DL priest says best part of the calling is the people; paperwork is down the list
Father Todd Arends will mark one year of his service to Holy Rosary Catholic Church in Detroit Lakes on Tuesday.
The charismatic, 41-year-old priest says when he arrived in Detroit Lakes on July 1 of last year, he remembers being a little concerned.
“Being from Moorhead and growing up in the 80s, we did come out here for the Fourth of July,” laughed Arends, who remembers how “crazy” the party scene was here over this holiday.
“But walking along the beach, it was a wonderful surprise to see how different and family-friendly it feels now… a lot different from what I remember when I’d come with my high school or college friends.”
Over the past year, Arends has made Detroit Lakes his home and Holy Rosary his centerpiece.
It’s a place he’s happy to be in, serving in a profession he has always been drawn to.
The path to priesthood
“The only thing my mom has ever lied about is the taste of cooked spinach — it is not good,” laughed Arends. “And she told me that when I was in kindergarten I came home from school and told her that I was going to be a priest one day.”
Arends attended private Catholic school as a child before switching over to the Moorhead Public High School.
“Throughout that whole time I always talked about the possibility of becoming a priest,” said Arends, who also had two second cousins who were Catholic priests and two great aunts who were Benedictine sisters.
“So we were around it a lot,” said Arends, who also had an older sister and three younger brothers. “It wasn’t an unusual thing to hear about, talk about or see.”
Arends went onto college, earning his undergraduate degree at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul. He wanted to be a history professor in Europe.
“The idea was to live in a castle, because if you’re living in Europe, you might as well live in a castle,” he said, smiling.
But in there somewhere, Arends took a year off from college to serve with NET Ministries, a traveling ministry of young Catholics.
For the young man who had been trying to decide between teaching in Europe and becoming a priest, his time traveling with this ministry was the tipping point.
“I prayed a lot about it,” he said. “I had a lot of conversations with other priests I knew, and just decided that I thought this (being a priest) would be what would bring me the most joy.”
Once Arends decided, he didn’t look back. He attended the St. Paul Seminary, School of Divinity and became ordained in 2002.
“And it has been a joy-filled dozen years,” said Arends, who spent six years in Moorhead at the colleges, as well as time in the small, northern town of Greenbush, Minn.
When the church called Arends to Detroit Lakes, he welcomed the chance to come back closer to home, as his parents now live in Sabin and he still has many old friends and family around.
Although Arends says he’s enjoyed all of his time in the places he’s been sent, he’s especially happy to be in a place where his hobbies outside of the church are at his doorstep.
“I like fishing and golfing and reading,” said Arends.
Now, Father Todd is what is called a parochial vicar, or associate priest to Holy Rosary’s Monsignor Tim McGee.
He lives in a residence in Holy Rosary and is enjoying most of what the job throws at him.
“Well, I could do without the paperwork — the administrative part isn’t enjoyable,” said Arends, who adds his favorite part of the job is simply getting to be with people.
“It’s one of those amazing things… being a priest I get invited into all of the big moments of people’s lives,” said Arends. “I get to be there as children are born, at baptisms, at weddings and as people are dying and at funerals. It’s that openness to just be with people.”
Arends says he also enjoys getting to have deep, meaningful conversations with people who wouldn’t share their thoughts like that with any “Joe Blow.”
And just as Arends talks about the excitement, energy and hope Pope Francis has brought to people all over the world, he hopes he can do the same thing on a smaller scale to this area.
“I always hope to bring to people on a personal level a friendly, joy-filled experience,” said Arends, who most of all wants to bring to people the “knowledge of a merciful, loving God.
“So that instead of getting run down by a world that seems negative, just to root ourselves in God’s mercy and love,” said Arends, “and know that even in the toughest of life, there is hope because God is there.”