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Father Nicholas Nelson: There is one true faith, the Catholic faith

As far back as I can remember, I have always been convinced of the truth of the Catholic faith. It is something my parents formed in me. I wasn’t always as zealous as I am now. I hadn’t always desired to be a saint, but I always believed in the truth of the Catholic Church. That conviction is a grace I am most grateful for. With that said, it may be worthwhile to lay out the logical progression for being Catholic. Why does it make sense to be Catholic? 

Father Nick Nelson
Handing on the Faith

First, that there is a God can be known by reason alone. 

We have to start with our reason. There needs to be a foundation in my own mind for a particular truth. Some people make the mistake saying that believing in God takes faith. That isn’t true. Faith is believing on the authority of someone else. We believe a lot of things because God has revealed them, such as the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist and that God is a Trinity, but that there is a God — that doesn’t take faith, just our reason. We can look at the created world and logically conclude there must be first cause of everything and a being who holds everything in existence, i.e. “God.” Ironically enough, it is an article of faith that God’s existence can be known by reason alone. This is from the First Vatican Council (1870): “God, the origin and end of all things, can be known with certainty by the natural light of human reason, through the things that he created” (Dei Filius 2). 

Second, Jesus is validated by the resurrection. 

Once we have established the existence of God, we must admit that we don’t know a lot about him. We can reason a few things, such as God is one, unchanging, eternal, all-powerful, pure, immaterial, and all good. But after that, we can’t know much more. He had to reveal himself to us. He did that slowly throughout the Old Testament, but with Jesus of Nazareth, we have the fullness of God’s revelation of himself. 

That Jesus rose from the dead is a historically verifiable event. Consider the Gospel accounts, the radical conversion of his followers willing to die for him, and the fact that after his death, his Messianic movement didn’t end or even continue with a different leader. Rather, his followers claimed it continued with him! Why? Because he was alive! The resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth validates Jesus and his mission. The resurrection of Jesus categorically proves that every other religion or claim of revelation is man-made. God cannot contradict himself. He could not at one time affirm Jesus as his Son while at the same time revealing other messages that contradict Jesus’ revelation. For example, we cannot believe in Jesus as the Son of God and at the same time say Islam or Buddhism are true religions. 

Third, Jesus set up a church to continue his saving mission. 

Once we establish Jesus’ validity, we can look to what he said and did, because we can trust it. He claimed to be God. He claimed to be the way, the truth, and the life. And He established a church. He said to Peter, “You are Peter and upon this Rock I will build my church.” He gave Peter and the other Twelve his very own authority. He said, “Whoever hears you, hears me.” Before he ascended to heaven, Jesus told them, “Go and make disciples, baptizing them, teaching them all I have commanded you. And behold I am with you until the end of time.” 

Fourth, the church Christ founded is the same as the Catholic Church today. 

Where is that church today? Where is Jesus’ authority today? Protestants today don’t even claim to have Jesus’ authority. They point to the Bible as their only authority. Catholics make the same claim as the early church, that our pope and bishops in communion with him actually have God’s very own divine authority. We can trace the succession of popes from Pope Francis to St. Peter, and if we did have good enough records, we could trace Bishop Daniel Felton all the way back to one of the Apostles. The church Jesus founded is the Catholic Church we find today. Every other Christian community is man-made. 

God is a good Father. He wants his children to know who he is and what his plan is for us. He wants us to find him. Despite the confusion in the world and the church, every person sincerely open to the truth can see that the Catholic Church is the true faith. One God, one Savior, one church, the Catholic Church. 

In the end it just takes the gift of grace and a little leap of faith to give yourself entirely over to God and to follow Christ wholeheartedly as a Catholic. It will always take some faith to make that final step, but it takes faith for a man to entrust his heart to a woman for the rest of his life. 

That’s what God wants from us. He doesn’t want to be a math equation. He wants to be loved as Father, and as a friend. But this relationship isn’t a blind leap, but a rational one, one that makes all the sense in the world to make! 

Father Nick Nelson is pastor of Queen of Peace and Holy Family parishes in Cloquet. He studied at The Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family in Rome. Reach him at [email protected]. 

Father Richard Kunst: Why do we ‘dare’ to say the Lord’s Prayer?

Curiously, during this past school year I got the same question from more than a few kids. It was about something we priests say in the context of the Mass, and I have to say, the question is a good one, worthy of good answer. Paraphrasing, the question went like this: “Father, why do you say at Mass that we ‘dare’ to say the Our Father?” 

Father Richard Kunst
Apologetics

Observant kids! About 10 or 12 years ago, when the new and more accurate translation of the Mass was introduced to the English speaking world, the priest’s introduction to the Lord’s Prayer changed from the priest’s own discretion to an expected formula, which by now we are all familiar with: “At the Savior’s command, and formed by divine teaching, we dare to say.” 

So why do we “dare” say it? When we were kids, we probably all played truth or dare at some point. A dare was meant to be a scary thing, or at least a flexing of some courage, so why does it take courage to pray the Lord’s Prayer? The first thing to note is that we need to pay attention when we are saying familiar, memorized prayers. There is a vast difference between saying prayers and praying. And DARE I say that many of us do not pay much attention to the words we are actually praying? Because truth be told, the Our Father is a bit radical, and it takes courage to meaningfully pray it. 

Though there may be many reasons we dare to say this prayer, there are three that I will touch on. First, it’s how we start the prayer, referring to God as our Father. Or, if we were to be more true to the original language, we are actually referring to God in the less formal way as our dad. Start the prayer that way some time, and you will see how different it feels: “Our Dad, who is in heaven ….” Though the Old Testament is much longer than the New Testament, there are only 11 times in which God is referred to as a father, and in some of those 11 times he is compared to a father, not actually called a father. So when Jesus revealed God as our heavenly dad, it was a radical departure from the norm. When we enter into an intimate relationship with anyone, it can become risky for us, but to enter into such an intimate relationship with God brings it to a whole new level. It takes guts; it takes courage. 

A second point in which we dare to say the Lord’s Prayer is when we say, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” We are asking God to be in control on earth as he is in heaven, and that is not easy. God gives us free will to choose whatever we want, and he respects that free will, but when we pray that important line, we are giving God control of everything, or at least asking him to exercise his will over everything. In the Old Testament, when the Hebrew people were asking to have a king like all the nations surrounding them, the prophets said that God himself was their king, but the Hebrew people rejected that concept, so God anointed Saul as their king, and from that point forward the people slowly wandered farther and farther from God. 

To surrender our will to the divine will of God is no easy task, and when we do that we are certain to experience suffering and even rejection, but in the end it will be the source of the greatest joy. Still, it takes guts and true discipline to ask God to have his will done on earth just as it is done in heaven. 

Finally, and I have written about this in past columns, the third reason we “dare” to say the Lord’s Prayer is when we pray “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Though God’s love is inescapable and without condition, his mercy and forgiveness certainly have conditions. The most difficult condition for us to receive his forgiveness is that we must forgive others who have sinned against us. In essence when we speak these words towards the end of the prayer we are asking God to forgive us only to the degree that we first are willing to forgive. 

That is actually a pretty clear theme throughout the New Testament, but for Jesus to put it into the one prayer he taught his disciples turns it up a notch. Think of all the times we have been hurt by people, especially if the hurt was bad. Have we held a grudge? What if the person does not ask to be forgiven? What if we think they don’t deserve our forgiveness? It doesn’t matter. God bestows mercy and forgiveness in reckless abandon, and so should we: seven times seventy, Jesus once told Peter, meaning without limit. This is, in fact, extremely difficult, but it is necessary. 

So next time you pray to your heavenly Dad in the Our Father, pay close attention to the words rather than just mindlessly saying them. It takes guts to say and ask what is contained in this most famous of prayers, but at the Savior’s command and formed by divine teaching, we dare say it! 

Father Richard Kunst is pastor of St. James and St. Elizabeth in Duluth. Reach him at [email protected].

Betsy Kneepkens: Family gathering at wedding is an eye-opener

My niece, who lives on the East Coast, got married. Half of my siblings traveled a long distance and decided to make a week of it. I can’t remember when so many of my brothers and sisters spent that much time with each other. 

Betsy Kneepkens
Betsy Kneepkens
Faith and Family

I always marvel at how large families who have shared nearly everything growing up, attend similar schools, eat the same food every day, and play in the same sandbox their whole childhood grow up so different from each other. My family came from all over the globe to attend this event, which does not happen too often. My weekly expectations were minimal. I was hoping for some time to connect and experience a little family unity. 

The Fourth of July has been a time to celebrate the birth of our nation and the sacrifice people gave for our freedom. This day is where we honor the success that our election process has had a peaceful change of power at all government levels, even if we do not always agree with each other. In many countries, the shift from one party to another causes civil unrest, if not deadly riots. U. S. citizens have always been proud of our willingness to accept the handing over of political power to the opposing side after an election. The brilliance of the Declaration of Independence and our Constitution is truly remarkable. I hope we can continue to manage that appreciation. 

It seems to me that the Fourth of July has become a day where we acknowledge the signing of our Declaration of Independence from Great Britain. Still, I think we slowly forget the rest of this day’s importance, like peacefulness, civility, and general respect for each other and the common good. Some are discarding even the significance of signing the Declaration of Independence. I speculate that if the Fourth of July did not come with a mid-summer day off, good barbecue food, and fireworks, would the people of the United States even celebrate this holiday? Or are we finding it politically incorrect to point out our remarkable history? 

As Americans, we used to see ourselves as “we the people,” “one nation under God,” and “United.” However, those statements seem to be supercharged with political overtones, which are causing severe division. 

While growing up, politics weren't a big thing in our household. My parents rarely, if ever, spoke about parties, who they voted for, or what legislative bills they supported. I know they voted, but it appeared to be more of their duty as citizens than a proclamation or demand of what they expected from their government. I remember those days fondly, when the most significant division that happened in a community was between rival high school sporting teams. 

As I spent time with my family during the wedding week, I quickly learned that we saw each other’s standpoints very differently. At first, it appeared to be a generational gap between the parents and our children, but that didn’t hold. Next, as I listened to the arguments, I was confident that the division was happening in a way where individuals considered themselves part of the “Democrat club” and others were members of the “Republican club.” Just as I was convinced that was the cause of division, my hypothesis fell apart when the discussion involved human rights matters. Briefly, and I mean briefly, I thought the lines were drawn at President Biden supporters and President Trump supporters. That was wrong, too. 

I was still curious and a bit mystified midway through my trip. While analyzing the nitty-gritty, I thought the passion and the markers were as conservative vs. liberal perspectives. Still, the discontent was still murky and not super reliable. 

Instead of just listening, I began asking questions and developed a new theory. First, I discovered that many of my family members’ arguments lacked logic — I mean academic reason, what you learn in an introductory philosophy class. I know logic has been removed from general education requirements. This week was an example that the absence of basic philosophical skills is already negatively impacting peoples’ ability to form an opinion. 

Next, when asked to bring their argument to an eventual conclusion, they could not or would not. For instance, I said, “if your idea is correct and the world agrees to do as you propose, will society prosper, or will it collapse?” 

I asked a few more questions, but the defining question was, “Do you live for here and now, your earthly existence, or do you live with the end in mind, your heavenly hope?” This last question seemed to be the central divider. The larger fraction of the family was uninterested, unmoved, and dismissive of making decisions based on an eternal reward, hope, or a life lived toward a union with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. 

Sometimes, family members refused to include that concept in the discussion. More than one person said, “I don’t even want to go there.” This omission in their argument caught me off guard. Everyone believed in God, but heaven was such a given it wasn’t even a factor in the conversation. 

All my siblings were raised Catholic, and all those married married a Catholic or convert to Catholicism. All but two of my nieces and nephews were baptized. 

Every bit of Catholicism is about salvation. Everything in the Catholic Faith ultimately points to the end, our hopeful union with the Almighty. It became apparent why I struggled to understand their perspective. The two fractions look at life entirely differently. At times, I couldn’t even understand their point, and therefore, the divide was purpose, language, and intent. 

The “here and now” group was, about the immediate, about me, even at the the cost of others. There was a great willingness to tolerate others, “do as you want,” and they seemed to be insistent on me accepting their truth. Loud and clear I heard, “no one has a right to impose anything on their choices.” 

For the “end in mind” group, eternity seemed to be central to their decision making. They do not believe they own truth, and an important factor was they realized they were a piece of a larger puzzle. The “end of mind” used logic, a greater purpose beyond self, and their impact on a more significant whole was fundamental to defining how decisions should be made. 

These two different approaches seem to me to be at the root of what is causing the division in our country. I am confident that one of these two approaches is more right. I figure if the “here and now” group is more right, then they will have enjoyed some pleasure I have not. If the “end in mind” perspective is more right, then the “here and now” group might be risking their heavenly eternity, a risk I am not willing to take. 

This wedding week was a real eye-opener. When I share my perspective on significant issues, many in my family don’t get what I am saying, or they think I am old fashioned or label me as unfeeling or mean. I get it now; they don’t get my intent. The “here and now” group is enjoying their here and now life, and as long as I don’t interfere, they don’t care if I am on board or not. As a Catholic, I believe the division happens in our society because as Catholics we are called to invite others to the heavenly banquet — it is our duty, obligation, and responsibility. As the “here and now” operate as individuals, we are left needing to bring them into community; we can’t leave them alone, it is our baptismal obligation. 

Betsy Kneepkens is director of the Office of Marriage, Family, and Life for the Diocese of Duluth and a mother of six. 

Deacon Kyle Eller: In a post-Roe world, our pro-life convictions have to deepen still more

I’ve been pro-life since I knew what the word “abortion” meant. When God called me back to faith, one of the means he used to bring me to the Catholic Church was its pro-life witness, which presented, in an even deeper and more profound way than I had yet been able to, the best moral intuition in me of the inestimable value of every human life. 

Deacon Kyle Eller
Mere Catholicism

I grew up in a Protestant community that was also strongly opposed to abortion, but as a young adult I fell away from faith. By the time I was out of college, I was basically a “spiritual but not religious” agnostic seeker, and when it came to controversial social issues, I sided with orthodox Christianity on few of them.  

Abortion was the big, glaring exception. 

At some point this exception began to bother me. Why did I have this one view so conspicuously out of place? I wondered if I had missed something. So, I started to examine my position, and the more I did that, the more sure I was that the pro-life position was right.  

Scientifically, there is no reasonable doubt about when life begins. At the moment of conception there is a new life, starting with a single cell — a new organism with its own unique set of human DNA distinct from both mother and father, rapidly growing and developing along a plan largely encoded into those genes. Every subsequent stage of life, from embryo to an old-age deathbed, is just part of the life cycle of that same organism, the life of an individual human person. At no point along that path is there any difference in kind — in what kind of thing it is — only in his or her growth and development. Deciding you can kill a fetus but not a toddler is exactly as arbitrary and outrageous as saying you can kill a toddler but not an adolescent. It’s the same creature. 

The same is true for human capabilities that change with our development, such as intelligence or self-awareness. Those vary throughout every stage of life and also vary widely among people. To imagine we could assign a right to life and dignity based on someone's present knowledge or intelligence or self-awareness is as arbitrary and morally monstrous as doing so based on productivity or physical beauty or sex or skin color.  

Perversely, this kind of thinking would also end up measuring human worth on a scale, both individually and collectively, with some people deemed more valuable than others, and each individual life more valuable at some stages than others, and where at certain points the value drops so low one may be killed. Who is the worthy judge of such things? What reliable, universally accepted measure of them could there be? How do we weight which characteristics matter most? The whole idea is absurd. 

The more I examined it, the clearer it was that abortion is just what I thought it was: the deliberate taking of an innocent human life. And while I was then a self-professed moral relativist, there I bumped up against a hard limit to relativism.   

Because I revered life. I was a pacifist and a nature lover and for many years even a vegetarian. Life, to me, was (and is) something so precious, so irreplaceable, the taking of it so irrevocable. And especially every human life, each person brings the light of a unique perspective and experience, a fresh set of eyes on the world. How could anyone be content to deliberately snuff that out? Who can fathom the loss of even one life? 

Finding this solid ground, I decided the “glaring exception” in my worldview was not what needed rethinking, it was my worldview. Eventually, by God’s grace, that came to include my religious views. 

All this has filled my thoughts in the wake of the decision overturning Roe v. Wade, a moment I had doubted I would live to see. I’ve been mulling over five decades of life, most of those years spent engaged in some way in the public conversation about this issue: writing, speaking, marching, praying, attempting to persuade and reason.  

I have in my mind snapshots and memories — incidents and personal encounters praying during 40 Days for Life, distressing conversations with people close to me, friends gained and lost, hurtful things said or written to me and about me, faces and names of people who didn’t live to see their prayers for an end to Roe answered, the hard decisions, the internal disagreements, all the rest. 

Coming to faith deepened and grounded and enriched (and in some ways purified) my lifelong conviction about the beauty and worth of every human life. I never needed to be told being pro-life also meant compassion for scared or desperate pregnant mothers or all the rest of the suffering people of the world. That was always a given, always wrapped in the same moral conviction for me. That’s all it ever has been about for me.  

Now, as I look out on a post-Roe world in this watershed moment, it’s as if I can see the destruction of 50 years of cultural conflict and hear the roar of irrational hatred and wrath pouring out. To be hated for loving life and wanting to protect the innocent — it’s so absurd I want to weep for the sadness of it. 

But I know it is not our call to get lost in that sadness. God's call is to continue to love. United with Jesus, who also was hated for doing good and forgave his tormenters from the cross, we are to love even those who hate us and wish us harm. In this way we continue to grow in our reverence and love for every human person, each of whom was willed and loved by God from all eternity, from the moment of their conception through every stage of life. 

Deacon Kyle Eller is editor of The Northern Cross. Reach him at [email protected].

Two priests ordained for Duluth Diocese

By Deacon Kyle Eller 
The Northern Cross 

Bishop Daniel Felton ordained two new priests — Father Scott Padrnos and Father Daniel Hammer — to the priesthood June 24, the Solemnity of the Sacred heart of Jesus, at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary in Duluth.

Bishop Daniel Felton prays over Father Daniel Hammer (left) and Father Scott Padrnos as part of their ordination to the priesthood June 24 at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary. (Photo by Deacon Kyle Eller / The Northern Cross)

Joined by many of the priests and deacons of the diocese, visiting clergy that included Bishop Juan Miguel Betancourt, SEMV, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Hartford, Connecticut, and a capacity congregation at the Cathedral, Bishop Felton welcomed the family and friends of the two men to be ordained and called it “a great day of rejoicing.” 

He greeted Bishop Betancourt as a friend and formator of Father Padrnos and friend to the diocese, in addition to invoking the memory and presence of the late Duluth Bishop Paul Sirba, who was bishop of the Duluth Diocese during much of the two new priests’ formation. 

In his homily, Bishop Felton noted that in being “raised to the order of the priesthood,” the two new priests would be participating in the priestly roles of teaching, sanctifying, and governing. “See that you believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach,” he said. 

“Always remember that you have been taken from among the people and appointed on their behalf for those things that pertain to God,” he added. “Fulfill their hope, the mystery of Christ the priest, with abiding joy and love. Seek not your own concerns but those of Jesus Christ.”

Father Daniel Hammer (left) and Father Scott Padrnos lay prostrate before the altar as part of the ordination right. (Photo by Deacon Kyle Eller / The Northern Cross)

“Today we rejoice not in your mission in life but in God’s mission for you and in you and through you as his priest,” he said. 

Bishop Felton concluded by putting the new priests’ ministry in the context of the local church’s ongoing missionary work. 

“As our diocese is mobilizing to mission, may God raise you up to be a missionary disciple and priest for our own times, standing on the shoulders of Ven. Bishop Frederic Baraga and Msgr. Joseph Buh and all the missionary priests who have served the Diocese of Duluth since 1791 …,” he said, when a priest first proclaimed the Gospel in the International Falls area. 

“May you never forget from this day forward that your priesthood is not about you, but rather about the divine, incredible, and miraculous things God will do for you, in you, and through you to fulfill God’s purpose and mission from this day that he has entrusted to you as Father Scott Padrnos and Father Daniel Hammer.”

Father Hammer gives the traditional first priestly blessing to Duluth Bishop Daniel Felton (left) and Bishop Juan Miguel Betancourt. (Photo by Deacon Kyle Eller / The Northern Cross)

Father Hammer, 28, is the son of Dr. William and Teresa Hammer, from St. Andrew’s in Brainerd. He completed his seminary work at the North American College in Rome. He is assigned to graduate studies in canon law at the Gregorian University in Rome this fall, after serving this summer at Holy Spirit in Virginia. 

Father Padrnos, 32, is the son of Daniel and Susan Padrnos and is from St. Christopher in Nisswa. He completed his seminary training at St. Paul Seminary in St. Paul and will begin his assignment as parochial vicar of St. Francis in Brainerd, All Saints in Baxter, and St. Thomas of the Pines in Brainerd effective July 13. 

Procession through Duluth kicks off Eucharistic Revival in the diocese

By Deacon Kyle Eller 
The Northern Cross 

Led by Bishop Daniel Felton, a diocesan Eucharistic Procession through the eastern half of Duluth June 19, the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Jesus, kicked off what the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have called a “Eucharistic Revival” in the Duluth Diocese.

Priests serving the Duluth Diocese accompany the Blessed Sacrament in a Eucharistic Procession near the Cathedral. Click here for more photos. (Photo by Deacon Kyle Eller / The Northern Cross)

It was a chance to show devotion to Jesus in the Holy Eucharist and bear witness to that faith in the community, as the group, with the Blessed Sacrament in a monstrance covered by a canopy, went from the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary to St. Mary Star of the Sea downtown, accompanied by clergy, servers, and a crowd of the faithful from across the diocese. 

At the Cathedral, where Eucharistic Adoration extended from the end of the 10:30 a.m. Mass until the procession started at 3 p.m., Bishop Felton addressed the crowd, noting that already that day with the celebration of Mass the faithful had “embraced and embodied” the abiding, everlasting presence of Jesus in the sacrament and said that they would now “seek to express and to share that presence of Jesus with others in the Eucharist” in the community as they walked the route, which went down Fourth Street to 21st Avenue East before completing the journey along Third Street. 

The bishop described the three-year plan for the Eucharistic Revival to “re-present” the Eucharist to the faithful and “put on center stage again” that teaching of the real presence.

The June 19 Eucharistic Procession gets under way down Fourth Street in Duluth. Click here for more photos. (Photo by Deacon Kyle Eller / The Northern Cross)

“This is not just a feast day, this is the day of all days,” he said. “This is the day when we begin a sacred journey. This is the day when we recommit ourselves once again to the deepest belief that we have as Catholics, and that is the real presence that we find in the Holy Eucharist, and the real presence that always abides in Jesus Christ, as we worship him and as we give him glory in the Blessed Sacrament.” 

The weather was nearly perfect — cool and sunny — and those participating ranged in age from children to senior citizens. As the procession concluded at St. Mary Star of the Sea about an hour and a half after it began, the bishop led a Litany of the Eucharist before offering Benediction and reposing the Blessed Sacrament in the parish’s adoration chapel, Holy Innocents. 

Bishop Daniel Felton: Two powerful moments on the Sacred Heart solemnity

Dear Brothers and Sisters, 

Greetings in the name of the Lord, Jesus Christ. On June 24, the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, two powerful moments of God’s abiding presence and amazing grace occurred: Daniel Richard Hammer and Scott Daniel Padrnos were ordained into the priesthood for the Diocese of Duluth and the United States Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Both of these moments underscore the deepest belief we have as Catholics: all life from conception to natural death has a sacred value in all expressions of life. 

Bishop Daniel Felton
Bishop Daniel Felton
Believe in the Good News

From the very day of their conception, birth, and baptism, the mission and purpose that God has for Father Padrnos and Father Hammer was already embedded in their very person and soul. On the day of their ordination, the Diocese of Duluth and Mother Church rejoices that these two priests are fulfilling their God-given call to be missionary priests, by helping all people who live in their parishes and neighborhoods to embrace and live their God-given purpose and mission in the fullness of life. We can only know true happiness, fulfillment, and a meaning that matters in life when we are aligned to the God-given purpose and mission that is entrusted to us the day that we are created by God. 

It was also on the Solemnity of the Most Sacred heart of Jesus that Roe v. Wade was overturned. Although much work remains for us, it is a monumental step in efforts to legally protect the dignity of unborn human life, and one for which we have earnestly prayed for nearly five decades. Included in this issue of The Northern Cross is a statement I am making on this occasion, along with the other administrators and bishops of Minnesota. 

We must remain clear that our support for mothers and fathers and their children continues throughout the whole of life in so many different ways, with special attention to giving genuine support to mothers in difficult circumstances. With the help of God’s grace, we need to create a real relational accompaniment, where abortion never looks like someone’s only option, and we need to create a culture of life that genuinely sustains and supports a mother, husband, and family who choose the option for life. 

I am also aware that many within our communities disagree strongly with our conviction on this matter. May we be pro-life in treating the person who disagrees with us with the same respect and dignity that we hold for the life of every human person. Perhaps one of the ways that dialogue and oneness can be brought forward is through our common desire to do all we can for healthy, happy, and holy families as the life-beating heart of our society and church. 

Let us remember, like the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, that God’s divine love and divine mercy extends to all God’s children, and so must ours. 

Bishop Daniel Felton is the tenth bishop of Duluth. 

Statement of the Catholic bishops of Minnesota in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson

Along with women and men across our nation who respect the inherent dignity of each human life, the Catholic bishops of Minnesota give thanks to God on this historic day as the Supreme Court ends the injustice of the Roe v. Wade decision. We are grateful that the Supreme Court has returned to state Legislatures and federal officials the ability to protect preborn children and save mothers and fathers from the untold pain of abortion. 

For almost 50 years, Roe grievously denied one of America’s founding principles: that all men and women — irrespective of their stage of development — are created equal, with God-given rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Forgetting this self-evident truth has resulted in the death of over 60 million preborn children and the wounding of millions of mothers and fathers. 

Welcomed in life 

As a Church, we have been committed to providing help to every mother and father dealing with a crisis pregnancy, so they are not forced to choose abortion. We are proud that many of our Catholic faithful work in crisis pregnancy centers that create nonjudgmental networks of support for women. These centers offer shelter, housing assistance, free diapers and clothing, pregnancy and parenting classes, community referrals, childcare, and other charitable assistance. Through our continued efforts to respect the well-being of both the mother and the child, we have been honored to accompany countless women and men tempted to choose abortion. We have been privileged as well, through post-abortion healing retreats, to help parents who have chosen abortion to work through the pain they so often suffer. 

To further support our work, the Catholic bishops of the United States have launched a nationwide initiative, Walking with Moms in Need (walkingwithmoms.com), to create additional avenues of support for mothers in our communities by way of Catholic parishes, ministries, and crisis pregnancy centers. We also pledge that our Catholic churches will be a sanctuary for women in crisis pregnancies. Any woman in a crisis pregnancy who comes to the door of a Catholic church in the state of Minnesota seeking assistance will be supported and, at a minimum, referred to resources where she can get help. 

The Church’s contribution to public life walks with the two feet of justice and charity. Our direct assistance to women in crisis pregnancies through charitable and philanthropic efforts is fundamental in our endeavor to build an authentic culture of life. But we also commit to working in our state Legislature to ensure that every child is welcomed in life and respected by the law. 

Respected in law 

Unfortunately, the landscape in Minnesota is shaped by our own version of Roe v. Wade. The 1995 Doe v. Gomez decision of the Minnesota Supreme Court characterized the state right to an abortion as a “broader protection” than Roe, including the right of low-income women to a taxpayer-funded abortion. Sadly, Gomez is unlikely to be overturned without a change in federal law or a state constitutional amendment. 

Despite Minnesota’s legal landscape, we should continue to find ways to place reasonable limits on the availability of abortions, especially after viability (Minnesota is one of the few states without limitations on post-viability abortions). We should also put in place, and keep in place, measures to help protect women from further serious injury arising from the risks already involved with an abortion. Such protections include, among other things, licensing abortion clinics and requiring that chemical abortions be procured only through a physician. 

To limit the demand for abortion, the state should also commit its resources to ensuring that women have the support they need to choose life. Some pregnancy centers are supported in part by the state’s Positive Alternatives Grant Program, which promotes healthy pregnancy outcomes and assists pregnant and parenting women develop and maintain family stability and self-sufficiency. In a budget that will reach $60 billion by 2024, our state allocates only $3.375 million for these services, even though the need is much greater. The most recent round of funding requests totaled roughly $6.5 million. 

The prospect of Roe being overturned has already sharpened partisan division on the abortion question. As bishops, however, we have no interest in engaging as partisans, and we will continue to work to build common ground rooted in the principles articulated above. This is a matter of prenatal justice — giving to both mother and child that which is their due, namely, support and protection. 

But make no mistake: we will rigorously oppose efforts to expand the abortion license in Minnesota and we will work with people on both sides of the aisle to prevent Minnesota from becoming an abortion sanctuary state. 

Abortion advocates want people to believe that abortion promises liberation, but instead, it leads to sadness, pain, and the death of a human being. To quote one pro-life leader, “Abortion says ‘I sacrifice your life for my convenience.’ But Love says, ‘I sacrifice my convenience for your life.’ Only love will lead to fulfillment.” Let us be a credible witness to the Gospel of Life by sacrificing ourselves for the sake of others, both born and unborn. 

We ask all Minnesotans to join our efforts to combat a throwaway culture, foster prenatal justice, and create a state where love prevails. 

Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda 
Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis 

Bishop Andrew H. Cozzens 
Diocese of Crookston 

Bishop Daniel Felton 
Diocese of Duluth 

Monsignor Douglas L. Grams 
Diocese of New Ulm 

Bishop Joseph Williams 
Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis 

Bishop Donald J. Kettler 
Diocese of St. Cloud 

Bishop John M. Quinn 
Diocese of Winona-Rochester 

Father Mike Schmitz: I’m so busy. How can I grow and become a saint?

I really want to grow. I mean, I really want to become the person that God has called me to be, but I find myself being so busy that I can’t imagine adding more to my plate in order to be a saint. How can I fit more in? 

Father Michael Schmitz
Ask Father Mike

Thank you so much for writing and for your question. First, you have the correct goal: You know that you are called to be a saint. To be anything else is to fail permanently. I know that is quite the claim, but consider the words of Jesus: “What does it profit a person to gain the whole world and lose their soul?” (Mark 8:36). Apparently, you and Jesus are on the same page (which is a very good page to be on). 

But to move forward, it will be very important to keep a few things in mind. 

First, what is a saint? A saint is not someone who has accomplished a certain task, has certain gifts, or has achieved a certain notoriety. Most saints live what look like ordinary lives, without any distinguishing gifts or abilities, and are lacking popular recognition. A saint is merely someone who does God’s will. St. Maximillian Kolbe put it like this: “When one’s will is the same as God’s Will, then one is holy.” This doesn’t mean that a person is perfect or that they are an expert at every task in their life. It does not mean that they never fail. But it does mean that they continually return to the Lord regardless of victory or defeat. 

The late Father Benedict Groeschel said that “a saint is a person who says yes to God … and who never stops saying yes.” While this means many things, one of the things it highlights is that a person can always choose to be a saint. Even if they have sinned. Because what is the call from the Lord to every person who has sinned? God calls every person, virtuous or vicious, heroic or sinful, to let themselves be loved by him. Therefore, if a person is without sin, they are called to say “yes” to God and continue to walk in his grace. And if a person has sinned, they are called to say “yes” to God’s invitation to repent, go to confession, and walk in his grace. Our answer to God is always “yes.” This is sanctity. Nothing more and nothing less. 

And yet, God doesn’t just call us to have the “feeling” of saying yes — or the sentiment of walking with him. He wants us to actually say yes to his invitations to live out our relationship with him. This means spending time with him in prayer, participating actively in the sacraments, growing daily in living a life of virtue, and actively loving the people around us. And all of those things take energy, attention, and time. 

This is actually very practical. We all know that love requires energy, attention, and time. Without these three, there really isn’t the possibility of love existing, much less growing and flourishing. We love what we give our heart to; which is to say that we love what we give our energy, attention, and time to. A person cannot say that they love their spouse if they do not give their spouse their energy, attention, and time. The same is true for our relationship with God. 

If a person had the situation where their lives were so full that they did not have room for their spouse, they would be forced to ask themselves a question: “Do I love my schedule and the life I have created for myself or do I love my spouse?” And then they would have to make changes. Time and attention and energy are limited resources. I can only give myself away to a limited number of things and people. I will need to make a choice. And so will you. If I love God, then He gets my energy, attention, and time. 

Now, this means that I have to say “no” to other things. That isn’t me being mean. It is just the truth; if I only have $5, I can’t buy both the medium latte and the Jimmy John’s sandwich. I have to choose between them. 

And yet. 

God is so good that he is calling us to say yes to him (to love him) in the midst of the life we are currently living. This is connected to something called the “sacrament of the present moment.” God is present at every moment and in every place. He is actively loving us at every moment and in every place. Because of this, we can grow in holiness (we can give him our heart — our energy, attention, and time) by simply recognizing that every moment is a gift from God and can be a gift back to God. 

Yes, there are some things in our lives that will have to be discarded (repentance, after all, requires some real change), but God chooses to work out the extraordinary process of sanctification through ordinary means. This is not something that I am making up, this is the wisdom of the saints. Father Jean-Pierre de Caussade put it like this: “Would to God that … all men could know how very easy it would be for them to arrive at a high degree of sanctity. They would only have to fulfill the simple duties of Christianity and of their state in life; to embrace with submission the crosses belonging to that state, and to submit with faith and love to the designs of Providence in all those things that have to be done or suffered without going out of their way to seek occasions for themselves.” 

Father Michael Schmitz is director of youth and young adult ministry for the Diocese of Duluth and chaplain of the Newman Center at the University of Minnesota Duluth. 

Resources for women, mothers, fathers, and children

By Betsy Kneepkens 
The Northern Cross 

Even before Roe v. Wade was decided in January 1973, pro-life advocates were behind the scenes establishing organizations to help support women, babies, and families who found themselves in what they perceived was a crisis pregnancy. When the Supreme Court passed Roe v. Wade, pro-life advocates continued and expanded community efforts to help women in need. Since many felt abortion regulations were properly suited to be made by state legislators, others mobilized to move the ruling out of the federal purview. Many pro-life advocates have worked tirelessly to end circumstances that would make women feel that their motherhood is a crisis. 

Pro-life individuals in our diocese have not stopped working on behalf of mothers in need since Minnesota passed laws to legalize abortion and increased those efforts with the eventual 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling. Currently, our diocese has nearly 50 organizations where women, fathers, and families can access help before, during, and after their pregnancy. Because Minnesota is one of those states that had already legalized abortion before Roe v. Wade, Minnesota will continue to allow abortions until our legislators overturn the laws. Because none of the neighboring states have laws that allow for abortion, Minnesota will become an abortion destination site like New York and California. Services to help support women with their pregnancy and motherhood will need to expand as the number of women seeking abortions in Minnesota will increase. Below is a partial list of current services offered to women, mothers, fathers, and children. As a Catholic church, we seek to eliminate any need to call anything surrounding motherhood a crisis. 

Life Affirming Pregnancy Centers 

Brainerd: Birthright, 401 W. Laurel St., Suite B, 56401; (218) 829-8470; www.birthright.org/brainerd 

Brainerd: Lakes Area Pregnancy Support Center, 315 E. River Road, Suite One, 56401; (218) 825-0793; www.lakesareapregnancy.org 

Deer River: New Beginnings Pregnancy Care Center, 17 First St., N.E., 56636; (218) 326-0404; newbeginningspregnancy.com

Duluth: Women’s Care Center, 103 E. First St., 55802; (218) 623-7100; www.womenscarecenter.org/duluth-minnesota 

Duluth/Superior: Lake Superior Life Care Center, 1823 Belknap Street, Superior, WI 54880; (218) 727-3399 or (715) 394-4102; www.lslccduluthsuperior.org 

Grand Rapids: New Beginnings Pregnancy Care Center, 605 N.W. Fourth St., 55744; (218) 326-0404; newbeginningspregnancy.com 

Hibbing: Family Life Center, 802 E. Howard St., Suite Three, 55746; (218) 262-5768; www.familylifecenterrange.com 

International Falls: Northern Options for Women, 923 Fifth St., 56649; (218) 285-7673; northernoptionsforwomen.optionsmn.org 

Pine City: Pregnancy Resource Center, 315 Main St. S., Suite 20, 55063; (320)629-2792; www.pregornot.org 

Sandstone: Options for Women, 927 State Highway 23 N., 55072; (320) 216-7633; www.sandstoneoptions.org 

Virginia: Family Life Center, 820 N. Ninth St., Suite 130, 55792; (218) 262-5768; www.familylifecenterrange.com 

Walker: Walker Area Pregnancy Support Center, 102 Eighth St. N., 56484; (218) 547-5433; www.pregnancyhelpmn.com 

24-hour nationwide help 

Pregnancy Resouce: (800) 395-HELP 

Birthline Hotline: (800) 786-0200 

Birthright Hotline: (800) 550-4900 

Option Line: (800) 712-4357 

Post-Abortion Services 

Abortion Changes You: online resource for post-abortion healing; www.abortionchangesyou.com 

Abortion Recovery International: worldwide database of organizations that can assist in healing; www.abortionrecovery.org 

Healing Hearts Ministries: offers post-abortion group/online study “Binding Up the Brokenhearted”; www.healinghearts.org 

National Helpline for Abortion Recovery: counseling services and a model for sexual health, abortion recovery, and prevention; www.internationalhelpline.org; (866) 482-5433 

Project Rachel: offers one-on-one therapy for abortion recovery across Minnesota; [email protected]; (651) 291-4515 

Rachel’s Vineyard: weekend retreats for healing after abortion; www.rvineyardmn.org; (763) 250-9313 

Silent No More Awareness: nonprofit organization exposing the devastation of abortion and helping women find healing; www.silentnomoreawareness.org 

Family Support 

Christ Child Society of Duluth: help for children in need; [email protected] 

Cradle of Hope: financial assistance for pregnancy expenses; www.cradleofhope.org; (651) 636-0637 

Damiano Center: food, clothing, and other resources in Duluth; [email protected]; (218) 722-8708 

Guiding Star Project: www.guidingstarproject.com; [email protected]

Holy Family Catholic Adoption: adoption services for birth mothers and adoptive families; [email protected]; (612) 209-5869 

Mysterious Miscarriage Sisterhood: supporting families who have experienced the trauma of miscarriage; (320) 597-4138 

New Life Adoptions: comprehensive adoption services; [email protected]; (612) 746-5658 

Sidelines Support Network: supporting women with complicated pregnancies, and their families; www.sidelines.org; (888)-447-4754 

Maternity Homes 

Star of the North Maternity Home: offering Christian-based housing for pregnant mothers and their babies 

Duluth: (218) 340-1645, [email protected] 

Iron Range: (218) 206-1931, [email protected] 

Prenatal Hospice 

Courageous Hearts: (715) 969-4506, [email protected] 

Prenatal Partners for Life: (763) 772-3868, [email protected] 

Family Planning Services 

Northland Family Programs: Fertility Care Center, (218) 786-2378; www.northlandfamilyprograms.com 

Emergency Services 

Society of St. Vincent de Paul, www.svdpusa.org 

Duluth: (218) 409-6887, [email protected] 

Superior: (715) 398-4039, [email protected] 

Food 

CHUM Duluth: 102 W. Second St., Duluth; (218) 720-6521 

Union Gospel Mission: 219 First St., Duluth; (218) 722-1196 

Emily Food Shelf: 20948 County Road One, Emily; (218) 763-3663 

Sharing Bread Soup Kitchen: 923 Oak St., Brainerd; (218) 829-4203 

Housing 

Habitat for Humanity: Aitkin County, (218) 927-5656; Lakes Area, (218) 828-8517; Itasca County, (218) 999-9001; North St. Louis, (218) 749-8910 

Grace House, Grand Rapids: (218) 326-2790 

Campus Youth Ministry 

CSS Students for Life: (218) 723-5000, [email protected] 

UMD Bulldog Students for Life: (218) 726-8000, [email protected] 

Sidewalk Ministry 

40 Days for Life: [email protected] 

Pro-Life Ministries of Duluth: [email protected], (715) 969-4506 or (218) 382-0015 

Pro-Life Across America: (800) 366-7773 

Diocese of Duluth 

Office of Marriage, Family, and Life: 2830 E. Fourth St., Duluth, MN 55812; (218) 724-9111; [email protected]; www.dioceseduluth.org