New diaconate formation leader to take over at The Saint Paul Seminary

deacon eric cooley deacon joe michalak
Deacon Eric Cooley will take over for Deacon Joe Michalak, longtime director of The Saint Paul Seminary’s Institute for Ongoing Clergy Formation, effective July 1.

The Saint Paul Seminary today formally announces that, after 23 years, director of the Institute for Diaconate Formation Deacon Joseph Michalak has accepted a new leadership position with the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis at the request of Archbishop Bernard Hebda. Michalak has already begun his work as the archdiocese’s new director of the office of synod evangelization.

He will assume this role full-time starting July 1 of this year. At that same time, Deacon Eric Cooley will officially take over as director of the seminary’s Institute for Diaconate Formation.

“We look forward to partnering with Deacon Michalak as the archdiocese continues to implement its synodal priorities,” said seminary Rector Fr. Joseph Taphorn, “and we can’t wait to see how Deacon Cooley and his team build on the already-strong foundation of our diaconate formation program.”

Michalak obtained his Master of Arts in Theology degree from The Saint Paul Seminary in 1996. In 2001, he assumed responsibilities as director of deacon formation for the archdiocese, which later became the seminary’s Institute for Diaconate Formation.

He also served on the board of directors for the National Association of Diaconate Directors from 2005-2011 and again from 2020-2022. He helped design and continues to teach in the NADD’s National Directors’ Institute.

In addition to his teaching and pastoral work in deacon formation, Michalak has been one of the main instructors in the seminary’s Catechetical Institute since its inception in 2008, serves on its advisory board, and, with Bishop Andrew Cozzens, designed the institute’s School of Prayer.

Ordained in 2010, Michalak has preached retreats or taught in deacon formation in about 50 dioceses through the United States, Canada, Ireland and Northern Ireland, is a consultant for other dioceses, is a regular speaker at conferences and in the archdiocese and writes a column on the interior life for the journal The Deacon.

Cooley, meanwhile joined The Saint Paul Seminary in July as associate director of the Institute for Diaconate Formation, managing the institute’s day-to-day affairs. He brings extensive service and pastoral experience with him, having previously worked as the director of pastoral care in a parish for 9 years and, prior to that, in the senior care industry for a decade.

Ordained in 2019, Cooley is also assigned to the Church of St. Peter in North St. Paul. He, his wife Sarah and their four children live in Oakdale.

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