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Goodhue pastor steps down, but not out

The Rev. Bruce Peterson will retire at the end of the month after 43 years as pastor of St. Columbkill Catholic Church in Goodhue. (Photo by Debby Bradley)

A lot has changed in Goodhue County since the 1970s, but there is one thing residents have always been able to rely on: the guidance and support of Father Bruce Peterson.

At the end of the month, Peterson, 82, will retire after 43 years as pastor of St. Columbkill, St. Mary and Holy Trinity parishes near Goodhue.

"It's just gotten to the point where I have to start to take things slow," Peterson said of his decision to retire.

In addition to multiple weekly Masses, Peterson's busy schedule includes weddings, funerals and working with several community and state organizations.

He spent 30 years with the Lions Club; eight years on state school board; six years on the rural education board; and was coach for local baseball and softball teams.

"I kept quite busy through those organizations," Peterson said. "It was a way of getting involved with the community."

His dedication was recognized in 1983 when the Goodhue County Editorial Association named him Citizen of the Year.

Peterson said he will most fondly remember the unique opportunity he had to watch the Goodhue community -- and its members -- grow over the years.

"I've been able to see the young people I married off grow up, have kids of their own and then baptize them," Peterson said. "I've gotten to know two or three generations of kids. It feels like we're kind of a big family."

Of the approximately 100 families spread across the three parishes he tends, Peterson said he takes pride in knowing most of them by name.

Originally from Minneapolis, he graduated from Southwest High School in 1948.

When deciding what to do after school, Peterson spoke with the assistant pastor at his local parish. "I wanted to see what the priesthood was all about," Peterson said.

His curiosity eventually lead him to tour Nazareth Hall, a now defunct seminary preparatory school in St. Paul.

"They must have been good salesmen, because I signed up in the fall of that year," Peterson said.

From there he graduated on to St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity and was later ordained a priest in 1957. He then served as an assistant pastor for 13 years before being assigned to St. Columbkill in Belle Creek.

"They went by seniority when assigning parishes," Peterson said. "When it came to my turn, I was very anxious to become a pastor."

He added: "I didn't know where Belle Creek was, but I jumped at the opportunity."

After he starts his retirement, Peterson said he can be found on his small boat near Bay Point Park or keeping active at the Red Wing Family YMCA. "Now I'll be able to get down there more often and do some swimming," he said.

And even though he will be stepping down as pastor, Peterson said he wants to assure the community that he is going to stay involved, including rotating between his old parishes for weekend Mass.

"I'll come as a friend, not as a pastor," Peterson said. "It'll be good for them, and it'll be good for me."

There will be an open house to celebrate Peterson's career 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday June 30 at the Lions Building, 105 Broadway St., Goodhue.

Michael Brun

Michael Brun joined RiverTown Multimedia at the Red Wing Republican Eagle in March 2013, covering county government, health and local events.  He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls journalism program.

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