Saint Paul Seminary adds two new team members

elena zolnick brandon wanless saint paul seminary

A pair of new faces will begin forming the next generation of Catholic priests, deacons and lay leaders when the 2022-23 school year commences this fall.

The Saint Paul Seminary recently welcomed Elena T. Bird Zolnick as director of sacred music and Brandon Wanless as an instructor of dogmatic theology.

Zolnick has spent the past year as a private voice and group voice class instructor at the University of Minnesota. She is also the choir director at Maternity of Mary Catholic Church in St. Paul.

In 2017, Zolnick formed Magnificat, a small vocal ensemble that primarily performs sacred, a cappella works. She is currently pursuing her doctorate in voice and choral conducting at the University of Minnesota. Previously, she studied at St. Olaf College and Colorado University for her undergraduate degree in voice performance and holds a Master of Music degree in voice performance from Florida State University.

Prior to her doctoral studies, Zolnick sang professionally around the United States while maintaining a private voice studio and rediscovered her love for choral singing and conducting through sacred music.

“We couldn’t be more pleased to welcome Elena to our team to enhance our liturgies and provide sacred music formation for our seminarians,” said seminary Rector Fr. Joseph Taphorn. “She is a vibrant choral conductor with an ear for excellence and an easy-going demeanor. She is also passionate for the Catholic faith and is eager to help form the Church’s future priests.”

Wanless returns to The Saint Paul Seminary after earning his Master of Arts in Theology there in 2015. He spent three years as an adjunct professor at Ave Maria University, Florida (2016-2018), and the past five years as an upper school theology teacher at St. Agnes School in St. Paul.

Wanless has organized and delivered numerous lectures and presentations. He has written also on everything from St. Thomas Aquinas’ reflections on the virtue of justice to the Blessed Mother’s place throughout salvation history. Much of his work features St. Thomas Aquinas, one of the patrons on the seminary and university campus.

“It is a great joy to welcome back a former student, but now as a member of our faculty,” Taphorn said.

Wanless is a founding member of the Sacra Doctrina Project and received a Young Scholar’s Award from the American Catholic Philosophical Association in 2016. He is also a member of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars and the American Academy of Religion.

He received his B.A. in philosophy from St. Mary’s University in Winona and has completed his coursework and thesis for his Ph.D. in theology from Ave Maria University. He hopes to defend the dissertation and officially earn the doctorate this fall, at which time he will receive the rank of assistant professor.

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