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 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.
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.