Father Paul Baldwin poses proudly with the Sacred Heart welcome sign outside the Church.(Photo by Emily Burds)
By Emily Burds, Express Intern
One month into his new position, Father Paul Baldwin says he has become very fond of Monticello and its residents.
Sacred Heart’s new priest comes at a changing time. On the heels of the retirement of Father Keith Birch who headed up the construction of the new addition to the church and changes in the Vatican with Pope Francis taking the seat of the Holy Father, the Catholic community in Monticello is now trying to evolve to keep up with the changing times.
Born and raised in Waterloo, life in the ministry was not something that Father Baldwin originally planned on.
“I was actually in the working world for 11 years,” he explained of his life after graduating from Columbus High School. It was not until his home parish participated in a program named Call By Name, where parish members enter slips of paper with the names of people within the parish who they think should consider the ministry, that Baldwin found his calling.
From there, Baldwin found himself in Baltimore, Md. attending St. Mary Seminar and University. While attending seminar, Baldwin was able to obtain both his B.A. and Master’s degree in Theology through Loyola University of Maryland.
Baldwin returned to Iowa and the Archdiocese of Dubuque to be ordained in 1997. Since his ordination, Baldwin estimates he has been a part of 16 parishes throughout Iowa, most recently in Iowa Falls where he was the priest for six years.
“The Personnel Board of the Archdiocese decides where all the priests will be placed and looks at who you are and where they think you will be a good fit,” Baldwin explained of the process. From there, terms can run from six to 12 years, depending on where priests are needed.
During his time in the ministry Father Paul has also been a part of three Catholic high schools where he helped teach and serve. Now with his position at Sacred Heart, he is looking forward to working with a younger age group.
“I’ve never been the pastor of a parish with a school before but I think this will be a good new experience,” Father Paul explained. He said he is looking forward to getting out in the community and attending ballgames and and concerts and things of the like and also meeting the other ministers in town.
As for his plans for Sacred Heart, he says that he wants to continue building on the good foundation that has been started here by continuing to help the community grow in faith and especially fighting for social justice by helping those in need.
“I’d like to see some sort of youth ministry started here,” he explained. “It’s not something we really have at the moment so I’d like to see young adults get involved in the parish as well as families.” One way Father Baldwin and the church councils are getting the ball rolling on this is by offering a few spots to high school students on a trip to the National Catholic Youth Conference in Indianapolis this November.
One other new addition to the church is Father Baldwin’s new “right hand man” Deacon Ed Goldsmith of Scotch Grove.
“It has been a long time since I have had a deacon working right along side me so I’m looking forward to it,” Father Paul said. He and the Goldsmiths are now next door neighbors in the brand new duplexes that have been built just across the street from the church so that neither have to travel far to get to work.
As far as what Deacon Goldsmith will be doing to help out, Father Baldwin explained that he will first and foremost be another person that can be a presence for the church. Deacon Goldsmith will help with services for the elderly and special masses such as weddings and funerals while also preaching during weekend masses once a month.
And the church can use all those helping hands to continue to expand their parish community to help utilize their new addition.
“I believe the best way is word of mouth,” Father Baldwin explained of how he feels the church can pull in new members. He said that people like to talk about their experiences and he hopes that will help spread the word, even if it’s people talking about the “new guy”.
And people are certainly talking about the “new guy” and his fresh and considerably young face. Turning 51 this week, Father Paul is notably the youngest priest Sacred Heart has seen in the last two decades. The church councils hope what they see as a “breath of fresh air” is seen by others in the parish and the community as a step in the right direction for the church at this point in time.
And changes certainly are happening with Sacred Heart joining the Facebook world this month and talks of Father Baldwin joining the social media world in his letter in this last Sunday’s church bulletin.
“I believe God sends you where you need to be,” Father Paul explained. He believes his new position and new life here in Monticello will be a truly positive experience and one that he is really looking forward to.
“No place is perfect but you can certainly get close.”