gathering spaces

Welcome to The Gathering Space Newsletter! 


It's been awhile since our last newsletter, so this may be the first time some of you are receiving the Gathering Space e-newsletter, a periodic publication aimed at connecting our parish community. We hope you find a dose of inspiration and information as you read on. Welcome!  

Yordin's Journey- An invitation for us to take a deeper look 

The Wilcox Family (left to right) Maria, Mike, Marissa, Frank, Karen and Yordin


By: Frank Wilcox, Parishioner


I recently sat down at the kitchen table with Yordin Alvarez-who had just returned home after playing a double-header and was well into his second plate of taquitos, cottage cheese and hot sauce-to talk about life.


Before we get started, let me give you a quick summary of this 22 year-old's life. Yordin left Honduras at age 12 and entered the U.S. illegally. He bounced around INS, Child Protection, foster care, and the court system before ending up at a Catholic prep school in Galveston, TX. The school was interested in him because he could throw a 90 mph fast ball and kick a football better than anyone on the island. The school's administration asked Fr. Ron Groschen (a teacher at the school and my wife's uncle) to watch after Yordin for "a couple days." Fr. Ron initially declined, but finally reluctantly agreed. Yordin and Fr. Ron quickly developed a phenomenal friendship and "a couple days" turned into a year and a half until Fr. Ron died of a heart attack in September 2012. After his funeral, my wife and I invited Yordin to live with us in White Bear Lake.


When I ask Yordin what his dreams are now, almost three years since moving here, he quickly answers that he wants to become a U.S. citizen. Having lived in a corrupt, violent and impoverished country, he's able to appreciate things we take for granted. He wants us to adopt him and take the Wilcox name. He dreams of someday getting married and raising a family. He wants to be a good provider. Family is central to Yordin.


Imagine for a moment you're living in a foreign country - and you don't know how to speak, read or write the native language. Next, imagine going to school where everything is taught in the foreign language and teachers are unconcerned that you don't understand the subjects. On top of that, imagine you have few friends and you've been diagnosed with PTSD. These are the struggles Yordin faces on a daily basis.


Despite these obstacles, Yordin has been granted permanent resident alien status, earned a high school diploma, and was welcomed into the Church at the Easter Vigil in 2014. When asked where he finds God, Yordin responds "the people he has put in my life." He goes on to state that "Fr. Ron accepted me, didn't judge me, cared about me and showed me what being a good human being looks like." I think many people, consciously or not, look at Yordin and see only a Latino immigrant who entered our country illegally. Fr. Ron was able to see the human person and connect with him at his level of brokenness.


Yordin has taught me a lot. I've become aware of biases I had that I wasn't previously aware of. Most important, I've learned to look deeper and really try to see the human person. Every now and then people will tell my wife and me some version of "God placed Yordin in our home for a reason." I don't presume to know what God is thinking, and I know for a fact that there are many people who are much better suited for this endeavor than me. My goal is for Yordin to realize his dreams and I am honored to be part of his journey.


Now I invite you to ponder: Is there someone in your life who can teach you to look deeper?

Getting to know Matt Palkert and Outreach Ministries

By: John Brock, Parishioner


Matt Palkert is the Director of Outreach Ministries. Get to know more about him and outreach ministries through part-one of this two-part interview. 


John: What do you do in your role as Coordinator of Outreach Ministries? 


Matt: There are almost 30 outreach ministries at St. Mary's. Most of what I do is coordinate and support the activities that are led by the outreach ministers. Some of it is administrative support, but a significant part of my work is relational - getting to know our ministers and learning how to best support them. I also enjoy connecting with parishioners, hearing their stories, and helping them find a ministry that is right for them. Lastly, I'm also grateful in this role for the chance to engage with the wider community and church, whether it be in the White Bear area or as far away as Haiti. 


John: If somebody needed something from St. Mary's, can they contact you?


Matt:  Yes-absolutely! Anyone can call the general parish line and get connected to the right staff person, based on the need. Or find me, another staff person or volunteer at church and let them know that you could use some support right now. Word will get to the right person, and we will be in touch.


You might be looking for prayers, to have communion brought to you, to talk with one of our Befrienders as you go through a life transition, to learn about social service resources that are available in the community, or to connect with a group or a way to serve others. We want people to share their gifts and talents with St. Mary's, as well as their needs. Asking for support can be hard, but please know that by bringing your needs forward, you are making St. Mary's a stronger community. The Church wants to support you, and we need your help to know just how we can do that.


John:  Where are you from and how did you end up here?


Matt:  I grew up in Minnesota, left, and then came back. The short story is that I attended St. Mary's University in Winona. From there I bounced around to a few places teaching high school theology and serving as a campus chaplain, and then returned to Minnesota in the winter of 2014.


John:  You came back during the winter?


Matt:  Yes, believe it or not. I was compelled to return. I was most recently in Chicago and really felt it was time to return to Minnesota because of my parents' health. My mom is struggling with Alzheimer's and at the time my dad was being treated for colon cancer. He is doing well now, but at the time needed a lot of support. I was available to leave my job and community in Chicago and return to this great state, where most of my family lives. 


John:  Can you share a bit about your education and training?


Matt:  Well, I went to St Mary's and graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Theology and Pastoral Youth Ministry. A few years later I went to the University of Notre Dame and earned a Masters of Divinity. I am currently enrolled in a spiritual director program at St. Catherine University.  I apparently love to learn. 


John:  What is your impression of St. Mary of the Lake?


Matt: In my first eight months, my impression is that St. Mary's is a prayerful, compassionate, and active community. The Mass makes up the heart of parish life, and the liturgies are excellent. Also, people care about and watch out for one another, and this care is also directed outward to the concerns beyond our community. There is an awareness that we are called to go out into the world and live our faith. There is also an emphasis on hospitality here, and I hear from many of the very active parishioners that they would love to find ways for more parishioners to get more involved in the life of the parish. They notice how life-giving their involvement has been for them, and they don't want people to miss out.


Do you or someone you know need outreach ministries support? Explore our Outreach Ministries or contact Matt at He would love to hear from you.


The second half of the interview will be in the next issue of the Gathering Space Newsletter, where Matt will discuss some of his goals for St. Mary of the Lake and also describe his attendance at the recent beatification service for Blessed Archbishop Romero in El Salvador.

Project 2016: Strengthening the Church 


By:  Fr. Talbot, Pastor


Next year, the parish will celebrate the 135th anniversary of the founding of the parish (1881) and the 90th anniversary of our church building (1926). In order to get our church ready for these two historic anniversaries and to ensure the safety of the building, we need to tuck-point the building. This project consists of repairing or replacing the damaged stones and repairing the mortar between the stones. I have given the name Project 2016: Strengthening the Church to this repair, because the work will strengthen the physical structure of the church. 


Project 2016: Strengthening the Church is also meant to name the spiritual work that will be happening in the parish in preparation for, and celebration of, our anniversaries. My question for each of you:  What will you do to strengthen the Church in the coming year?

Issue: 13
July 30, 2015
In This Issue
Upcoming Events
Learn more about these and other events on our website

Vacation Bible School: 
Aug 10-14
St. Mary's Anniversary Celebration: 
Sat, Aug 15 and 
Sun, Aug 16 
Haiti Trip Info Meeting:
Aug 20, 6:30 PM
Summer Concert- featuring Martin Zellar: 
Sat, Aug 22, 6 PM
Fall Festival: 
Sept 12-13
Pilgrimage to Philadelphia to see Pope Francis: 
Sept 24-28
"Captivating Italy" Tour, with Fr. Talbot: 
Sept 28-Oct. 9

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St.Mary of the Lake

4690 Bald Eagle Ave

White Bear Lake, MN 55110

(651) 429-7771