Father Tom Wilson Honoring #HeroPriests

Father Tom Wilson | All Saints Catholic Church, Lakeville, MN

Submitted by: Cathy Blaeser

When Father Tom Wilson first arrived as pastor of All Saints Catholic Church in Lakeville, MN, he sported a flip phone and was reluctant to embrace the digital age. Fast forward to March 2020 and the emergence of the CPVID-19 pandemic. There was an urgent need to stay connected and a very large parish to serve; All Saints has over 3500 member families encompassing over 11,000 individual parishioners. The man with the huge pastoral heart who “never wanted to be a television preacher” overcame his own reluctance and fully embraced all digital options to keep his parishioners connected to each other, to the parish, and to Jesus.

Knowing that, though all may change around us, the mission of our parish to “Bring People to Christ through Liturgy, Learning, Sacraments, and Service” does not change, he tirelessly explored all options to keep our staff employed and mission-focused. We have fed over 400 people each month through our Dinner on the Hill initiative as well as begun a monthly meal delivery to senior communities that have no dining options, hosted a pop-up food pantry for the community in April, provided a temporary pantry to connect parishioner donations with those in need, and served 200 children lunch two days a week throughout the summer. Early in the pandemic, Father joined many parish volunteers to personally call older and more at-risk parishioners to check their well-being and help them to stay connected to the parish.

Despite weeks of not being able to offer public liturgy, Father encouraged creativity in offering taped and livestreamed Masses. Most Sundays now find our parish filled to its Covid-limited capacity, in addition to 150+ people attending in the parking lot over FM transmission, and many, many more joining for the continued livestreamed Mass offered through the internet. Adoration and Reconciliation have also been consistently available to our parishioners throughout this time. Father Wilson worked diligently to ensure that all 125 first communicants and 140 confirmands at All Saints could safely receive their sacraments. He worked closely with more than a dozen wedding couples as they made decisions about their wedding day, committing to provide live streaming of weddings free of charge on our YouTube channel. He celebrated a private Mass on the Vigil of Pentecost to celebrate the initiation sacraments of our RCIA candidates. He met with all the RCIA candidates online in order to complete their preparation.

His impact has gone beyond his own flock at All Saints, reaching out and providing support to other parishes and the community as they found themselves struggling during these unprecedented times. He was present himself to those who needed anointing and supported our associate pastor, Father Joe Gifford, in serving as a “Covid Priest,” providing anointing to those suffering with Covid at various hospitals.

Father Wilson’s recurring podcasts during the pandemic illustrate his directness, compassion and charity when speaking to parishioners about our role in Leading People to Christ. He has continued to remind us that God is bigger than what is happening, bigger than the fears of the pandemic, bigger than each of us and all of us. He continues to remind us that when those fears give us a feeling of anxiety and panic, we need to run to God our Father who alone can give us peace at all times beyond all understanding. His ongoing messages of hope, inspiration, and compassion have consistently encouraged us to “be trusting, be generous, and be not afraid!”

Link to All Saints YouTube channel for videos as referenced above.

Father Wilson has consistently encouraged our parish to live an active discipleship within the context of our mission to "Bring People to Christ through Liturgy, Learning, Sacraments, and Service.' He has created a leadership structure for the parish that encourages collaboration and is very mission-focused. He has also created a team that works to create consistent messaging across all parish ministries for each liturgical season. He works collaboratively with parish leadership and staff to encourage all of us to take ownership of our faith, our call to holiness, and our community life.

All Saints Parish is a very large parish. To have kept the doors open, the sacraments accessible, and the community connected and filled with hope is an extraordinary accomplishment. He truly has a pastoral heart that desires to encourage his flock to live in trust of Christ and in service of one another.

These responses were compiled from testimonies of several people within our parish, including Tom Molitor (chair of the Parish Pastoral Council Chair), Gregg Dertinger (Parish Trustee), Chris & Lisa Mattson (parishioners and photography/videography Mission Partners), myself (former Parish Pastoral Council Chair and member of the Parish Messaging Team), and Mary Kay Bungert (Director of Mission).