Deacon Tanner Thooft (back row far right) was among the Minnesota deacons who assisted Pope Francis during the Eucharistic Liturgy of the Jan. 6 Epiphany Mass in St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican City. Deacon Tanner Thooft (front row, fifth from left), other deacons and Father Scott Carl (left) of the Arch Diocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and Msgr. Stephen Gideon of the Diocese of Nashville, Tennessee. 
Overlooking the ruins of the Roman Forum, the center of the old City of Rome and the Center of Government.


Thooft, becoming ordained priest, served Mass with Pope in Rome

As he approaches ordination to priestly ministry, Deacon Tanner Thooft recently returned from a three-week trip to Rome where, among other things, he assisted Pope Francis during the Epiphany Mass in St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican City.
Deacon Thooft, a 2014 Minneota High School graduate, was one of three seminarians of the Diocese of New Ulm that were ordained to the transitional diaconate on June 5, 2021, by Bishop John M. LeVoir at the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in New Ulm.
As a student at the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity of the University of St. Thomas, Deacon Thooft had the chance to embark on the study and retreat to the Eternal City with 12 other deacons, seven seminarians and a priest from the school.
"It was an incredible trip, and I am grateful that I got the chance to go," Deacon Thooft said. "We were supposed to go to Jerusalem last year, but we couldn't because of COVID. We were going to go this year, but Israel closed its borders on Dec. 12, so we went to Rome this year. I'd like to go to the Holy Land sometime, though."
Deacon Thooft, who returned to school on Feb. 11, is in his final semester that ends May 20. He will then be ordained as a priest on May 28, and then will be an associate under a priest within the Diocese of New Ulm for four years before taking over as a priest at a church to be named by the bishop.While in Rome for two weeks, Deacon Thooft was able to see some historic and interesting sites. One of those places was the Basilica of the Holy House in Loreto, Italy, which is a shrine in which the Blessed Virgin Mary is believed by some Catholics to have been born and raised, and where an angel told her she would be the mother of Jesus. According to a 14th century legend, after the Holy Land came under the control of Islam in 1263, the Holy House was flown by angles to Dalmatia (in modern Croatia) in 1291, where a vision revealed it to be Mary's house. In 1295, the house was again transported by angels to the current location.
"We got to pray inside the house," Deacon Thooft said. "It was pretty amazing to think that we were inside the house that Mary grew up in."
The St. Thomas group also served Mass at St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican City, the largest church in the world the place where Pope Francis does most of his major Masses.
"I was pretty nervous at first, so I wasn't even thinking that the Pope was only a few feet away from me when I went up to the altar to receive communion," Deacon Thooft laughed. "To be honest, I was just hoping to not screw up in the job I was doing. It was broadcast on live TV around the world."
As he was bringing Holy Communion to cardinals, bishops and priests, he had to walk down several steps from the altar and was afraid he might trip on his dalmatic, the long, loose gown worn by the ordained deacons.
"Everything went just fine," Deacon Thooft said. "When I sat down, I was able to relax and realize how amazing it was that I had just served Mass with the Pope."
The group also went to visit the Roman Forum, which was the location of important religious, political and social activities. Historians believe people first began publicly meeting in the open-air Forum around 500 B.C., when the Roman Republic was formed. Today, the Roman Forum comprised much of the Ancient Rome's most important structures, from shrines to government houses to monuments. Although much of the complex is in ruins, the group was able to see the remains.
"We also saw the track at Circus Maximus where they once had chariot races," Deacon Thooft said. "Then we visited the Colosseum (the biggest amphitheater in the world that was once used to host gladiator games)."
On the final day of the trip to Rome, the group visited the ancient Catacombs of Rome.
"They are underground cemeteries," Deacon Thooft said. "When they didn't have room to bury everyone, but they wanted all the early Christians to be buried together, so they would bury them in levels underground. The one we went to was seven layers deep, although we weren't able to see all of the levels."
This group returned on Jan. 20 and now Deacon Thooft and Deacon Joshua Bot, who was ordained with Thooft last June, are finishing up school before they begin their priestly ministry.
"I'm excited," Deacon Thooft said. "I find out at the end of April or beginning of May what church I will go to and work as an associate under a priest."

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