The Spirit of St. Stephen's Catholic Community dates itself to the doctrinal and pastoral changes of Vatican Council II as they impacted the Church of St. Stephen, an urban parish on the southern edge of downtown Minneapolis, MN.
In the 1960's the then 80-year old parish was devastated by the removal of twenty-five blocks of housing for the construction of two intersecting, interstate freeways within the parish boundaries (I-94 and I-35W). The parish quickly became an inner city parish with multiple challenges.
Members of the parish were buoyed by the reforms of the Catholic Church's Vatican Council II in the early 1960's. The Council lifted up the dignity and role of all the baptized in the Priesthood of Jesus. It defined the Church as “The People of God” and mandated a deepened social engagement of the Church in the struggles of the human family.
These reforms gave members of St. Stephen's parish a new euphoria and the energy to evolve both its public prayer life, especially in the celebration of the Eucharist, as well as its deepening involvement in addressing the problems of poor people in the neighborhood. The one fed the other. The social ministry of the parish flowed out from and back into the joyful celebration of the Sunday Eucharist with a heightened role of the people of God.
In 1968 St. Stephen's parish reinvented itself by more intentionally reaching out to its new neighbors, the urban poor, in both its liturgical life and pastoral outreach. The celebration of Mass gave greater respect for and participation by the baptized, in recognition of the Church's teaching on the priesthood of the all believers (cf. Lumen Gentium, 10). The parish grade school became a model for educating inner city children. The former parish convent became a residence for 30 women with developmental disabilities, and a larger program embracing people with special needs became a national model. A residence for Native American women in recovery and a Free Store for recycled clothing were both opened in 1973. An overnight shelter for 30 men was created in the rectory basement in 1981, and a hot meal program for neighborhood people, Loaves and Fishes, was begun in 1982.
In 2002 the parish created a nonprofit organization St. Stephens Human Services to become a vastly more effective tool for its mission of feeding, housing, clothing and employing its neighbors.
artist Anne C. Brink
New and stricter liturgical norms which returned to a more hierarchical format were mandated by the Archdiocese in 2008. The community was directed to conform to the new norms or leave. Rather than surrender its forty year experience and practice of the priesthood of the laity, the people who had begun and sustained the parish's social outreach programs chose to stay together and go forward together as the “Spirit of St. Stephen's Catholic Community.”
The community gathers weekly in the neighborhood to celebrate Eucharist and support its members in their service to the neighbor and their journey to God.
Our Mission Statement continues to inspire us.
The Progressive Catholic Voice filmed two installments of a 5-part video documentary celebrating the community of St. Stephen’s Catholic Church in South Minneapolis. Entitled Spirit of St. Stephen’s: Celebrating the Past and Envisioning the Future of a Catholic Community in Transition. Click these links to view them:
Video: Introduction (time 18:17)
Video Part One: The Early Years (time 10:36)
Four Sisters for Peace is a half hour documentary about peace and justice as seen through the eyes and actions of four sisters who are also Catholic nuns--Rita, Brigid, Kate and Jane McDonald. Created by a class of sixth to eighth grade students at Southside Family School in Minneapolis working with their teacher Susie Oppenheim and the artist Media Mike Hazard, this film is rated "R", for rebellious. For more, visit http://www.thecie.org/sisters (time 27:01)
Documents related to our history as a parish, and 2008 formation as an independent community.
Documents and articles about Spirit of St. Stephen's Catholic Community.
Descriptions and documents about how we are set up and how we work.
Articles and media about our community and the greater church, as written or published in local and national press.
The people who came before us, on whose shoulders we stand.