Like father, (kind of) like son: Family’s vocational path overlaps at St. Paul Seminary

Early in Father Joseph Taphorn’s tenure as seminary rector, he asked a group of ordained and lay leaders to answer the question, “What is the purpose of The Saint Paul Seminary?” The result was a new mission statement: The Saint Paul Seminary’s mission is to provide integrated, Catholic formation for those called to serve as priests, deacons or lay leaders in their local Church.

It is as if that very statement was written for the Utecht family from Hastings, Minnesota.

John Utecht, son of Joe and Margaret, is a seminarian in formation for the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis. John’s father, Joe, was ordained a permanent deacon for the same diocese in December 2019.

catholic deacon joe utecht smiles at his wife, margaret. there are green pine trees in the background
Deacon Joe Utecht and his wife, Margaret.

John’s mother, Margaret, has served their home parishes throughout the diocese for nearly 30 years as a cantor, children’s choir director, and faith formation instructor. For the past four years, this mother of five also participated in the seminary’s formation program for deacons’ wives. She’s also a receptionist at NET Ministries, a St. Paul-based nonprofit that engages young Catholics.

With quiet yet profound belief, this faith-filled trifecta lives into the mission of the seminary and shares it with everyone around them.

“I briefly considered life in a religious order but decided I could make an impact on people by walking with them as a diocesan priest,” John said. “I want to be there for them as they receive the sacraments and help meet their spiritual needs. This is what the seminary is preparing me for.”

“People should be proud of our seminary. It is something to be treasured.”

— Margaret Utecht

Deacon Joe, a professional counselor during the week, puts his seminary formation to work on the weekends at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church in St. Paul Park, his first parish assignment.

“I am still overwhelmed when I think about all of the holy men and women who came before me at the seminary,” he says. “My brother deacons and I had this ‘great cloud of witnesses’ watching over us during our formation. I pray they will follow us wherever we go.”

seminarian john utecht plays with children during a mission trip.
Seminarian John Utecht on a recent mission trip.

Margaret, who witnessed her husband’s ordination two years ago, gets tears in her eyes when she thinks about her son’s future ordination to the priesthood.

“People should be proud of our seminary,” she says. “It is something to be treasured.”

All three Utechts are humbled and amazed by those who have made their shared yet distinct paths possible at The Saint Paul Seminary.

“Complete strangers give so I can go to class, pray and be formed at The Saint Paul Seminary,” John said. “Their gifts shape the future of our Church.”

Scroll to Top