Fr. Andy McAlpin OP

The article below is an excerpt taken from “And The Truth Shall Set You Free,” a weekly podcast series hosted by Sr. Joseph Andrew Bogdanowicz, OP. The producer of the series was GoLEDigital, a digital community created by the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.

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Today, I am very excited to have a Dominican friend with us. We have talked in previous posts about St. Dominic, the Rosary, and the aspects of the Dominican order. Today we have our first Dominican priest, Fr. Andy McAlpin, with us. I am just thrilled to have you here, Father. 

We met years ago, and that friendship has remained because as soon as I saw Fr. Andy I knew he was the real deal. I knew he was cut out to be a Dominican through and through. Welcome, Father. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about your upbringing and your family.

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Fr. Andy McAlpin:

Thank you, Sister. I was born and raised in Minnesota. When I was eight, we moved to a horse farm in Eagan, Minnesota and raised horses. My mom had a great love of horses. We eventually ventured into the world of Arabian horse competition, which entails showing horses all over Minnesota and, ultimately, all over the country. We started riding horses at first, and then entered into this high-stakes world of competition. Most of the time, I was just caring for them, conditioning them, cleaning the stalls, and working with them directly. So that was a big part of my upbringing being on a farm.

Sr. Joseph Andrew:

That’s beautiful. Father, you mentioned your mom. She is so beautiful. What influence did she in particular have on your vocation and on your life?

Fr. Andy McAlpin:

Well, they raised me Catholic. Both of my parents were born and raised Catholic by parents who always brought them to church. So it wasn’t anything extraordinary; it was just the way it was. You didn’t miss mass, you did the proper fasting during Lent, you had all of the real realities of what I would consider a Catholic upbringing. I don’t mean that in a bad way. 

We never really prayed the Rosaries, and meal prayers were at the big events. But I always made sure to go to religious education on Wednesdays. That was a natural part of everything we did, and it always made sense to me. It was never a question of whether or not I believed in God or anything like that. It just always made sense to me, and I always had a life of prayer. So whatever God was calling me to, I was trying to answer at any time I could. Looking at nature and living on a farm, you’re always confronted with figuring out how all of this happened. And if it is a God, wow. This is a cool God. I want to get to know him.

Sr. Joseph Andrew:

Because I have known you for some time, I know that at a certain point, you kind of broke into a cultural scene. This is all before you became a priest. But God’s working through it all, so this is good for parents to remember when their children break into the cultural scene. How did you do that?

Fr. Andy McAlpin:

Well, I loved music early. I really did. My brother and I would always play the latest albums at night. When we were doing this, it was the KISS/Rush era; it was cool music. As a young child, I remember seeing some musician, Ringo Starr or Keith Moon or somebody like that, playing drums, and I said, “I think I can do that.” And eventually, I bought myself a $150 drum set and taught myself how to play drums in the barn. 

That was my entry into the cultural reality of wanting to be a performer. I eventually started playing a little bit here and there with some friends in high school. It wasn’t anything too terribly serious. I played in several bands, and then I went into the Navy and continued to play a little bit. It was when I left the Navy that I started playing more and became a part of a heavier music scene. I was working at the same time; I had a pretty good corporate job working at Honeywell in Minneapolis. 

As I’m growing up and learning, I’m meeting people who are very interested in the faith and in those things always made sense to me. Even in the Navy, I had some very strong conversion moments. For example, I was in a hostile action in the Persian Gulf in ’87. I remember hearing over the radio that the enemy was saying they were going to kill all of us. I was faced with, “I didn’t join the Navy to get killed.” I always knew God was going to do something with me. I always knew something was up. I never felt fully comfortable in my own skin, honestly. I just knew that there was something else out there, and I didn’t know what to call it. 

Sr. Joseph Andrew:

Now, Father, was there a Priest with you in the Navy on ship?

Fr. Andy McAplin:

No. I ran into a couple of Priests in the Navy at various bases, but the Navy needs more priests as does the Army, Air Force, and Marines.

Sr. Joseph Andrew:

Father, did it occur to you or did you think, “If this is the moment that I’m going to die, it would be nice to have the last sacraments of the church, which only a Priest could give me?”

Fr. Andy McAlpin:

Well, it would have been nice to be thinking in those terms, but I was 21 years old at the time. I felt invincible.

Sr. Joseph Andrew:

Father, at what point did a vocation to the priesthood come into your life?

Fr. Andy McAlpin:

I met the Dominicans while I was doing a study abroad year for the University of St. Thomas. Their first year, they did a study abroad in Rome. I lived at the International House of Studies for the Angelicum, which is the Dominican school. I was living there with the great Irish Dominican poet Paul Murray, my friends who were there with me, and some other really great men.

About:

Sr. Joseph Andrew Bogdanowicz, OP is a Foundress and Vocations Director for the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. Her podcast “And The Truth Shall Set You Free” can be downloaded every Friday at 1:00 p.m. EST from iTunes. The podcast can be seen on YouTube at Go_LEDigital


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