Our Team

Steve Berkeland


Welcome!  It is my joy and privilege to serve with the people of St. John's Lutheran Church.  Our hope is that you will experience God's love here, whether that is by browsing on the website or walking through the doors. 


Ministry in Mapleton began for me in the fall of 2019, after having been with congregations in Albert Lea, Mankato, Red Wing and Fairmont.  I grew up in the Twin Cities, so other than some short stays in Iowa and Wisconsin, I've pretty much been a Southern Minnesota guy all of my life.


Judy (my wife, and truly my better half) is happily making the most of her retirement from teaching.  Our three grown children and families are all within an hour and a half of us. And our free time is filled with seeing family and friends and enjoying nature.


God's peace be with you, now and always!


Jill Zellmer
Office & Financial Administrator

I was born and raised in Mapleton, MN about 5 miles south of town on a farm. I absolutely love living and working in a small community. I graduated from Rasmussen College with my Associates Degree in Applied Science and majored in medical administration. Since then I have worked in the Maple River School District and at Pioneer Bank. I have years of experience with financing, administration and education with young kids.

I currently live in Mapleton with my husband Adam and my daughter Ellie who just turned 7 in February. We just finished the constuction on our new home which is located on the family farm. We love being up at the lake, going on walks with our Great Pyrenees (Diggs) and spending time with our families.

I took the Office Administrator position here at St. John's back in 2018 and am loving every minute of it. The job is challenging and fun at the same time!  I have been a member of this church since I was baptized and take great pride in working for this community and congregation. I am looking forward to serving for many years to come!


Caryl O'Brien/Dick O'Brien

Caryl and Dick O'Brien have been members of St John's for over 35 years and have served as custodians since 2014.  Prior to that, Caryl served as a hair stylist in her own salon.  Dick is an army veteran, has worked as an over-the-road truck driver and also as an ag pilot.  They bring to their work an eye for detail and a wonderful sense of humor.  They have two children, Angie and Rick and are the proud grandparents of 6 grandchildren and 5 great-grandchildren.


Mike Ward

I have been working as either the treasurer or assistant treasurer since I retired as an accountant in 2012. Before that time, I was, and still am, involved in church finances on the stewardship committee, the endowment committee or helping with the audit of the church.
Currently my wife and I are retired. We enjoy hiking, biking and travel. We like to visit State and National Parks and Monuments. We also spend as much time as we can with our grandchildren – all boys.


Rita Caron

Rita Caron has lived in Mapleton for 40 years with her husband Larry. Her children Matthew and Joleen both live out of state so that means Rita travels a lot between CA. and OK. to visit her 5 grandchildren. She has been on the Welca board for years along with Sybil, Leah, Lisa, Sheila, and Jan. She also has been the Wedding coordinator for about 10 years. She enjoys being involved in all church activities. In 40 years at St. John there have been many changes and it is great to see the growth in our church right now. I love St. John. I am also on the Mapleton Chamber of Commerce. I have been a hospice volunteer for 22 years. I own Rita's Originals which is a sewing business that I have had for 40 years. I do mostly Wedding alterations and Prom wear but I do sewing of all types. I have been truly blessed in my work and my life.


Denise Nienow
Senior Choir Director & Worship Accompanist

I've been a member of St. John Lutheran Church for 50 years.  I've accompanied the children's choir for over 30 years, been a member of Sr. Choir for over 20 years, directed the Casual Choir and have accompanied for church services since High School.  I love playing piano and first started "tickling the keys" when I was five.  I play by ear so don't need printed music.  I recently accepted the Choir Director position in July, 2019. My husband Doug and I have three children and eight grandchildren.  We live on the family farm in rural Mapleton.  In our spare time, you will find us "up north", as we both love to fish. 





Judy Berkeland

Senior Choir Director

"Music is the tool for expressing our gratitude and praise to our Heavenly Father!" Music has been a major part of my life for as long as I can remember. Sharing the gift of music here at St. John's, alongside my husband Pastor Steve, has been a pure joy. I grew up in a musical family and carried that focus throughout my life. After graduating from Waldorf College and Augsburg College, I earned a Masters of Music Education from Minnesota State University Mankato. I taught choirs for many years in St. Clair, Wells/Alden/Freeborn and Red Wing) finishing my teaching career directing the Fairmont Orchestras. Directing church choirs has also been a part of my life since High School. St. John's gladly welcomes anyone to participate in the music ministry here! Please consider sharing your musical gifts with us!



Kimbra Lau N/A


Bio coming soon....


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