Saint Paul Seminary director of pastoral formation retires after 44 years of priesthood

fr michael skluzacek saint paul seminary
Fr. Michael Skluzáček, left, smiles with seminarians Deacon Timothy Welch, Deacon Jordan Danielson and Deacon Benjamin Peters at their transitional diaconate ordination for the Diocese of Winona-Rochester.

Until recently, Fr. Michael Skluzáček kept an office in The Saint Paul Seminary administrative wing with a handful of small, wooden ducks on the desk.

They’re an homage to his upbringing on a dairy farm six miles outside of Lonsdale, Minnesota — a town of less than 5,000 on the outer edge of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Among other duties, Skluzáček was the designated keeper of his family’s ducks.

“I’m a farm boy,” said Skluzáček, who will officially retire from active ministry this summer, “but I’ve been in city parishes my whole life.”

It’s why the priest of 44 years brought such a trove of experience to his role as the seminary’s director of pastoral formation the past five years. Skluzáček called it a fitting final stop of his career, though he’s quick to point out he’s “not retiring from being a priest.”

His seminary job description was essentially an introduction to all aspects of leading a parish, from administering sacraments to building out an office staff to handling the financials and human resources.

One unique component of The Saint Paul Seminary’s pastoral formation work is its teaching parish program, which puts seminarians in a parish setting once a week where they can earn hands-on ministerial experience.

The program has grown in size and scope since Skluzáček joined the seminary in 2019. Before that, he led three parishes: St. Michael’s in Stillwater for 12 years, the Cathedral of St. Paul for three, then St. John the Baptist in New Brighton for 13.

Retirement will allow him to spend more time hearing confessions and ministering to everyday Catholics, perhaps the things he’s missed most while serving at the seminary. He has plans to travel to France and hear confessions at the Our Lady of Lourdes shrine, and to minister in rural Minnesota areas similar to the one in which he grew up. Skluzáček also hopes to spend more time on the water; his desk also contained a miniature kayak similar to the real one he takes to local lakes and rivers whenever he can.

No word yet on whether he’ll be able to get a duck pond installed at the Leo C. Byrne Residence for retired priests next to the seminary, where he’ll start living this summer.

“I’m going to miss this place,” said Skluzáček, who will be succeeded by new director of pastoral formation Fr. Brian Gross of the Diocese of Bismarck, “but I’ll be close by.”

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