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
Bishop Donald J. Kettler in St. Cloud.

Bankruptcy court approves St. Cloud Diocese plan for sex abuse victims

Victims of priest sex abuse would receive $22.5 million.
Shelley Butler of Unity Church-Unitarian reflects on Native Americans held at Fort Snelling.

Minnesota churches launch 10-year plan for racial healing, reparations

The Minnesota Council of Churches, leveraging its 25 denominations with more than 1 million members, prioritizes path to "truth and reparation."
An ecumenical prayer service for peace in Armenia and Artsakh was held at the Cathedral of St. Paul on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020. Archbishop Bernard Hebd

Minnesota faith leaders pray for peace for Armenian people

Civilians, soldiers among casualties of Azerbaijan shelling in a bloody conflict over disputed territory.
Left to right, Jodi Sandlin lit some of the more than 100 candles for loved ones of parish members who have died as Cece Ryan lit a candle in remembra

'Too much death': All Saints' Day has new resonance for many

The remembrance rituals of All Saints' Day and All Souls Day, marked this week, have taken on particular poignancy as the faithful mourn not just the deaths of loved ones, but the loss of more than 225,000 Americans from COVID-19.
David Haas was what one victim called the "rock star" of contemporary Catholic composers. But a new report alleges that Haas targeted young women for

Catholic composer Haas' sexual misconduct report alleges 44 victims in 41 years

Women describe decades of sexual misconduct by church musician.
Pastor Doug Pagitt encouraged people to speak against politicians who don't govern with "love," at his former church, Soloman's Porch, on Feb. 4.

200 Minnesota faith leaders endorse Biden

Leaders say these are unprecedented times.
Brian McNeill, who says he’s spent 35 years working to change the Catholic Church’s “antiquated sexual theology,” called Pope Francis’ state

Pope's civil union comments stir up Minnesota Catholics on both sides of issue

Gay Catholics say he should go further; traditionalists are irked.
Trinity School at River Ridge in Eagan is one of just three schools in the nation run by People of Praise, the small religious community that includes

People of Praise, Barrett's small faith community, has deep roots in Minnesota

A tiny faith group that shaped the life of Amy Coney Barrett has its largest chapter in Minnesota.
Jacobson

Virginia Louise 'Ginny' Jacobson, retired teacher and community volunteer, dies of COVID-19 at 83

Virginia Louise “Ginny” Jacobson was a Twin Cities teacher, outdoors enthusiast and an avid volunteer for organizations including the Linden Hills Co-op and Minneapolis Park…
Mary Beth Stein is the type of voter getting courted by the presidential campaigns these days -- namely she's Catholic. On this day, the Biden lawn si

Trump, Biden court Minnesota's Catholic vote

Biden, Trump focus on the wide swath of religious voters.
St. Paul Archbishop Bernard Hebda, shown in 2018.

Minnesota priest who says COVID-19 is a scam told to halt such preaching

But the Rev. Robert Altier still insists the pandemic is a "lie.''
George Burbie

George Burbie, longtime social work leader, dies at 75

He oversaw a team in the employee assistance program at Ceridian Corp., and also worked as a nonprofit consultant, his wife said.
Fourth-grade girls in teacher Nechama Idstein’s class made prayer cards with cut outs of traditional foods for Rosh Hashana meals during class at To

Twin Cities Jewish community has grown by 23% since 2004

Strong economy, interfaith marriages and new migration drive trend.
The Rev. James Altman, a priest in La Crosse, Wis., appeared in a video posted on YouTube, calling Catholic Democrats "Godless" hypocrites doomed to h

Two renegade priests deny COVID, condemn Democrats

Catholic priests — all faith leaders — are supposed to steer clear of endorsing political leaders, at minimum from the pulpit. But the two incendiary speeches reveal that the country's polarized political climate is drifting through some church doors.
David Haas, a composer known for “Blest Are They,” “We Are Called,” “You Are Mine” and other favorites, has been accused of sexual abuse a

Priest accused of child sex abuse was allowed at Minn. Catholic music camp

More fallout from the abuse reports against David Haas, one of the nation's most popular composers of Catholic liturgical music.
Pastor Paul Baudhuin in the empty sanctuary of Aldersgate United Methodist Church in St. Louis Park.

Faith groups grapple with economic fallout of COVID-19

In-person donations have shrunk or evaporated. While online donations have jumped, faith leaders worry that could dwindle.
David Haas, seen performing at St. Catherine's in 2004, has been accused of sexual misconduct toward multiple young women who studied with him over th

Popular Catholic composer accused of sexual misconduct

David Haas, who worked at Benilde-St. Margaret, St. Paul Seminary and St. Catherine's, has been accused of sexual misconduct toward multiple young women who studied with him over the years.
Jennifer Lancour, left, worked with volunteers making meals at First Congregational Church. Homegrown mutual aid groups are popping up all over.

In Minnesota, mutual aid groups surge in wake of Floyd death

Mutual aid societies revived to help with riot losses, pandemic
Bishop John M. LeVoir of the Diocese of New Ulm

New Ulm bishop resigns, citing health reasons

The Rev. John LeVoir oversaw the diocese during sexual abuse lawsuits and bankruptcy.
The Rev. Edrin Williams of Sanctuary Covenant Church in north Minneapolis led volunteers in prayer before opening the church’s food distribution cen

Twin Cities Black clergy hope to seize power of the moment

A group of Twin Cities Black pastors has been discussing a proposal with Gov. Tim Walz to create a Minnesota "social compact" that would forge new investments and public policies to begin erasing racial inequities.
Former Minneapolis City Council Member Don Samuels prayed for 8 minutes and 45 seconds at the 30 Days of Prayer: Healing the Heart of Our City on Tues

Minnesota's 30 Days of Prayer seeks spiritual insights into police, political problems

30 Days of Prayer encourages people to grieve "multiple layers of trauma."
Lutheran minister Bethany Ringdal is one of the volunteer chaplains helping at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, which has been a major food distribution

'Crisis mode chaplains' seek to heal trauma of Floyd's death

More than 100 Minnesota faith leaders have fanned out at events ranging from State Capitol protests to food distributions to a Juneteenth celebration. They serve as compassionate listeners, helping hands and tension diffusers in stressful situations.

Mounds View man charged with child sex abuse

A Mounds View man has been charged with first-degree criminal sexual conduct with a child under age 13 for alleged sex abuse when he worked…
“It would be a big help,” Olivia Rodriguez, owner of El Rey Car Audio on East Lake Street, said of fast financial aid, which is now in the works f

Mpls. nonprofit to give surprise boost to Lake Street businesses

Urban Ventures pivots from food relief to business stipends and more to help replenish, repair and rebuild.

St. Cloud Diocese declares bankruptcy

The Diocese of St. Cloud filed for bankruptcy in U.S. Bankruptcy Court Monday, just weeks after reaching a $22.5 million settlement with clergy abuse survivors.The…
Pow Wow Grounds coffee shop owner Bob Rice, CEO Michael Goze of the American Indian Community Development Corporation and American Indian Movement Pre

American Indian patrol in Minneapolis credited with saving buildings during violence

Community groups offer thanks to American Indian patrols that saved more than 20 businesses and nonprofits from protest violence.
Anne Thompson helped paint a mural on a street intersection in the Longfellow neighborhood. Her block’s residents voted Thursday to end patrols and

Exhausted Minneapolis citizen patrols still wary, but seek a calmer path forward

A week out from the height of the violence, a fragile calm is descending as neighbors reach for a new normal.
Labayea Sumo smiled Tuesday as she thanked volunteers providing food and other items.

In Minneapolis, a quiet army of generosity gains strength

The sheer scope of support, pouring in from Minnesota and the nation, has surprised and relieved exhausted Minneapolis communities.
At Transfiguration Catholic Church in Oakdale, parishioners were able to attend a service by Father John Paul Erickson on Wednesday as pews were close

Minnesota church attendance starts slowly this weekend

Many Minnesota churches opened their doors to smaller than expected crowds Sunday, and most didn't open at all, facing COVID-19 safety concerns and civil unrest…
The Rev. John Ubel roped off two pews, leaving every third one open, according to a seating chart to evenly space 250 parishioners for this weekend’

Minnesota churches reopen this weekend with excitement, questions in wake of COVID-19 pandemic

Many Minnesotans relish a return to church, while others still unsure of safety.
Parishioners were able to attend a service presided by the Rev. John Paul Erickson as pews were closed off to allow social distancing and a maximum ca

Minnesota churches open for first time since March 18

While any group could open its doors, Catholics had the advantage because they tend to have daily services.
The St. Paul Cathedral plans to open May 30 for in-person masses, but the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis does not.

Trump's threat intensifies tensions over reopening places of worship in Minnesota

Catholic leaders and Gov. Tim Walz met again Friday but made no announcement about reaching common ground.
Catholic Archbishop Bernard Hebda said at a news conference Thursday in St. Paul that churches can be reopened safely.

Minnesota church groups divided on Gov. Walz's orders

Minnesota's Catholic archbishop says churches can be reopened safely while others stepped forward in support of refraining from moving too quickly.
Tom Johnson.

Tom Johnson, St. Paul Archdiocese clergy abuse ombudsman, steps down

Volunteer post, required by clergy abuse settlement, will be held by his wife, Victoria Newcome Johnson.
The Rev. Michael Joncas has written hundreds of compositions over the past four decades.

Minn. priest, composer of 'On Eagle's Wings,' pens viral hymn for COVID-19

The Rev. Michael Joncas hopes his new song will bring comfort.
Ramsey County District Attorney John Choi with St. Paul-Minneapolis Archbishop Bernard Hebda.

St. Paul Archdiocese has strong protection policies, review finds

Archdiocese has policies among best in nation but they have room for improvement, according to findings released by the Ramsey County Attorney's Office.
Aminata Keita loaded meals into the trunk of a car in Columbia Heights, Minn., on Thursday. She and other volunteers serve from 100 to 150 boxes each

Muslim charities step up with iftar meals, food boxes this Ramadan season

Every night around 6:30, the cars begin pulling into the parking lot of a Columbia Heights nonprofit. The folks inside are Muslims checking out a…
LaDonna Hoy has retired as executive director of Interfaith Outreach after 40 years. Greg Hilding, is the new top executive.

After tackling suburban poverty for Interfaith Outreach for 40 years, director steps down

LaDonna Hoy gained a reputation as a tireless advocate who got things done.
In this Friday, April 10, 2020 photo, Miles de Rouin, 20, an art student at San Francisco State, jumps on his skateboard outside the closed Saint Char

Religion doesn't buffer young adults from loneliness

Attending services doesn't protect against isolation, survey of youth ages 13-25 finds.
Ahmed Jamal had the honor of making the first adan or call to prayer in the Somali community in Minnesota.

Ramadan call to prayers broadcast as Muslims pray at home

That's just one of several reasons why this Ramadan celebration is unlike any past one in the Twin Cities.
In the Cedar Riverside neighborhood, there are several mosques serving the Muslim community including Somalis who came to this country to escape the v

Muslim call to prayer to be broadcast in Cedar-Riverside neighborhood

The first broadcast in Minnesota will run through Ramadan holy days.
In his basement home office, Pastor Brandon Newton video taped himself delivering a reading for Sunday's service. It will be spliced into a worship se

Coronavirus is transforming Easter, the church's future

With churches closed, it is a strange new world for Easter Sunday.
Pope Francis on Good Friday. In a recent survey of Americans, the pope was most linked to Catholicism, with nearly 50 percent of those surveyed associ

Survey finds lack of knowledge about religions' figureheads

More than half of the respondents couldn't come up with a name related to Islam, Judaism, evangelical Protestantism or atheism.
Bruce Manning held up matzo, which he just broke in half as part of Passover seder ritual, as he took part in a virtual seder alongside his family Wed

For Minnesota's Jews, COVID-19 reshapes Passover celebrations

Jewish leaders predict there will be more seders this year than any in memory, because so many people are under the stay-at-home rule.
University Lutheran Chapel in Minneapolis has reversed its position and shut chapel doors, removing itself from the ranks of renegade churches.

Minnesota church that had evaded virus rules now cancels services

University Lutheran Chapel in Minneapolis had continued services despite virus threats, until Wednesday.
Archbishop John Nienstedt

Request to Vatican to investigate Archbishop Nienstedt in limbo

It's being called a test case of new Vatican rules to discipline bishops.
Ric and Michelle Saatzer watched a portion of Wednesday night's online church service from their laptop with their kids, Abi, 13, and Tony, 16, in the

Worship moves from sanctuary to living room, as Minnesota churches go online

Every major Christian denomination in Minnesota now has suspended in-person worship, leaving faith leaders scrambling for alternatives.
“The postponement means we’re entering another season of waiting to resolve these longstanding conflicts,” said Bruce Ough, United Methodist bis

Global Methodist conference in Minneapolis to address LGBT inclusion is postponed

The Minneapolis Convention Center was going to be the epicenter of the debate, with up to 7,000 visitors from across the world expected.
Mahtomedi’s St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church is serving communion in small plastic cups instead of a communal vessel.

Prevention joins prayer at Minnesota houses of worship wary of coronavirus

Minnesota's faithful face an ever-changing landscape with unprecedented measures, unfolding everywhere.
Bob DeBoer

Bob DeBoer, who left a legacy of innovation for special needs kids, dies at 73

He and his wife, Kathy DeBoer, launched A Chance to Grow, which offers services such as vision therapy, auditory services and neurofeedback for struggling learners.
Women are taught to sew at a Life Center in the city of Van, and are using those skills to help support their families.

Minnesota church is base of 100-year-old Kurdish relief project

The nonprofit Lutheran Mideast Development is one of the state's oldest global initiatives.
Eaglebrook Church pastor Bob Merritt, right, thanked his staff and congregation at his retirement service on Sunday, March 1.

Thousands flock to Eagle Brook megachurch as pastor retires

Leader at state's largest megachurch retired Sunday, marking the end of era.
Fr. Allen Kuss and his dog Kiku-San take a break from their work at Church of St. Patrick in Edina.

Does your faith influence your choice of pet?

An unusual new study examines the link between religious views and pet ownership.
The Rev. Doug Pagitt encouraged attendees to speak against politicians who don't govern with love at the Vote Common Good campaign stop at Solomon’s

Minnesota pastor leads campaign to try to shift evangelical vote

"We're not trying to make everyone a Democrat, just to vote for one this time," the Rev. Doug Pagitt says.
The Rev. Mike Lotzer preaches at Mercy Road Church, the updated name for his Burnsville church.

Minnesota church Facebook page explodes – with requests for the Illuminati

It shows off the downside of the national trend for churches to creatively rebrand.
The Rev. Joel Wight Hoogheem of Lord of Life Lutheran Church in Maple Grove held a copy of one of the letters of debt forgiveness.

Erasing medical debt is new mission of Twin Cities church

The congregation of Lord of Life Lutheran Church in Maple Grove donated $15,000 to pay off more than $1 million in debts, said the Rev. Joel Wight Hoogheem.
Ramsey County District Attorney Jon Choi stood with Archbishop Bernard Hebda during a press conference after submitting their final progress report on

Ramsey County ends oversight of St. Paul-Minneapolis archdiocese over clergy sex abuse

Archbishop pledges to continue initiatives to prevent clergy sex abuse of children.
Eva Moreimi, in the kitchen of Beth El Synagogue, prepared a recipe for Monday’s remembrance.

Minnesota woman shares 'hidden recipes' of Jewish women enslaved by Nazis

Daughter will tell remarkable story of mother's survival at Minnesota's Holocaust remembrance event.
A survey by Pew Research Center found Protestants feel closer to clergy than Catholics. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Protestants feel closer to clergy than Catholics do, researchers say

About half in both said they were "somewhat close" to the person leading their worship services. But faith in their advice differed widely by issue.
Luanne Nyberg

Luanne Nyberg, founder of Children's Defense Fund Minnesota, dies at 73

She was among the most ardent advocates at the Legislature for the Children's Health Insurance Program, which became a national model.
In this 2018 file photo, Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, vice president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, left, sits with Car

Minnesota researcher reveals day in the life of a Catholic bishop

The Rev. Stephen Fichter presented the findings last week during a lecture at St. Mary's University in Minneapolis.
The Rev. Mariah Furness Tollgaard of Hamline Church United Methodist is hopeful about the proposal.

Minnesota Methodist leaders support new plan ending LGBT sanctions

Individual churches would be allowed to decide whether to be inclusive.
Daniel J. Jones, who investigated CIA interrogation methods and is depicted in the 2019 film “The Report,” spoke Thursday in St. Louis Park.

Investigator of CIA torture honored as 'hero among us' helps put a spotlight on ethics, integrity

Daniel J. Jones addressed a crowd of several hundred people at Beth El Synagogue in St. Louis Park.
The Rev. Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, speaks at an Evangelical Immigration Roundtable event. Anderson, forme

Minnesotan retires as head of National Association of Evangelicals

The Rev. Leith Anderson, former pastor at Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie, steps down next week after 13 years as the group's president.
Lisa Kupcho, right, embraced friend Polly Posten after mass at St. Joan of Arc Church in Minneapolis. Kupcho travels 20 miles from Chanhassen to atten

For more Minn. churchgoers, Sundays come with a commute

More Minnesota worshipers travel farther to go to church. And that's a mixed blessing for pastors and priests.
Barbary Coast Dixieland Jazz Band members, from left, Fred Richardson, Russ Peterson and Jim ten Bensel played their last show this month.

Minnesota Dixieland band played 2,000 churches, 35 years

The musicians' long run of harmonizing their faith with their talents has come to an end.
The Minnesota Multifaith Network’s speaker bureau includes, left to right, Sally Abrams of the Jewish Community Relations Council, Prabhat Tekriwal

New network aims to link interfaith efforts in Minnesota

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.