Staff Directory 6370511

Jean Hopfensperger

Reporter | Religion, Faith & Values
Phone: 612-673-4511

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
St. Paul and Minneapolis Archbishop Bernard Hebda  has discouraged clergy from writing the appeals, noting that vaccine exemptions don’t require cle

Religious exemptions pose new challenges to COVID vaccine mandates

As employer mandates grow, rising number seek religious exemptions.
St. Victoria Catholic Church celebrated mass on a fine September Sunday. Outdoor worship has become a permanent addition.

COVID-19 has changed the way we worship, faith leaders say

Adaptations such as Zoom services and digital donations are here to stay.
Kenneth Schoen

Kenneth Schoen, national leader in criminal justice reform, dies

A tribute posted on the Minnesota Department of Corrections Facebook page called him "The Father of Community Corrections."
The Rev. Robert Grabner and several altar boys headed into the sacristy at St. Augustine Catholic Church. The church is one of two in South St. Paul t

Pope's crackdown on Latin masses draws mixed response among Minnesota Catholics

The phenomena has developed in few nations besides the United States, said one scholar, who called Francis' order the most significant of his papacy.
Bethlehem Baptist Church had three pastors resign this summer. Photo by Jean Hopfensperger

3 pastors leave Minneapolis megachurch amid 'painful and confusing moment'

The tensions at Bethlehem reflect the fractures rocking the nation's evangelical Christian community amid racial reckoning and the MeToo movement.
Craig Schulz, exposed a statue called Angels Unaware, as they placed it near the steps of the Basilica of St. Mary, Friday, July 30, 3021 in downtown

'Angels Unawares' sculpture, commissioned by Pope Francis, arrives at Basilica of St. Mary

Dramatic life-size sculpture depicts immigrant experience, with life-size men, women and children packed into an boat. A pair of angel wings rise above the group.
Benno Black read the program for the reception celebrating the opening of the Kindertransport exhibit at the American Swedish Institute.

Minnesota's last survivor of Holocaust children's rescue offers lesson in history

Benno Black boarded a train 82 years ago to an unknown future.
Sacred Heart of Jesus Church is holding a fundraiser Saturday.

Historic northeast Mpls. church gutted by fire holding fundraiser for demolition

The congregation hopes its fundraiser Saturday will cover the cost of demolition and provide seed money for the future.

Sister Joan Tuberty, spiritual leader and psychiatric nurse, dies at 92

An academic with a master's degree in psychiatric and nursing education, Tuberty carried her book learning to the inner city of Minneapolis where she worked for nearly 25 years.
St. Paul and Minneapolis Archbishop Bernard Hebda, seen in May 2020, was among those who declined to disclose how and why they voted on a  new documen

Most Minnesota bishops decline to reveal vote on communion draft

The decision of U.S. Catholic bishops to draft a new document on communion, a move rooted in distress over President Joe Biden's abortion rights stance, continues to stoke a heated national debate.
Rev. Harry Bury introduced Rev. Jerry McAfee before he spoke to a group of priests from the Association of U.S. Catholic Priest at George Floyd square

Local priest honored for global peacemaking from Vietnam to Minnesota

The Rev. Harry Bury, once held hostage as a "human shield'', now works for nonviolence in Minnesota.
U.S. President Joe Biden, center, left after attending Mass at Sacred Heart and St. Ia Catholic Church, in St. Ives, southern England, Sunday, June 13

'Communion wars' take center stage at Catholic bishops meeting

Bishops will consider whether to ban pro-abortion rights Catholic politicians from receiving communion.
Narasimman Rengasamy smashed a coconut during a ritual honoring the Hindu figures of Vishnu and Garuda outside the Hindu Temple of Minnesota, which is

Once a leap of faith, temple serves Twin Cities' growing Hindu community

In 15 years, the Hindu Society of Minnesota temple in Maple Grove has become a religious, social and cultural center for the state's 50,000 Hindus.
A contentious back-and-forth emerges in the court-ordered deposition of the Rev. Kevin McDonough, the longtime point person on Catholic priest sexual

Archdiocese says former official 'failed' to protect kids from abuse

The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis said the Rev. Kevin McDonough is "fit for ministry" but will bar him from leadership positions involving the protection of children.
Marie Weaver 79, of New Hope , exited First Lutheran Church of Crystal after about 40 church members attended on church service Sunday May 16, 2021. ]

More Americans are losing their religion: 'How do we compete with secular culture?'

Faith leaders face challenges as just 47% of Americans are members of a church, synagogue or mosque, a Gallup poll finds.
Members of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Minneapolis were left with grief and questions after fire damaged their Polish National Catholic church

Polish church in Minneapolis gutted by fire 'concentrating on healing'

A small, close-knit church seeks healing and a way forward after a devastating fire.
Bishop Michael J. Hoeppner of Crookston, Minn., shown in 2008. Hoeppner has resigned at the request of Pope Francis after an investigation found that

Minnesota bishop resigns at pope's request after abuse coverup

Bishop is first in U.S. disciplined under new Vatican policies.
Nurse Jean Zwilling administered vaccine at Eden Prairie’s Al-Tawba Masjid. The mosque was among at least 16 in Minnesota that were part of a vaccin

Minnesota mosques prepare for Ramadan —with COVID-19 vaccines

Imam Ahmed Aboubadria is a healer of the soul, not the body. But he readily agreed to have his Eden Prairie mosque converted into a…
David Haas plays the piano at St. Kate’s in 2004.

St. Catherine's inquiry backs sexual misconduct claims against composer David Hass, recommends changes

University officials said they plan to strengthen sexual behavior protocols.
Reese Spaeth was among those at Alleluia Lutheran Church in St. Michael who was happy to attend service on Palm Sunday.

Easter brings renewed hope for church attendance

Thousands expected to attend in-person services
The Rev. Sara Wilhelm Garbers stood near a replica of the Mayflower, a symbol of Colonial Church’s pioneer New England roots. 

George Floyd's death sparks soul-searching by faith leaders

Colonial Church of Edina, whose name and architecture reflect its roots in 17th-century New England, has long celebrated its religious ties to the early Pilgrim…
Mark Balma worked on a Fresco of Eve and Adam , the first of three panels that will be permanently installed at the Church of the Immaculate Conceptio

From Minnesota to Italy: Rare fresco project spotlights biblical women

Fresco of biblical women starts in Minnesota, destined for church outside Rome
Katie Strand offered Lent to-go kits at her Apple Valley church.

Lent kits, ashes to go mark Ash Wednesday during pandemic

Churches are rolling out creative ideas this week to observe Ash Wednesday, tweaking a centuries-old tradition to meet the demands of a 21st-century pandemic.Clergy smudging…
GLEN STUBBE • — Friday, April 29, 2011 — St. Paul, Minn. — The first day of public testimony before the Senate Judicia

Winona-Rochester Diocese reaches $21.5 million settlement with abuse victims

Settlement must be approved in U.S. Bankruptcy Court.
In this Jan. 6, 2021, file photo insurrectionists loyal to President Donald Trump breach the Capitol in Washington.

Capitol siege puts spotlight on Christian nationalists

Pastor Chik Chikeles stood in front of the altar last month wearing a black T-shirt with the words "Democratic Platform 1. Murder Unborn Children 2.…
Ben Webb, worship director at Emmaus Church in Bloomington, uses the latest technology to integrate music into Sunday service. The National Congregati

More drums, fewer choirs as 'vibrant' church styles rise in popularity

More churches are adopting informal and enthusiastic worship, including guitars, dancing, even applause.
The Rev. W. Seth Martin, a Twin Cities pastor, decided to leave the Southern Baptist Convention.

Black pastor takes stand against Southern Baptist race statement

Black pastors say seminary leaders undid progress.
From left, Asha Mohamed, Ayan Shire and Nimo Abdullahi assembled sambusas Wednesday at frozen-food business Hoyo. The business, which gives work exper

'Shark Tank for Churches' is launched in Twin Cities

Entrants vie for $200K from church to develop companies or social services
Jonny LeRoux, with parents Jon and Megan, practiced with a paper screen for her church’s virtual pageant.

Pandemic forces churches to reimagine Christmas services, pageants

Many churches launched online services last spring, never imagining they would have to concoct a new universe of virtual holiday choirs, children's pageants, Advent wreath-lightings and more.
Rev. Andrew Jaspers gave the sacrament commonly known as last rites as a precaution to COVID patient Chuck Schuh, 85, Saturday. Relatives gave permiss

Minn. chaplains are adapting to the new COVID-19 calling

Chaplains of all faiths are quietly providing another dimension of support to Minnesota's COVID patients, their families and often medical staff.

Carleton Professor Sy Schuster, trailblazer for diversity, dies at 94

The accomplished math professor, mentor and social justice activist died just days after contracting COVID-19.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Four who sought answers outside mainstream religions

Four who sought answers outside mainstream religions

'As a scientist, you look at things that are testable'Greg Pratt, a veteran research scientist, holds as truth the things he can observe, can empirically…
Michelle Jensen talks to congregants following Sunday service at Hoff Lutheran Church in Rustad, Minn.

Fewer enter seminary as need declines, church budgets shrink

Fewer recruits are willing to be pioneers in a new spiritual landscape that requires them to juggle faith, fundraising and Facebook.
John Steger, on right, led a prayer group in prayer before they organized at Jaur Cafe coffee shop Friday in Minneapolis. The church outreach group or

Does God have a hand in Super Bowl? Minn. faithful weigh in

One in four Americans believe God plays a role in athletic games.

Can you be good without God? Most U.S. adults now say yes

In a new poll, 56 percent of adults surveyed say you can be a good person without divine faith.
“You have to be careful about what you say, and who and where you say it,” said
Katie Zuraff, a pastor’s wife.

Marriage to a minister is mixed blessing, survey finds

A new survey of pastor spouses, conducted by LifeWay Research, found many feel isolated with few close friends and considerable financial worries.
Bethel University students in Prof. Mike Holmes' Introduction to Bible Studies class use their cell phone Bible apps to follow him while he uses a Bib

Bible apps with 'the most sought-after content in the world' grow in popularity

No one is predicting the demise of the Good Book. But the Greatest Story Ever Told is increasingly being spiced up with photos, video, 3-D graphics, maps and social media shares.
“You heal yourself,” Mas Sajady says of his practice.

Complaint puts New Age healers on Minnesota regulators' radar

A former client is claiming Mas Sajady's supernatural healings are tantamount to practicing medicine, and he should follow state regulations for alternative health care.