Pope Francis has appointed Fr. Michael John Izen, a Saint Paul Seminary alum, as auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis. Izen was officially ordained a bishop Tuesday at the Cathedral of St. Paul.
“It is with deep joy and gratitude to God that we celebrate the selection of Bishop-elect Izen as auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis,” seminary rector Fr. Joseph Taphorn said. “It is always edifying to watch the Holy Spirit move in the ministry of seminary alumni such as Fr. Izen, and we can’t wait to partner with him in forming more joyful, Catholic leaders for the local Church and beyond. It is clear Fr. Izen’s experience as a pastor and leader will bear great fruit for the faithful in our archdiocese. May the intercession of both St. Michael the Archangel and St. John Neumann guide Bishop-elect Izen as he prepares for his new role.”
Izen, 55, had served as the pastor at the churches of St. Michael and St. Mary in Stillwater, Minnesota. He was highly regarded as a humble and effective leader of the two parishes and St. Croix Catholic elementary school.
“As much as I would never have pursued this,” Izen said when his appointment was announced, “I would never say no to the Church.”
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A standing-room-only congregation at the Cathedral celebrated the ordination of a man who chose “Emmanuel, God with us” as his episcopal motto.
“I … can see that the Lord has long been preparing Fr. Izen to be Bishop Izen,” said Archbishop Bernard Hebda, who led the liturgy. “He has blessed him with extraordinary priestly gifts that are just what the doctor ordered for this archdiocese — gifts that I trust are going to blossom and develop in a new way with today’s ordination.”
After receiving his Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics and Computer Science from St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota in 1989, Izen worked for nine years at 3M technologies as a systems analyst. His brother, Paul — one of Izen’s five siblings, who helped present the gifts at Tuesday’s ordination Mass — also worked at 3M.
“I’m wondering if there could be a Post-it note on [Izen’s episcopal] coat of arms,” Hebda joked.
Said Archbishop Christoph Pierre, the pope’s apostolic nuncio the United States, with a grin: “I understand you have a background in mathematics and computer science, and yet I’m sure that you never calculated that you would become a bishop.
“This local Church rejoices to see one of its own parish priests raised to the fullness of the priesthood.”
It was during his time of work in the private sector that Izen felt a call to the priesthood and enrolled at The Saint Paul Seminary.
He was ordained in 2005 by Archbishop Harry Flynn alongside 14 other seminarian classmates. Izen is the 37th Saint Paul Seminary alum to be named a bishop.
“I was surprised, humbled, and a little terrified when I received the call from the Apostolic Nuncio informing me that Pope Francis had appointed me as an auxiliary bishop,” Izen said. “Archbishop Hebda has been very supportive and reassuring since I first received the news — very fatherly. I look forward to being an extension of him to our archdiocese, and serving and being present to the people of God.”
Bishop-elect Izen now leads the 12-county metro area alongside Hebda and Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Williams.
Williams and Izen entered The Saint Paul Seminary during the same year — 1998. Izen recalls being unsure of his vocation until a pivotal conversation with then-interim rector Bishop Frederick Campbell, followed by an overwhelming peace at his ordination to the transitional diaconate.
“I wish I could say there was this great experience of peace when I entered the seminary, but that didn’t happen right away,” Izen said. “My family will remember that. It’s like, ‘Oh, why does the Lord want me here?’ And really, the peace didn’t come until right up close to ordination during a conversation with Bishop Campbell, who was the interim rector, which was really significant for me. And then I think a month later I was ordained a transitional deacon. I would say since ordination, there’s been a good sense of peace.”
In December, Izen was with a fellow priest watching highlights from the Minnesota Vikings’ historic 33-point comeback win over the Indianapolis Colts when he received the call from Pierre.
“I thought … that maybe he was calling to get my input about another candidate for being a bishop,” Izen said. “It soon became clear that he doesn’t mince words. It’s right to the point. I asked … ‘what’s the protocol? Do I pray about this and then call you back?’ And [Pierre] said, ‘No, you say yes. And then you pray about it.’ So I said yes. And then the Viking highlights from that second-half comeback didn’t seem so important as we watched.”
After his priestly ordination, Izen served at Divine Mercy in Faribault until 2007, when he became pastor at Saint Timothy in Maple Lake. In February of 2012, he became pastor at Saint Raphael in Crystal, ministering there until 2015 when he was assigned to Stillwater.
Current seminarians Christopher Yanta, Alexander Marquette, Josh Gerads and Derek Gilde all served on the Cathedral altar Tuesday. Each one of them was an altar server for Izen at one of his previous parishes.
Deacon Wil Kratt, who grew up in Faribault when Izen was a priest there, and Deacon Dan Gannon, the director of the seminary’s Institute for Ongoing Clergy Formation, also helped celebrate Izen’s ordination.
Izen’s first words upon addressing the packed Cathedral, on the Tuesday in the Octave of Easter: “He is risen!”
“What better day could you asked for than to be ordained on an Easter day?” he said.