Staff Directory 10645071

Jean Hopfensperger

Reporter | Religion, Faith & Values
Phone: 612-673-4511
Location: Minneapolis
Other languages: Spanish

Jean Hopfensperger is the religion, faith and values reporter for the Star Tribune. She focuses largely on religious trends shaping Minnesota and the nation. 


A veteran reporter, Hopfensperger has covered religion, philanthropy, immigration, the state legislature, human services and Central American issues. Before joining the Star Tribune, she worked for several years in Central America, reporting on conflicts for U.S. newspapers such as The Christian Science Monitor. She has a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a M.A. in Political Science from the University of Minnesota focusing on international politics and U.S. social policy.
Recent content from Jean Hopfensperger
The Minnesota Multifaith Network’s speaker bureau includes, left to right, Sally Abrams of the Jewish Community Relations Council, Prabhat Tekriwal

New Minnesota faith group aims to link state's interfaith efforts

The Minnesota Multifaith Network kickoff is Dec. 16.
Gurpreet Kaur, who gave a sermon on the equality of men and women, a fundamental tenet of the Sikh faith is greeted by Bash Singh who praised her and

Minnesota Sikhs celebrate 550th anniversary of their faith

Minnesota adherents reach out to mark faith's founding.
Meditation instructor Carri Garcia, right, led practitioners in a meditation and instruction session in the main meditation hall at the Minnesota Zen

'Blank Friday' offers Zen alternative to shopping in Minneapolis

Minnesota Zen Meditation Center lets visitors seek peace, not purchases
Marianne Milano at 98.5 KTIS read the weather report at the radio station on the Northwestern College campus.

Minnesota radio station launched by Billy Graham marks 70th year

The traditional organ recitals and church melodies have morphed into contemporary Christian music on KTIS FM 98.5.
Joanie Rischall, from right, of Plymouth helped first time challah maker Nancy Lehrman, of Plymouth braid her dough during the Great Big Challah Bake.

Great Big Challah Bake links 500 cooks, one faith in Twin Cities metro

The event in Hopkins offers a night of global solidarity for Jews.
Bishop Andrew Cozzens says the archdiocese’s exorcist encourages medical or mental health help if deemed necessary.

Exorcisms make a 21st century comeback in Minnesota, U.S.

No official data are available, but church leaders say there are more Catholic exorcists in the U.S. today than at any time in recent memory.
Ramsey County Attorney John Choi, second from right, said Friday that bringing people together in a restorative justice process to foster deeper under

St. Paul-Minneapolis Archdiocese taps restorative justice to heal impact of sex abuse

The archdiocese is a national leader in using the techniques to address the lingering repercussions of clergy abuse, a former Wisconsin Supreme Court justice said.
Lizzie Erickson, of Bloomington, center, participated in the National Day of Prayer outside U.S. Bank Stadium in 2016.

Study explores what's replacing religion for young people

A new research institute has been launched in Minnesota specifically to explore this question, focusing on where 13- to 25-year-olds — from all religious backgrounds — are finding the support often offered at religious institutions.
The Rev. Antony Skaria celebrated a weekday morning mass at St. John Vianney Catholic Church in South St. Paul.

Catholics turn to foreign priests to ease clergy shortage

An estimated one in six Catholic priests in the U.S. now hail from other countries, including more than 50 of the 203 full-time priests active in the St. Paul and Minneapolis Archdiocese.
A 4-year-old Bangladeshi boy chose his sponsor from Woodbury Lutheran Church. “I feel like I know him,” he said.

Minnesota church is model for new way to help kids in need

The Rev. Tom Pfotenhauer, pastor at Woodbury Lutheran Church, said letting the children pick the person was "empowering" for them.
Bishop John Francis Kinney

John Kinney, retired bishop of St. Cloud, dies at 82

Bishop John Francis Kinney arrived at the Diocese of St. Cloud in 1995, and soon began focusing on support for the poor and disadvantaged.He asked…
The mass of Christian burial for Archbishop Harry Flynn began at the Cathedral of St. Paul on Monday, Sept. 30.

Hundreds attend funeral mass for former St. Paul archbishop

Flynn had been a popular and personable archbishop, known for his advocacy of the poor and disadvantaged and other social issues. He gained national prominence as one of the American bishops who penned a key document outlining church policy on clergy sex abuse.
Ori Elon, co-creator of the Israeli TV series “Shtisel,’’ discussed the hit show with a sold-out audience at the Sabes Jewish Community Center e

Israeli TV series 'Shtisel' has megafans in Minnesota

The show has generated "Shtisel mania" among Minnesota's Jewish community and many other followers.
David Landrus, a team member of St. Philips Disaster Relief, helped take inventory of items that the team will take to Houston on October 5.

Minnesota volunteers take a different approach to disaster relief

Mike Anderson monitored the destruction of Hurricane Dorian on the news in recent weeks, pondering the massive reconstruction efforts that would be needed in the…
The Thrivent Financial building in downtown Minneapolis, completed in 1981. Thrivent Financial commissioned the study.

Study dispels 'generosity gap' between younger and older Christians

Pastors have long worried about the gap in giving between the young and old. A new study says it's not so simple.
Archbishop Bernard Hebda, pictured in May 2018, is investigating the Catholic bishop of the Crookston Diocese.

St. Paul's Hebda to investigate Crookston bishop accused of pressuring victim

The Rev. Michael Hoeppner becomes first sitting U.S. bishop to face new Vatican rules.
Ron Edwards, Spike Moss, Ora Hokes and Tyrone Terrill held a news conference Saturday charging there was a failure of justice in a case involving six

Civil rights leaders want Hennepin County attorney off case in Minneapolis bus shelter crash

Driver who hit 6 people should have been charged with hate crime, they say.
Claude Riedel is a Minneapolis artist known internationally for crafting Ner Tamids — the beautiful “eternal lights” that hang in Jewish synagog

A strange phone call leads to a Minneapolis Jewish artist's brush with fame — and zombies

Claude Riedel's glasswork plays a starring role in Sunday's episode of "Fear the Walking Dead" on AMC.
Evelyn Mueller made a cross necklace with her parents Matt and Zion Mueller at Crossroads Ministries at the Minnesota State Fair. Crossroads is one of

Prayer at the fair? Seekers will find plenty of Christian worship spaces

Where do you go for prayer at the Minnesota State Fair? How about an ecumenical service at the Leinie Lodge at 9:15 Sunday morning? Or…
Jeelani Basha Shaik, right, prepared to slaughter a goat as Samir Lekbir and Paul Smith of Geneva Meats assisted.

Demand for halal meats connects Minnesota Muslims, farmers

It's been a win-win situation, providing a fast-growing market for goats and sheep while also creating cross-cultural relationships and friendships.
FILE -- In 2016, local clergy spoke at a news conference at Lutheran Church of the Redeemer announcing their congregations as sanctuary and support co

ELCA becomes nation's first 'sanctuary denomination'

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has become the first North American denomination to declare itself a sanctuary church, committed to supporting and sheltering migrants entering the country.
Members of the Knights of Columbus honor guards were among about 3,000 Knights of Columbus who attended the annual convention at the Minneapolis Conve

Knights of Columbus work to refresh image, attract younger members

Catholic men's organization, which met in Minneapolis this week, drops fancy attire, adds new projects such as assisting refugees at the border.
The Rev. David Keaton, pastor of Kingdom Life Church in Robbinsdale, said, “Hate is being normalized before our eyes!”

Trump's words deepen rift between black, white evangelicals

Nearly 70% of white evangelicals support the president, according to a recent survey, compared with 12% of black Protestants. Black pastors say they'd like to hear more support from their Christian counterparts.
Americans have at least a basic knowledge of Christianity, but limited knowledge of other religions. Above, a campus chapel window at the University o

What do Americans know about religion?

Survey shows that most U.S. adults have limited religious literacy.
Martin DesLauriers

Martin DesLauriers, former Eagan police chief, dies

He was its first official police chief in 1965, a mentor to its officers as well as a leader in local and state police associations.

Clergy abuse victims reach $5 million settlement with Crookston Diocese

It requires the diocese to make public the names of the offending priests and their previously undisclosed files at a future date.
Sharif Mohamed, right, role-played as a chaplain while helping to lead the training program last month.

Project to boost ranks of Muslim chaplains launches in Minnesota

A new program seeks to certify Muslim chaplains.
Nicholas Lynch, a speech language pathologist with St. David’s Child And Family Development Center at the Harmon Center in Westminster Presbyterian

Minnesota church-child development partnership is unusual mix

Westminster Church and St. David's child center created an unusual model of church ministry.
Janet Belland and Mitch Zukowski never even considered a church for their June 1 wedding.

Church weddings dwindle as Minn. couples buck tradition

The trend to barns, ranches and banquet halls reflects the record-high ranks of young adults with no ties to religious institutions, and the cultural drift from organized religion.
Pastor Dan Collison at First Covenant Church in Minneapolis. “I’m not surprised. I’m saddened,” he said of the eviction.

Minneapolis pastor, church evicted over LGBT stance

The Evangelical Covenant Church voted to evict the Rev. Dan Collison, and expel Collison's First Covenant Church in Minneapolis, in a conflict over LGBT inclusion and same-sex marriage.
Pastor Dan Collison seen inside First Covenant Church where he is the lead pastor Friday, June 21, 2019, Minneapolis, MN.

Minneapolis pastor faces unprecedented defrocking over LGBT stance

The Evangelical Covenant Church is voting over whether to evict a Minneapolis pastor and his entire church over support of the LGBT community. If evicted, it would be the first time in the denomination's more than 130-year history that a minister and congregation have been forced out.
The Rev. Brooke Heerwald Steiner of Excelsior United Methodist Church in April.

Minnesota Methodists vote against LGBT restrictions

LGBT restrictions do "great harm," Minnesota Methodists say.
Last year’s Joyful Noise festival drew more than 20,000 fans to Minnesota’s largest Christian music festival, held at National Sports Center in Bl

Minnesota's biggest Christian music fest underway this weekend

About 25,000 people are expected to pack the National Sports Center in Blaine this weekend for the largest contemporary Christian music festival in Minnesota. It’s…
Bethel University students in Prof. Mike Holmes’ Introduction to Bible Studies class used their cell phone bible apps to follow along.

'State of Bible' survey shows more digital users, most interest among blacks

Nearly half of U.S. adults say they use the Bible at least three times a year, including reading it, praying with Bible texts or listening…
Tammy Rogers led the bird dancers during the Missa Gaia Earth Mass.

Wolf howls join worship hymns in 'Missa Gaia' at Minnesota churches

Whales and wolves join church choirs performing Mother Earth Mass each spring
A photo posted on Twitter by the St. Paul Fire Department showed this charred wooden structure, set ablaze between Sunday night and Monday morning. St

Arson suspected in series of fires in St. Paul

A dozen deliberate fires were concentrated in the western part of the city.

Biggest attraction of Doors Open? Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis

Doors Open event brought 72,000 visitors to Minneapolis buildings and businesses.
Path of Grace UMC in Maplewood hosted a gathering this month for Methodists to discuss the future. Small-group conversations were part of the event.

Following LGBT bans, Minnesota Methodists ask, 'What's next?'

State's Methodists are debating a split or forming a new, inclusive entity.
Ben Hoffman teared up as he spoke about why he and his brothers, behind him Luke Hoffman, left, and Stephen Hoffman, right, have gone public as their

Minnesota lawsuit demands that Vatican release abuse files

The three brothers were sexually abused by Curtis Wehmeyer in St. Paul.
This undated photo shows Curtis Wehmeyer, who pleaded guilty to criminal sexual conduct and child pornography. Some of his victims are among several p

Victims of clergy abuse to sue Vatican, seek abusers' names

They seek files of clergy who've abused children.
The Rock Bottom Remainders--including literary giants Stephen King, Amy Tan, Dave Barry and other writers--kicked off the Wordplay Festival Friday, Ma

Wordplay festival in Minneapolis is readers' heaven

Thousands flock to downtown Minneapolis for event featuring all things literary.
Rumen Hulmequist, third from left, is feted at Lutheran Social Service Minnesota offices earlier this month. Left to right are Suzanne Olson, Rev. Dal

Extreme Minnesota fundraiser raises $10,000 for orphaned children

Ten thousand push-ups earned $10,000 for orphaned children.
Barbara Kaufman

Barbara Kaufman, social service leader, has died

Barbara Kaufman’s memory box holds a 1966 front page newspaper clipping headlined “From ADC to Phi Beta Kappa. Mother’s An Honor Student.” The Minneapolis Tribune…
Security was visible at the Holocaust Commemoration at Bet Shalom Congregation in Minnetonka on Friday.

Government grants help Minnesota religious groups tighten security

The coveted grants, totaling a record $60 million this year, are designed to help prevent tragedies such as the recent shooting in a San Diego synagogue. But most religious leaders don't know about them, or that Minnesota offers similar, smaller grants.
Holocaust survivor Judy Baron, 90, in red, stood with her children Gary Baron and Susan Miller during the annual Holocaust commemoration at Bet Shalom

Minnesota Holocaust survivors see disturbing echoes in today's news

Judy Baron sat in the front row of a Holocaust memorial service this week, a survivor of two Nazi concentration camps during World War II…
Jim Lippert, top left, and Lou Ann Matossian carried the icon of Holy Martyrs of the Armenian Genocide at St. Sahag Armenian Church in St. Paul.

Exhibit launched by St. Paul church explores Minnesota ties to Armenians' tragic past

"Treasures of Memory and Hope" will travel to at least a dozen Minnesota churches, universities and other institutions in the year ahead.
The Rev. Brooke Heerwald Steiner posed with the rainbow-colored doors at Excelsior United Methodist Church that bear the message, “God’s doors are

Methodist top court affirms LGBT restrictions

Some Minn. congregations may leave denomination over ban on clergy, marriage.
Jinjing Liu led children in prayer at Minnesota Mandarin Christian Church’s Sunday school in Edina.

Chinese Christians in Minnesota pray for Easter rebirth

"If we were in China today, I don't know if we could celebrate Easter because government control of the church is much stronger," pastor Xing Liu said.
In this Feb. 4, 2007, file photo, Prince performs during the halftime show at the Super Bowl XLI football game at Dolphin Stadium in Miami.

Gospel of Prince preached at Minnesota seminary

Prince's musical legacy gets mined for spiritual meaning.
Rendering of the new Alliannz Field in St. Paul

Grand opening of Minnesota United's Allianz Field

The sixth Minnesota pro or major college team since 2000 to get a new home, Minnesota United debuts $250 million Allianz Field as the first one dedicated to pro soccer. Its 19,400 capacity is closer to Target Center or Xcel Energy Center, but it opens to the sky and a summer breeze. Looming over Interstate 94 at busy Snelling Avenue, it glows every color at night. The seating is intimate — the grass nearly tickles the feet of front-row fans — and promises to take noisy to new levels, too. It's open in all four corners — with room to add another deck above the existing roof deck — and can be expanded to 25,000 if needed.
In this scene from Germany’s Oberammergau Passion Play, first performed in 1634, Pontius Pilate condemns Jesus to death.

Germany wants Minnesotans in audience for Oberammergau passion play

The world’s largest and oldest passion play — first performed nearly 400 years ago and now involving, literally, a cast of thousands — rolls out…
Bishop Donald Kettler of the St. Cloud Diocese offered his “support and prayers.”

St. Cloud Diocese, priest sued after repeated reports of sexual harassment

A female former church employee alleges the diocese failed to respond to her complaints about the behavior of the Rev. Joseph Backowski.
Rabbi Marcia Zimmerman gave Charlie Paton a high five after he correctly answered a question at Temple Israel in Minneapolis on Wednesday.

Religious leaders grapple with age segregation

How can faith communities link generations from 8 to 80?
Pastor Paul Marzhan has a new role as a church flipper, even getting a real estate license to resurrect old spaces like this former Catholic Charities

Minnesota church flipper gives empty religious buildings new life

Pastor Paul Marzahn finds a mission matching empty buildings and congregations. It's work that might soon get a wider audience via TV.
A police officer stood on guard Saturday near the Masjid Al Noor mosque, site of one of the mass shootings in New Zealand

How to respond to anti-Muslim speech? Here are some suggestions

How should you respond if you hear an anti-Muslim slur or read a hateful post on social media?The terror attack on mosques in New Zealand…
Ash Wednesday service at Hennepin United Methodist Church.

LGBT vote exposes rift in pews for Minnesota Methodists

The United Methodist Church is facing its most significant crisis in decades, not unlike divisions over homosexuality that have ruptured other Protestant denominations.
A 10-year analysis on Twitter found that many Christians are giving up social media for Lent — often Twitter in particular.

What are Christians giving up for Lent? Their tweets say Twitter

"It's a little ironic that people on social media say they are giving up social media by using social media," said Stephen Smith, a Christian technology manager who tracks the Lent-related tweets.

Peter Welvang, owner of Minnesota Catholic book and gift shop, has died

Welvang's St. Paul business attracted priests looking for new vestments, Sunday school teachers needing workbooks, and ordinary Catholics who bought everything from angel statues to first communion dresses to religious DVDs.
Ralph, left, and Bill Miller attended a memorial mass on the anniversary of their brother James Miller’s death.

They're among us and on track to modern-day sainthood

Three men with ties to Minnesota and on the road to sainthood reflect the burst of saint-making in Rome.
Jerie Greve of St. Austin Catholic Church prayed for her church’s independence after a merger was announced in 2011.

Minneapolis Catholic church is latest to shut its doors

Members of St. Austin Church mourn the final outcome of a 2010 merger.
Rev. Dale Hulme is pastor of St. Olaf Lutheran Church, one of many struggling to pay heat and gas during this arctic blast.

Minn. churches buffeted by low temperatures, high heat bills

With increasingly tight budgets, and often shrinking membership, they're striving to both pay for heat and maintain their half-century-old heating systems generating it.
Former Archbishop John Nienstedt

Nienstedt probe reveals flaws in investigating church leaders, Minn. Catholics say

Pope Francis will convene a historic clergy sex abuse summit this month, and many Minnesota Catholics are watching to see if it tackles an issue…
Members of the Joint Religious Legislative Coalition meet with Sen. Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson, last year during its annual “Day on the Hill.”

Minnesota religious leaders join forces at Capitol

For nearly 50 years, Protestant, Catholic, Jewish and more recently Muslim leaders have forged a joint legislative agenda that crosses religious lines.
Pope Francis points at a tablet as he unveils his own user profile in Click To Pray, the official app of the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, from t

Pope Francis launches 'Click To Pray' app

Ever wanted to pray with the pope? A new app lets you join his prayers.
The Target Foundation, a nonprofit arm of the Target Corporation, is revamping its funding priorities for Minnesota nonprofits.

Target Foundation revamps funding priorities for Minnesota nonprofits

Priority changes mean some charities will lose longtime financing.
Rep. Ilhan Omar, U.S. representative for Minnesota's Fifth Congressional District, spoke Saturday at the Women's March Minnesota at the State Capitol

Women's March draws 4,000 to State Capitol in St. Paul

Bundled-up marchers rallied for LGBT rights, immigration reform, violence prevention and more.
The Rev. Louis Brouillard is pictured on his porch in Pine City, Minn., in this Star Tribune file photo.

Minnesota priest named in lawsuit filed in Guam against Vatican

Lawsuit claims Vatican knew of abuse by the Rev. Louis Brouillard and Guam archbishop.
Adam Garen, left, talked with Rabbi Adam Spilker during a weekly discussion of the Torah at Henson Efron law firm.

Minneapolis law firm's tradition honors a colleague and his faith

Tribute turns into unique interfaith Torah study.
Thursday’s hearing marks the third year that a Ramsey County judge Warner has reviewed biannual progress reports from the Archdiocese of St. Paul an

With one year to go, Twin Cities Archdiocese is meeting court-ordered child protection measures

Judge told archdiocese officials they also must plan for the end of court oversight next year.
Members of the U.S. House were sworn in by Speaker Nancy Pelosi during the 116th Congress during a ceremony Thursday.

Catholic, Lutheran are most common faiths among Minnesota's congressional delegation

In survey, 88 percent of members of 116th Congress say they are Christian, compared with 71 percent of the U.S. population.
Shakopee artist Mark Thone won the 2020 turkey stamp contest. Judges selected his painting from among 12 submissions for the annual contest that the M

Shakopee artist wins Minnesota DNR's turkey stamp competition

Veteran wildlife artist will see his work on another DNR stamp.
At a Sunday service, Bill Pilgram greets pastor Frenchye McGee.The 101-year-old Pilgram truly takes great pleasure in meet his fellow members of Henne

101-year-old Minnesota usher marks nearly 80 years at church doors

The scope of Billl Pilgram's work and its duration put him in a rarefied league, church leaders said.
Senior pastor Bob Merritt delivered the sermon at Eagle Brook Church while being filmed for a live feed. The church invested in a $5 million video pro

Minnesota churches are sowing the seeds for a future revival

It's a race against time for many congregations, as barely one in three Americans attend weekly services and one in four belong to no religion at all.
Hansel C. Hall

Hansel Hall, civil rights advocate and mentor, dies at 91

He was president of the Minnesota-Dakotas chapter of the NAACP in the 1980s and consulted on civil rights issues most of his career.
The Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis is celebrating the parish’s 150th anniversary.

Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis marks 150 years

The 12,000-member basilica has come a long way from its first home in a shed on the Mississippi.