying to get out enjoy yard and enjoy the yard and spend time that way.

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