By Josh Johnson/Seminarian at Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary in Winona, Minnesota

Since I was born, my family has lived in the same blue house in Moorhead and we have been parishioners of St. Joseph’s Church. As many others have, I grew up in a normal, beautiful family. As the youngest of three brothers and one sister, I have had the joy of many different experiences with my family. Now, as the newest seminarian for the Diocese of Crookston, I am again the youngest of my brothers. I am straight out of high school, 19 years old, and ready to try to be formed as a disciple of Christ, listening and discerning his will.

My journey to seminary started with my family and learning the faith in my day-to-day life. Being Catholic was just part of who I was as I attended Catholic school from preschool through high school. A major change in my life began in third grade when my mom, Roberta Johnson, was diagnosed with Leukemia. She passed away about a year and a half later. For a while, I did not truly process her death, but I always had the support of my siblings and dad. Progressing into middle and high school, the faith continued to be a part of my life, but it was not my own. It was something I did because it was expected of me. At a camp the summer before my junior year, I had my first true prayer experience. In the experience, I found the grief and anger about my mom’s death and expressed that to God. Afterwards, I started to open myself up more to God and to friends. I began to see the beauty of God more and more and wanted to make the faith my own. I started to pray regularly on my own and genuinely wanted to know and live the Catholic faith. I examined my life to see what was helpful and harmful to me. I tried to make genuine changes my junior and senior years of high school. I cut out negative things in my life and tried to replace them with living for God.

Amid all of that, the summer before my senior year I was reading an article published in Our Northland Diocese newspaper, and the main point was living without fear. At that moment, fear and anxiety was gone from me and my next thought was that I was going to go to seminary. The fears and anxieties promptly returned, but I knew that God had blessed me in that moment and I had to consider seminary. I spent the first half of my senior year discerning whether I should go to seminary right away. During discernment, I realized more and more that discipleship is being as generous as one can with the Lord and giving him your whole life in whatever way he wants. I applied and was accepted.

My first quarter at seminary has been the toughest but most joyful part of life I have experienced. I am surrounded by new people and in a different environment from what I have known, but because of that, there are many opportunities for growth. The faculty is always pushing us to grow. We try to direct everything we do towards Christ, which creates purpose for our actions from attending classes, eating, playing basketball, or napping. The community is truly a blessing as there is always somebody to hang out with and support is always found among one’s brothers. The friendships I am starting to develop here are some of the best in my life. While I still have so much to experience and learn, I am seeing how good it is for 50 plus men to strive for holiness together. I ask that continued prayers be said for myself and my fellow seminarians as we strive together to figure out and do God’s will. Thank you for all of the support provided, we truly appreciate it!


Fr. Xavier Ilango
208 North 7th Street
Warren, MN 56762

Fr. Matt Schmitz
200 3rd Street NW
East Grand Forks, MN 56721
(218) 773-0877

Bonnie Sullivan
Administrative Assistant
(218) 281-4533