Priest expanding his horizonsPublished 11:31am Thursday, October 4, 2012 Updated 11:42am Thursday, October 4, 2012
Scuba diver, writer, kayaker, photographer, history buff, comedian, avid outdoorsman and priest, the Rev. Jeff Ethen is the newest addition to St. Elizabeth Church in Elizabeth and St. Leonard Church in Pelican Rapids.
Ethen moved to Pelican Rapids in June, and he said he likes the multicultural environment.
Because he is fluent in Spanish, Ethen knew he would be next in line to come to the area because St. Leonard Church has a Spanish mass every Sunday at 12:30 p.m.
“I love it here,” Ethen said. “I enjoy the multicultural community. They have excellent lay leadership within the Spanish Catholic community. I inherited a good assignment.”
Ethen learned Spanish on his own through tapes, books, Spanish soap operas and spending time in Spanish-speaking countries.
“My symbol for learning Spanish is the turtle,” he said. “I just keep moving forward slowly but surely.”
Growing up in Elk River, Ethen had no intentions of becoming a priest. He went to college for journalism so he could travel the world as a foreign corresponder. After working as a journalist for a while, Ethen realized covering the facts from an objective point of view wasn’t enough. He wanted to become more involved.
In 1988, Ethen was ordained just as the St. Cloud Diocese reached its 100th year. For the next several years, he helped write the history of parishes as they turned 100.
Ethen said he has always loved to travel. He has been all over the world, but one life-changing experience happened in New York City on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001.
Ethen was having a cup of coffee when the attacks on the World Trade Towers occurred. He was among the first to show up to help and worked at St. Vincent Hospital near ground zero.
“That doubled down on my desire to work in a multicultural setting,” he said. “It recommitted me to learning Spanish. We need to be taking ourselves out of ourselves and be more open to different people. This community supports that.”
Ethen said he has been received very well by the churches and community. One of the things he will have to get used to is the music at St. Leonard Church, which includes drums and an electric guitar.
“The music is very vibrant,” he said. “It’s a big change.”
In his free time, Ethen said he enjoys spending time on the lake kayaking, scuba diving and taking underwater photographs. He also performs several stand-up comedy shows each year.